Hardware, Innovation, and Telling Stories

Internet of Things Technology Workshop
Hardware, Innovation, and Telling Stories


MAKE’s New York Hardware Innovation Workshop (HIW) began with a morning of exciting presenters. HIW is about a lot more than hardware. A theme emerging early on was nicely summed up by MAKE’s own Alasdair Allan, “This is a conference of stories.”

Another theme heard throughout the morning was the importance and value of iteration. Here’s a quick round up of the morning’s presentations.

Social Machines

Peter Semmelhack, Founder and CEO of Bug Labs

Peter Semmelhack, founder and CEO of Bug Labs spoke about the power of connecting everything. Bug Labs develops Swarm, a platform for creating the “Internet of Things”.

“Vending machines are ripe for connecting to networks,” Peter said. “We have to think less about what the Internet can do for our devices, but what devices can do for the Internet.”

Peter also related how MAKE inspired him. The first print issue of MAKE still sits proudly on his bookshelf.

Detecting Change: Sensors Create New Categories

Jerry the Bear: Hardware that Cares

Aaron Horowitz, Co-Founder of Sproutel

Aaron Horowitz, co-founder of Sproutel, kicked off his presentation by talking about how his team created a teddy bear to help children manage chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma.

Aaron’s stories about how children responded to Jerry the bear as it underwent development showed how product iterations are more than about technology. He says we have to respond to the needs of the people who will use that technology. The secret to his Android-based system: testing, testing, and more testing. The first 250 bears will be shipped in November.

Skunkwork Sensors

Alasdair Allan, MAKE

MAKE’s Alasdair Allan describes himself as a scientist, author, hacker, and tinkerer. He is also a Director at Babilim Light Industries, a custom software and open hardware company.

Alasdair talked about how he worked with a skunkworks team to set up data sensor networks at conferences.

The reality of real-time sensing, and the challenge of scaling up to cover large events. “The friction between an idea and product is reducing,” he said.

Monitoring Air Quality: Habitat Map

Michael Heimbinder is founder and executive director of Habitat Map, a non-profit organization that uses maps to engage communities on the environment affects to human health.

Habitat Map lets users add markers to both concerns and benefits in their environment.
Habitat Map lets users add markers to both concerns and benefits in their environment.

Michael explained how his platform is used for sharing education and environmental information. Habitat Map helps people monitor their personal exposure to the environment, including noise pollution and air pollution. These can be big problems in crowded cities like New York, Beijing, and New Delhi.

Interestingly, Michael ended his presentation with an appeal to the audience. HabitatMap is looking for help to plan medium scale production runs. Connecting people and resources is a big part of what HIW is all about.

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Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and author of How Things Are Made: From Automobiles to Zippers. Andrew is also an electronics and robotics enthusiast and has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children's Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Enrichment in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.

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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison