Website launch

Photo copyright bayasaa

Since starting working full-time at Kiwi Embedded in April, I’ve focused on technical development and didn’t have much to show. Now it’s time to launch this website and make my work a bit more public.

For a start, I’m presenting Channel Wizard and Windsond (see earlier posts). I also have a couple of other projects in various phases of development. These will be announced when mature enough.

The coming weeks will bring a mix of holiday and development work. Highest priority is to ship Channel Wizards to waiting customers. Then in mid-August I’ll go to the World Hot Air Balloon Championship to use Windsond for the two Swedish teams.

Announcing Windsond

During the last six months, I have cooperated with the hot air balloon club Ballongveteranerna to create an electronic solution to measuring winds at low altitudes, called Windsond. The development is sponsored by the Swedish Airsport Federation.

Wind conditions are of paramount importance for hot air ballooning, where the balloon drifts with the wind. The only means of flight path control lies in choosing the altitude. Interestingly enough, the wind direction and speed can differ a great deal at different altitudes so precise control is possible for a skilled pilot.

Windsond consists of a GPS, battery, microcontroller and radio transmitter. By attaching a Windsond to the small pilot balloon, a computer with a radio receiver can track the ascent without human involvement and present graphs of wind speed, direction and temperature. Once the sond reaches an altitude of 1000 m, it detaches from the balloon and slowly falls to the ground where it beeps and blinks to assist recovery. So far, we have released three balloons with Windsond. The software can be further polished but system basicly works well. Good radio reception was demonstrated from 2 km altitude and 5 km ground distance.

In mid-August, we will travel to the World Hot Air Balloon Championship  to use Windsond for the two Swedish teams. The championship will transpire in Battle Creek, Michigan, USA.

I will continue to improve Windsond to offer it as a commercial product for reusable, cheap and easy low-altitude weather measurement.

Also see the dedicated Windsond page.

Channel Wizard produced

The first microcontroller project I started was to add more channels to transmitters for radio-controlled airplanes. The idea was to encode (multiplex) multiple functions into a single channel, then decode the functions into real channels again in the airplane.

The project evolved to also add regular channels, support 16 channels, generate sound or an analog voltage, bootloader, encode PWM to PPM, decode PPM to PWM, custom splicing and advanced mixing of channels and so on. After seven revisions of the hardware, I’ve finally managed to send the board for automated assembling. The finished boards have now arrived. And they work!

Although I still need to do some manual work with each board, this makes the assembly much faster and I can start to sell more of the boards. The firmware is quite advanced so the device deserves a wider audience!

I’ve added a dedicated product page for Channel Wizard. There’s a thread on RCGroups about it.

Book: The Lean Startup

I’m halfway through the book The Lean Startup by IT entrepreneur Eric Ries. He applies the popular “Lean” concept to the discipline of starting and growing a company, something that peaks my own interest.

The idea is to avoid wasting effort on misdirected ideas by making reality checks early and often. A perfectly created product is still worthless if it turns out no-one wants such a product. Almost worthless — you have now gained valuable information about the market and that is in fact the goal of the start-up enterprise. But that wisdom could have been won cheaper than through a full development cycle and a wasted product.

Go check the real reviews, the web site or the book itself for more information.

Just a few taglines that stuck with me so far; Every start-up has a number of leaps of faith. Assumptions are best tested by “go and see for yourself”. This might be very easy with some ingenuity! Validated learning is the goal of a start-up. The relevant metric of the endurance of a start-up is not time or money, but the number of strategy pivots the start-up still has room for.