Easily capturing the cheap Alarm Clock Market.

Have you been to Target, Wal-Mart, or any other box store and looked at alarm clocks?

Here will make it easy for you: http://www.target.com/s/alarm+clocks

Do you notice anything in common about them?  Beyond all the answers I would imagine one trend, antiquated (although the Batman alarm clock deserves some credit).  The closest thing to being in the “now” would be a Bluetooth alarm clock that uses its Bluetooth for music streaming.

Everything already exists to make the best Alarm clock, for 25 dollars, and basically blow everyone out of the water.  And at that 25 dollar mark have good markup as a company needs.

Let’s define what would make the best 25 dollar Alarm Clock

  1. Screen to read the time
  2. Battery backup
  3. Customizable music
  4. Connectivity
  5. Ease of use
  6. Batman

Existing Technology we can combine

11 dollar ebay bluetooth speaker

11 dollar ebay bluetooth speaker

Wireless battery with more than adequate time if power goes out, check

Bluetooth Connectivity, check

11 dollars retail cost, check

The other piece of the puzzle

$11-4gb touchscreen mp3 player

$11-4gb touchscreen mp3 player

Touchscreen, Check

Hard Drive, check

11 Dollars retail, check

Ok so retail cost is 22 dollars for two retail products containing more technology than would be necessary, but we got everything we need for World Domination (of the cheap Bluetooth Alarm Clock Market).

Wireless Battery, Bluetooth, Speaker, Hard Drive, SD Card Support.

Now we add what really makes this great, a phone app, and win the market over easily.  This is why people use their phones for their alarm clocks, because it’s like setting a VHS clock over and over using an antiquated alarm clock (for those that get that reference).

Here is a terrible example of my lazy Photoshop skills with interface.  Keeping it nice and simple, also, using the Hard Drive to hold the song you want for your alarm clock noise, in addition to standard mp3 player functionality.

phone app

here is my poor attempt at an interface(3 tabs)

Lets evaluate our technology and see how it matches up to requirements to win the segment:

  1. Screen to read the time – check
  2. Battery backup – check
  3. Customizable music – check
  4. Connectivity – check
  5. Ease of use – check
  6. Batman –Fail

That is 4 out of 5 stars, pretty good product.  I know I make it sound easier than it is, but I proved that outside of software the technology already exists at a necessary price point, and you can easily see it would be a no brainier for people picking an Alarm clock.

Job Tips for Students/New Grads

Recently, helping one of my friends find his first job out of college I learned a lot about the existing process students take and was easily able to improve upon that.  Let me share some tips that I found to be helpful:

  1. Understand the workflow of your resume:

He thought that the resume went directly to the engineering manager.  The engineering manager is typically too busy to review every resume, they go to the HR typically.  To further compound the fact, what does HR know about your discipline? probably next to nothing.  What should that mean for the piece of paper you hand them to judge you upon?  It should contain the buzz words from the job summary, great grammar, and PLAIN ENGLISH.  I understand they teach you college level paper writing, but the best writing is elementary level because everybody will easily comprehend it.

  1. Secure a Win-Win relationship – reach out to your local VAR

I am a VAR for PTC Products.  This means I work with Small to Medium Businesses to support usage of PTC Software, such as our CAD tool – Creo.  That means I have my foot in the door with companies with 5-25 mechanical engineers have a good idea who is hiring in that space and what companies are performing well in general.  If you use Creo, and I like you as a person, chances are I will fight for you to get an opportunity.  It’s easy to find a VAR and it’s a small investment of time, use it.

This is the most overlooked and profitable method – right now I am trying to place an ME in Northern Jersey and Southern Jersey

  1. Don’t always go so head on

As you know, Networking is a good way to find a job.  On the flip side going to a networking event and handing out your resume/card is pretty cheesy and will most likely not work.  The solution is to have hobbies that you will find Engineers doing.  For example on meetup.com there is a south jersey robotics club, who goes against the Philadelphia robotic club.  That probably represent 14 companies in the area, and instead of you handing out a piece of paper you could be a friend and a partner in crime.  Many engineers bike, kayak, whatever it is get yourself involved in some groups and who knows.  At minimum you could have some fun.

My Technique for Creativity.

There are many great techniques to generate creative ideas, the one I practice is from realizing the way that children visualize things which would seem ridiculous to do as an adult.  My technique is best done with a partner, as you can feed off each others ridiculousness and really start thinking outside of the box, I personally try to carve out ten minutes a week for this, but enough of the warm up I will do this practice without editing to show you where it can go:

So it has to do with finding purpose in material items, looking around me I see a cup, thinking the adult you are, what can you do with a cup?

  • Adult Me
    • Fill it with water
    • Make a planter with it
    • Put a candle in it?

Really not much my brainstorming section ended quick, but now try to think of it as a kid with no limitations or pre-destinations for your cup

  • Kid Me
    • I could make an instrument and join the circus
    • I could fill it with rocket fuel and send it to the moon
    • I could catch a turtle with it
    • I could tie it to another cup and make nun-chucks and become a ninja
    • I could make it the best hover train ever
    • I could wear it as a hat and be a conductor of a marching band
    • I could make a sandcastle

That was 3 minutes of ideas, they were all ridiculous but i’m keeping my mind flexible by doing that.  All day I have to think rigidly, what value can I add to this person, what value can I add to this conversation, why am I doing this, what am I trying to convey and the best way to do this, etc.  So my rational self finds value in thinking so far out of the box it would be considered more of a solar system.  I would imagine for example my exercise lead to my comment prior to the sentence, because it really helps you to associate things in ways you would normally never do.  At minimum that will help you prepare for all of the unexpected things you will encounter, and I hope you all find a time to be happy and ridiculous.


The Re-Engineering of the Basic

Engineers often like to take on the complex projects that require outside of the box thinking and the ability put your flag on a new planet.  This often leaves some things, the more trivial, left behind.  There is a large opportunity to re-engineer things and save companies huge amounts of money, and I want to challenge my readers to participate as well as identify some  themselves.

Yesterday I was walking through a retail store and I saw something that’s design is timeless and still widely used, while it was re-colored so people would purchase for their home nothing has really changed.  This happens to be the Milk Crate:
Milk Crate Engineering Challenge

While searching google images you will start to find that these crates are being adopted for furniture to planters to storage containers, many different things.  There is one reason for that, they are over-engineered to almost a fault.  You can stand on a Milk Crate as a 200lb man with confidence, they are just really really strong.  And while that sounds good that leads to my challenge.  We need to re-invent the Milk Crate, make it less use materials, better materials, make it more efficient and cheaper and greener than before.

To help validate my point, I have copied and pasted the statement below from Wikipedia

Design Middle 20th century bottle crates were made of wood, later ones were stainless steel, and those made in the latter part of the century were of heavy-duty polyethylene.

Three revision changes in a life-cycle that is around 70 years old.  It is said Dairy companies lose 20 million milk crates a year to theft. At $4 a crate, that equals $80 million in losses per year.  Now to add some benefit to taking time for this challenge there are two key points we can take from that:

  1. If Milk Consumption is the same they could be making 20 million crates/year
  2. There is a huge incentive to reduce the price to manufacture one piece .50, as that would equal out to 10 million dollars a year in savings.

I hope that helps to demonstrate the value of your re-design could be not only beneficial to the world from a green standpoint, but beneficial to your wallet.  Now lets join in and make the most efficient Milk Crate this world has seen.

What does PTC’s IoT offering mean to customer feedback?

I will start by giving a high level of what PTC offers in IoT space

  • Thingworx-making apps 10x faster
  • Axeda- securely connect your smart connected products, protecting IP
  • Coldlight- Data Analytics

To keep everything straight forward, we are just starting to play with this technology and this is opinion

I will start by relating it to my 3rd gen (96-02) 4runner.  Fantastic car made to take abuse and last forever, but it has some issues that were found out by the people who drive these cars.  One for example of an issue is the Radiator has two purposes, to cool the engine and the transmission.  Over time this barrier between the coolant/lubricant can wear down and you cross fluids (RIP).  The members of the 4runner community (t4r.org) have documented this and found a simple solution, install a remote transmission cooler and flush out/plug the existing part of the radiator to prevent this.  Maybe you collect warranty submissions and eventually figure this out, but it is inherently delayed.

This is how things currently get better, people find problems and solutions and it relies on the voice/experience of the users once it is released.

Now let’s put that in context of PTC’s IoT technology and see where I am going.

Now you design the same exact radiator, only using PTC’s technology.  But this time, quickly designers are able to see this error happening and start to figure it out.  They don’t have to hope for dealerships to give them feedback, or scour forums on end for issues with their cars, they see the feedback and by 1997 they are able to redesign their radiator/transmission cooler to prevent this problem from happening.

Now you have a log of every issue, and you are able to use analytic’s to predict this issue happening and make a decision based on your accurate information.  No longer do you have to seek feedback from the user-base, they gave you the feedback without having to get service, make phone calls, post on forums, anything.  They are more involved in the development process then ever, and are doing less as far as they are concerned.

Then you can use it to cut appropriate costs, what if you have a feature that 1% of the people use and is non-critical why are you spending excess money to design and manufacture it?  So now you mitigated the issues and streamlined your offering, which creates a better product at a better price with better reliability.

With IoT you can learn a lot about your product naturally as opposed to often abrasive means.  With that information you can refine the product to best please your customers, between reliability maintenance and price point, and all of a sudden you are magically more in tune with your customers even though you now hear less from them.