RedWire Logic Wins Senior Design, Goes into Business
From junior design, to a new entrepreneurial course, to senior design, and now on to running their own company, the Electrical and Computer Engineering students now known as RedWire Logic are storming through the world of technology startups.
RedWire is made up of recent electrical engineering graduates Josh Cox, Justin Hinson, Peter O’Connor, and Neil Taylor.
“We were on the same junior design team, worked well together and thought we could do a lot,” Taylor said. “So, we all signed up for the entrepreneur course. The first week of class we started to come up with ideas for products.”
They brainstormed more than 150 ideas, which Hinson compiled into a spreadsheet. Each ranked his top choices. They then voted on the top three ideas and decided to create a wireless technology that allows remote autonomous control of household devices and real-time monitoring of power consumption.
“We call the product ‘ILA,” because we want it to have a personality and we thought ‘ILA’ sounds like an actual name,” Cox said. “‘ILA’ is short for Integrated Living Assistant. Eventually, you’ll be able to talk to ILA and she will operate all the devices in your home.”
As part of the entrepreneur class, the development of ILA was funded by a grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. This allows the team to retain all intellectual property rights for the technology since it did not use any university resources.
Though all the team members are electrical engineers, each brought his particular area of expertise to the project. Taylor did the hardware design and mechanical components, O’Conner wrote the software, Hinson did the radio frequency work and was the number cruncher, and Cox developed the web and user interfaces.
“We each had our strong points and we all had to assume a lot of roles,” Cox said. “Especially when it came to the competitions, when we were doing everything from business plans to creating promotional videos.”
With the concept for ILA well underway during their junior year, the team went on to full development during its year-long senior design project. With a number of similar products just hitting the market, they worked to make ILA different and better.
“We feel like our product is unique, because of three things,” Cox said. “It is easily expandable, it has flexible programmability, and it has a very user-friendly point-and-shoot interface.”
The expandability comes through multiple USB ports in every ILA switch, which allows a user to plug in multiple devices just like they do with a computer. This gives ILA the ability to control lights, televisions, computers and special items like automated window blinds, all by simply plugging them in to an existing switch.
ILA has no proprietary software and uses standard protocols, which gives it simple programmability. Appliance manufacturers can easily make their products compatible with ILA.
The point-and-shoot interface means the ILA controller know its position and can identify what products are near it. The user then just points the controller at an item and has full control over it, rather than having to go through a complicated list of menus to select specific rooms and individual appliances.
With their marketing concept for ILA, the team entered the UNC Charlotte Venture Challenge business plan competition in December 2013, and placed second. With the product developed and built by May 2014, the team won the Lee College of Engineering Senior Design Expo.
The team has now officially become the company Red Wire Logic, with a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) designation. ILA will be RedWire’s first product. The new company is setting up shop in UNC Charlotte’s recently opened PORTAL building as part of the university student incubator program. Beyond space, PORTAL will provide Red Wire with support in creating business and marketing plans, and making business contacts.
In addition to developing and marketing ILA, the group is looking to expand into other areas of technology development. “We want to continue to develop technologies that can hopefully be used to improve other people’s products,” Cox said. “We’d like to eventually license some of our technologies to others.”