As an engineer, when I approach a problem I begin with writing a specification and then I create a plan to achieve that specification. When we created the first item tracking device, phone halo, in 2009, we began with a complete list of features and software capabilities. The specification gave a complete list of required functionality that needed to be achieved. Our team put together a plan and created the product as specified by the document in just 3 months (we also worked every day for 15 hours each day).
However, we realized too late that we forgot to specify design requirements. So we created an ugly black box that did magical things. The app worked beautifully but looked like it was built in the early 80’s. The thing was ugly and it effected user adoption dramatically because people do judge a book by its cover and our cover was ugly.
With our upcoming product, TrackR bravo, we took this learning from the past and focused on building something that looks and feels truly amazing. One of the big reasons we were able to achieve this is because we had already implemented much of the technology in previous versions of the product and had implemented thousands of little improvements reported to us by customers.
With the core technology in place, our team was able to focus on a single problem, how can we make it smaller. It’s our #1 customer request is to make our devices smaller. We began to look into the pcb size, component heights, and battery size. We then realized that the biggest opportunity for size reduction was in the material.
In order to achieve structural integrity of our device, the plastic needs to be a certain thickness. However, if you replace the plastic with metal, the “wall thickness” of the device can be dramatically reduced.
So why doesn’t everyone just do this? It seems pretty obvious however metal prevents wireless signals from escaping. By working with our manufacturer, rf engineers, design team, we were able to apply techniques to get around this barrier and achieve the specified range of 100ft with our devices while having a metal device.
I’m extremely proud of our dedicated team and a big thanks goes out to all of our customers who left reviews, pinged us on twitter, wrote on our facebook wall, and sent us emails. Without you feedback and support, this wouldn’t be possible.