About this project
Relax, BrewNanny is watching.
BrewNanny™ monitors your fermentation rate, temperature and even the light level inside your beer. This information is used to watch for conditions that can threaten the quality of your beer and the minute something doesn't look just right BrewNanny lets you know. You even get notified if the power goes out in your home!
With BrewNanny you can easily monitor the health of your beer24/7 from anywhere in the world using the web or your cell phone. Check-in to see how things are going whenever you want. Relax when you are away from your precious brew knowing that all is well because BrewNanny will notify you via text or email, the minute something needs attention. BrewNanny is always alert, checking your beer hundreds of times per minute.
BrewNanny is intelligent and uses the latest technology to assure you are alerted when events occur. No need sit there staring, waiting for that first bubble in the airlock anymore. BrewNanny knows the minute fermentation starts and you will know seconds later, wherever you are.
But that’s not all. BrewNanny is more than just a product. Not only does BrewNanny connect brewers to their brew, BrewNanny let’s home brewers connect to each other… literally. And that is where things get really interesting.
Connect to friends.
BrewNanny is full of high-tech features. Readings from each batch are stored in your personal database. They can be used to create brewing profiles that further enhance BrewNanny’s ability to help you make the best beer possible. And these readings can be shared with your home brew buddies, where ever they are.
Brew exactly the way you want.
And one important note. BrewNanny doesn't brew for you. This is not an automatic brewing machine, like one of those bread machines where you stick in the ingredients and a few hours later a loaf of bread pops out. You still brew the way you want, and make your own decisions. With BrewNanny you should be able to make better decisions because you always have a clear picture of what is going on, and what has gone on. BrewNanny doesn't tell you how to brew. BrewNanny tells you what you need to know to make better decisions that make better beer, and you a better brewer.
Take the BrewNanny out of the box and connect it to a USB port. The device will appear under your "my computer" icon just like a thumb drive would. Click on the icon and the startup page will load in your default browser. BrewNanny automatically detects your WiFi settings and prompts you for a few pieces of information. That's it! There is no calibration, no hardware adjustments, nothing else to do! Basically the same scenario for Apple and Android devices also.
How it works.
The idea is simple and workable but there is one major problem. You can only measure the number of times the float bobs up and down. It does not measure the volume of the CO2 releases. This is when I realized that if you can accurately measure the volume of CO2 released you can calculate all of the values that would be helpful to you while making beer, such as Alcohol Content, and Specific Gravity.
I started looking at pressure sensors and found that there are a number of sensors on the market that are used in the medical equipment industry that would work. I ordered some and put together my first prototype.
This prototype was meant to be functional and easily modified, but not necessarily practical. So as you can see it is a bit large and ugly, but it worked. The basic concept was sound and I knew that I only had to refine the design and make it affordable and practical and I would have a usable product.
I started building models with microchips and pared down the design to the minimum needed functionality.
These first few designs worked but I was not getting the consistency needed to be valuable to the brewer. The problem was that the components used were so sensitive that they were susceptible to background noise, like interference from other wireless devices and electric lights and motors.
So I searched the literature and found similar sensors that were digital based and were able to block out any background noise and provide a consistent accurate signal. Tests were run to confirm that a clean digital signal would result in a highly accurate consistent reading.
7 months later I had all of the technical issues resolved.
With the sensor issue resolved I then focused on the data collection and storage problems. I decided to use an off the shelf microcomputer board that is very popular with computer hardware enthusiasts. This has the advantage of being a component that could be purchased instead of designed and built and that was debugged and tested by millions of users. I decided to use this board also because it runs the popular Linux Operating System, which meant that much of the other software I needed didn’t have to be programmed from scratch. I was able to use open source database and web server applications and modify them for my specific needs.
The final step of the process was finding a way to present the data to the end user. I decided on a dashboard approach and started making prototypes.
Once I had the basic idea down I selected some off the shelf graphics software that would allow a very rich visual representation of the data that would make the readings intuitive to the user. Like Pressure gauges, thermometer and bar charts. Once again I concentrated on finding as much existing software as possible to reduce the amount of custom programming needed.
This is the final prototype using an off the shelf case. The electronics are housed in the white domed container. There is a probe that exits the bottom of the container and extends through a plug that seals the carboy. This probe senses the temperature and light levels and allows the CO2 to enter the device to be measured by the sensor and then released by the solenoid.
We will not be waiting until we have funds in hand to start production of the rewards. As soon as we have a strong indication that the funding goal will be met, we will throw the switch. Most of the materials that we will need are off the shelf components that we have primary and secondary sources for. The one exception is the printed circuit board. We have the CAD drawings completed and have used them to make a small run of the boards and they have been tested. Once we know we will reach our goal we will immediately order the boards in quantities to complete our Kickstarter obligations. They take 1 – 2 weeks to manufacture.
In our prototyping efforts we have secured many of the other components in qualities and will not need to make additional purchases. This means that we can start producing the sensor stems and pressure control structures immediately. These will take 1-2 weeks to complete.
When the funding goal is met we will order the remaining materials. These include the Raspberry Pi computer boards, pressure sensors, solenoids and outer cases. We have trade credit with these suppliers sufficient to cover the quantities needed for fulfillment so we do not need to wait for funds to arrive. Once these materials arrive it will be a two week process to put the components together, test and ship.
If we assume that we don't meet our funding goal until week 4 our timeline would look like this:
We also have to produce the dashboard software as custom apps for Apple and Android devices and a Facebook application as well. These apps do not have to go through the normal design and coding process. Since the application exists now as a web app, the code only needs to be adapted to these devices. I have done all of the prep work for the applications and have some code elements completed. I will continue development alone until I am joined by the contract programmers. We have the programmers standing by. Once we know we are being funded we will sign contracts with the programmers and immediately begin production. Again we will not need to wait until Kickstarter funds are received to start. I have very clear specifications for this phase of the operation and the experience of developing the same functionality for the web based app so I am confident that we have a good handle on the amount of work required. We will be doing this development work here in our North Adams MA offices and will not be outsourcing to offshore companies. This makes the process more expensive but we are committed to this product being produced entirely here in the US. I have 22 years in the software development industry and do not expect any issues regarding software. In the event that there are issues, we can add staff at any point of the process. The software development timeline is as follows:
The software is delivered via the web so it does not need to ship with the products.
We plan to use our funding to hire staff to finish the mobile version apps and to buy sufficient quantities of parts to manufacture our rewards. The high tech sensors and valves used in our product are very expensive in small quantities so we need to buy in bulk to bring the price of the product down to a reasonable number. The quantity of rewards that we are offering will get us just above that threshold. We will also be spending money to build jigs and patterns that will assure that the devices are manufactured to very tight specifications with high consistency and quality. A significant sum will also go to manufacturing our product enclosure and custom circuit boards. Additionally funds will be used for technology licenses, legal expenses, liability insurance and ongoing business expenses.
Risks and challenges
Over the last 18 months we have created about a dozen proof of concept designs and several working prototypes with different technology approaches. We currently not only have a working prototype but have manufactured a small quantity of the devices with the final materials for our beta testing. We have had 4 BrewNannys working and monitoring brewing beer since January 3 of this year.
We believe the risks to be very low. Our design uses a lot of off the shelf components. The components that require certification, like the WiFi transmitters are pre-manufactured and are already certified. The probe assembly and circuit board is the one custom build part of the product. We have final circuits that have been beta tested. We have ordered small runs of the circuit board and included them in the beta tests. All of our materials that can contact the beer are FDA approved. The only testing that we have not completed is a longevity test of the mechanical components. We do have assurances from the manufacturers that they will perform to spec and this insures that the life expectancy of these parts is over 10 years for a high use end user.
We intend to offer a limited number of devices so that we can make our production schedules. The labor required to manufacture the product is available locally in large numbers. We will have to expand our current offices to manufacture the product in large quantities,but for the purposes of this campaign, we should be able to manage in our current location.
The biggest challenge right now will be to port the web based dashboard software to apps for Apple and Android devices. We also need to create a Facebook app that has the same functionality. These are not really technical challenges but putting together the team to get this done in our timeframe will be a lot of work, mostly in the area of project management. We have identified our team and they are on board. Our timeline is realistic but there is little room for any major snag that might come up. We will have to carefully monitor the progress of the software development to make this happen on schedule. The good news is that this is what my primary business is. As you can see from my resume I manage software projects that are huge for some very demanding customers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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