A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
About this project
What is SMOBOT?
SMOBOT is a patented robotic damper system that attaches to the top vent of most Kamado style smokers, like those from Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, and Primo Ceramic Grills. SMOBOT monitors the temperature inside the smoker using a high temperature thermocouple. When the temperature varies from the target you set, the controller tells the damper how much to open and close to maintain the temperature you choose. Think of SMOBOT as your smoker robot.
Airflow is controlled by the natural draw through the top damper, which makes installation easy and power consumption low. The damper replaces the manual factory daisy wheel, attaching to the top vent cap with the single existing screw in a matter of seconds. Your smoker works just the way it was designed. Because SMOBOT only moves the damper when necessary, power consumption is low. SMOBOT is powered through its micro-USB connector. If desired, powering it from a low-cost USB battery pack is a great option when an outlet isn't available.
Please help us by sharing SMOBOT with your friends
SMOBOT Control Performance
The SMOBOT control algorithm has been developed carefully over 6 years, and thousands of hours of test development have produced accurate and robust performance. It handles disturbances ranging from charcoal pile collapse, to wind, to the lid being opened. You can count on SMOBOT to deliver:
Typical accuracy within +/- 5 ⁰F of set-point
Quick startup with very little overshoot
Minimal undershoot following temperature reduction
Wide grill temperature operating range without need for inlet vent adjustments
Smart algorithm prevents fire snuffing
Open lid detection minimizes disturbance effect
Servo sits still when on target temperature – saves electricity
While the SMOBOT concept will work with many more grills and smokers, the current damper design has been proven to fit the following list. If you have a grill or smoker not listed below and you would like to support SMOBOT, please send us a message and we will add your grill to our list for future support.
Use SMOBOT standalone or connect it to your Wi-Fi network. SMOBOT’s Wi-Fi connectivity means SMOBOT is available to communicate with you anytime, anywhere - whether you’re home on your wireless network, or traveling across town with your smart phone.
Wifi setup is easy. Upon first starting up, SMOBOT sets itself up as a wifi access point. Connect with your computer or smartphone and access SMOBOT via your web browser.
SMOBOT will discover nearby wireless networks and give you the option to connect to your home network.
Once connected to the internet, SMOBOT will start sending data to mySMOBOT our FREE cloud web service. Access mySMOBOT from anywhere you have internet connectivity to monitor your cook.
mySMOBOT records a graph of your cook so you can see how it is progressing.
As a long-time culinary enthusiast and cook, Eric (SMOBOT co-founder) got his large Big Green Egg in 2010 and quickly fell in love with kamado grill cooking and smoking. Sadly, he found that a busy life schedule made it inconvenient to cook with because he had to hang around the house and monitor it for hours to keep it on temperature. He searched the market for an existing temperature control solution, and didn't find one he liked. All of them were complicated, required external blowers, were power hungry, and most lacked the connectivity to monitor from afar. Perhaps more than any of those things, he felt that those approaches were short on elegance and greatly detracted from the basic spirit of grill cooking. The grill wants to breath on its own - It just needs someone to make little adjustments here and there! Having an interest in, and some theoretical background in controls, Eric built the first version of SMOBOT in late 2010 for fun, and to improve the quality of his grilling experience.
In March of 2014, Eric posted on a couple of internet forums to show off his creation and get some feedback. Immediately he was met with awesome encouragement and compliments! Many grill forum goers wanted their own copies of the controller. Eric started the process of creating a limited set of "Beta" prototype units for people to try.
In early 2015, Curtis (the other SMOBOT co-founder) happened upon a discussion of Eric's controller and just had to get involved. As an inventor and entrepreneur, Curtis knew that he could help Eric develop and release a quality, consumer-ready product. A partnership was formed and a design effort was immediately underway to improve and finalize the Beta design. A new wifi module was chosen, web interfaces were created, and remote firmware update capability was added. The circuit board was redesigned for easier assembly, and extensive testing was completed to shore up the algorithm.
In April of 2016 the SMOBOT Beta was ready for its first real test. Invitations were sent out to form a beta group and a rollout of 40 beta units commenced. The next few months were a whirlwind of wonderful feedback, grilling, conversations with excited users, and software modifications.
Finally, in August of 2016, The US Patent office granted a patent (Patent 9,427,107) for the concept, clearing the way for a commercial endeavor. It was time for a production design evolution!
Since August, all aspects of SMOBOT have been improved, and all of the superb feedback and lessons-learned from the generous Beta participants have been incorporated. The damper design was improved to make it easier to manufacture and assemble, a custom membrane overlay has been designed and sourced. Additionally, we've contracted for custom length temperature probes and a customized version of the servo with a better cable and plug. Orders for many of the production parts are already submitted and in-work. Your help is now needed to help fund the final round of component acquisition and assembly. Thank you kindly for your support!
Where are we in the process?
Many potential backers have asked us how far along we are in the design/production process. We will use this section and our updates to keep everyone up to date on our progress.
Before even launching the campaign, we finalized the design of most aspects of the product and have gotten quotes and placed orders. Many items have multiple month lead times and orders were placed at the end of 2016. Those items are starting to arrive at our location and we are wrapping up the details of the last few items.
We are confident in our timelines based on so much of the work already being done. Of course there can always be issues but we have given ourselves 3 months to overcome anything that arises.
FCC/CE markings are required, but we need the final product before we can kick that off. We don’t anticipate any issues because we use a WiFi module that has a modular certification, so the testing that needs to be done is just to ensure that the rest of the solution doesn’t emit any RF noise that could interfere with other devices. Once we have the prototype overlays this coming week, we will be able to send a full unit off to a testing facility to do the final tests.
Below is a table illustrating all of the physical parts of the product and where they are at in the design/production/procurement lifecycle. Many items including food probes and servo arms will arrive in the next week to 10 days (March 13-23). The first articles of the membrane switch overlay will arrive this week as well and once tested will be released for immediate production. All parts have been purchased in either 500pcs quantity or 1000pcs depending on minimum order quantities, so we are prepared to handle the demand of the Kickstarter campaign. We set the reward tiers up for June shipping with a limit of 300pcs. If we get more backers than that, we will add another reward level at the same price but with a July or August shipping date so that we can ensure we meet the goals.
Hopefully this gives our potential backers some confidence in our ability to deliver. We brought our project to Kickstarter in order to share the process with our community and get them involved in the final process of delivery. We too have seen many projects that have failed to deliver and we won’t be one of them.
Join us now as a backer and help us get over the finish line! We're so excited to share the process with you and see the exciting things you cook with SMOBOT!
Co-Founder Curtis walks you through the usage of SMOBOT using a beta controller.
Replay of our Week One Kickstarter Live video Q&A
Most of the hard work is done and many of the long lead time items are already in progress. Here is our estimated timeline for delivery of backer rewards.
Eric Reinhart is a licensed Professional Engineer, living in Michigan USA. He has a fascination for control theory, and has completed some undergraduate and graduate university coursework on the subject. One aspect of Eric’s aerospace industry career has been software development which provided a foundation for his entry into embedded systems. He extended that experience-base to low-level controller programming in 2009, for fun. Eric's primary responsibilities for SMOBOT are development of the core control algorithm, prototype hardware fabrication and mechanical design. As a home workshop machinist he enjoys "making chips" to prototype new designs for SMOBOT dampers and electronics enclosures. When Eric isn't working on SMOBOT, he enjoys mountain biking, hiking with his family and fishing.
Curtis Pope is a self taught electronics designer that enjoys tackling challenging design obstacles. Curtis holds a Bachelor's of Science in Aviation Computer Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. As a serial entrepreneur, Curtis has designed and built many different projects including a motorcross racing system using active/passive RFID, LED Signs, Motion detection system for hunting, home automation gadgets and Amateur Radio projects. When not working on SMOBOT, Curtis loves fishing, flying, playing ice hockey and spending time with his young children. Curtis is primarily responsible for WiFi and web development, circuit layout and prep for manufacturing, ordering, logistics and business administrivia. Curtis lives with his family in the Clearwater, Florida area.
To help answer many of the questions that potential backers have and make your decision to support SMOBOT easier, below is a list of frequently asked questions.
Q: Isn't there a problem with the robotic damper getting gunked up with brown grease tar from cooking?
A: After using a SMOBOT for a couple of cooks, you will notice that it does get a coating of grease from the smoke coming out of the exhaust. After the damper cools, this gunk can harden and cause the damper to stick. This is not a problem. We have designed the damper with some play so that you can lift up on it and "pop" it free. We have used a single SMOBOT damper for 100s if not 1000s of hours and never had an issue with the sticking. We recorded the following video for our beta users to show how to free a stuck damper. https://vimeo.com/157536471
Q: Is there any cost for the mySMOBOT cloud service?
A: Access to mySMOBOT is absolutely free, there is no cost.
Q: Is there any cost for the mobile apps?
A: The mobile applications will be available for free download at no additional cost.
Q: SMOBOT seems expensive, why does it does it cost so much?
A: SMOBOT is actually about $100 less expensive than comparable blower based solutions. SMOBOT is a wifi enabled device with many custom designed parts. Consumer products generally reach the point where they can be produced cheaply when a company can order 10,000+ units at a time. Here at IOT Controls, we are ramping up 500-1000 units at a time production, so we have a long ways to go before we can reduce a lot of the cost out of the production.
Q: How does SMOBOT compare to blower solutions?
A: SMOBOT doesn’t force air into your grill/smoker. By using a passive approach, we are able to reduce the amount of ash that is kicked up inside the grill and thus keep it from landing on your food. SMOBOT is lower power and can run from a battery pack. SMOBOT is virtually silent, so you won't hear a fan running. SMOBOT is simple to install with just one screw and doesn't require any complex vent adjustments for different types of cooks. SMOBOT still allows you access to your inlet vent to clean out ashes without removing.
Risks and challenges
As a company whose founders have collectively backed numerous Kickstarter projects, we understand the importance of meeting delivery deadlines without compromising the quality of the product. We've waited until now to introduce SMOBOT to the world because we wanted to reduce the number of risks and challenges faced during development. We are now in the late stages of the project and ready to move forward with finalizing the product and get to mass production. We have multiple contract manufacturers lined up for all aspects of manufacturing. We have already begun ordering large quantities of long lead time items an are confident in our dates.
The following unforeseen challenges could jeopardize delivery timelines but would not affect the viability of final delivery:
- Worldwide component shortages
- Problems with first articles off the production line
- Shipping/Customs delays
- Illness of key team member
That being said, we will put plans in place and "stay ahead of the curve" to insure a timely delivery.