When you’ve been in your basement after a thunderstorm, up to your ankles in water because your sump pump failed, it’s too late to think about being able to predict the health of your pump with the same accuracy as the weather.
Wayne, which manufactures water pumps for homeowners among its many other fluid management products, was looking to solve that problem for its end-users. The company already was working with Naperville, Ill.-based Grid Connect Inc. on embedded network solutions for the existing Wayne HALO line of sump pumps when the challenge came up to build an app-based monitoring system that would marry consumer needs with pump performance metrics.
Among the electrical values that can be measured, one of the most important is current leakage, a key indicator of pump health. “They’re the experts in pumps, and we’re experts in IoT and connectivity,” said Adam Justice, chief executive officer of Grid Connect, Inc. “When we started to work with them, we began to unpack what they wanted to monitor.”
The result was the Wayne Basement GuardianHALO—a smart sump pump that is compatible with Alexa voice commands and can provide consumers with an app-based monitoring of sump pump health, rain or shine.
Grid Connect already had a reputation for power monitoring within Wayne, but the new challenge was to put the data in the hands of the homeowners. Consumers, of course, aren’t particularly well-versed in such things as current leakage…but they do want to know if the pump might fail soon.
“The homeowner is not concerned with leakage,” said Anthony Linder, vice president of operations and overseas manufacturing for Grid Connect. “We understood the challenges from an engineering perspective, but we also needed to understand from a consumer perspective. We interviewed a lot of their customers and tried to understand that story.”
“Why did they want a connected product? It’s a ‘Jobs To Be Done’ methodology,” added. Justice. “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole. We wanted to find the quarter-inch hole for the sump pumps.”
It also helped that Wayne and Grid Connect had worked together on other sump pump sensor projects. “Speed to market was why we called on Grid Connect to be our IoT development team and manufacturing partner,” said Eric Tinnemeyer, president of Scott Fetzer Consumer Brands, which owns Wayne, in a press release announcing the product launch. “We needed a partner who could work with us for a successful market launch from idea to consumer research to store shelves in less than a year.”
Linder said the process to identify how to turn data into consumable information for the average homeowner tried to allay fears, provide clear information and still use the technology effectively. “We wanted to display actionable steps a homeowner could make—including consulting someone else,” he said. “There’s a lot of green in the app to show the homeowner that everything is great.”
Wayne officials noted in a press release that over time, a sump pump’s electrical insulation and seals will break down and the pump won’t work. When the sun is out, of course, it’s hard to tell the difference between a broken sump pump and one that simply isn’t needed. The Grid Connect’s IoT controller constantly analyzes electrical signatures from the pump’s components and predicts problems and alerts the consumer when there is a problem.
“The average person cares about pump health instead of current leakage,” Justice said. “When they looked at the app, they saw the state of the pump or it gave them an action to perform. What people are buying is peace of mind. We wanted to give them better peace of mind—real-time peace of mind.”
“People were sleeping next to their pump,” Linder added. “They don’t have to do that anymore.”
The Engineering Challenges
Before the sump pump consumer could get a good night’s sleep, the teams at Wayne and Grid Connect put in a number of long days. “We were on the road map from this project rather than being an add-on,” said Linder. “We operate best in a world where we can understand their customers just as well as they do. When we can do that, we can exceed their expectations.
“We said, ‘Let’s just brainstorm for two days’,” added Linder. “It was exciting to see Wayne not become a supplier, but become a partner, and we learned together. That is the way to bring true innovation to their products.”
The rise in home-based apps and the lessons learned from the work with Wayne have Grid Connect officials confident other sensor technology can be effectively embedded in a wider range of electrical products.
Because the finished project turns sensor data into action, it also can turn the aggregation of that data into product insights, and into future product improvements. “We started with a drawing,” said Cris Codreau, Grid Connect’s vice president of engineering and the person who originally developed the IoT-based Wayne HALO. “With an ever-increasing number of pumps in the field, our data engineers can show a correlation with circumstances. If we know what the rain situation at any moment, we can be aware and alert users.”
This article appeared in Machine Design.