Since joining Silicon Labs four weeks ago, I’ve been submerging myself in Internet of Things information. While it has been great learning about our IoT products and applications, I’ve found the people behind the innovation to be the most fascinating (and under appreciated) element. Therefore, I’m kicking off a new series of interviews recognizing true IoT Heroes. Today, I’m proud to feature Ben Stagg, CEO of Halo Smart Labs.
Ben, creating your own company is a big dream for many people. Why did you start your own business?
We created Halo Smart Labs to leverage technology to make people’s lives safer. This all really began as a response to the Joplin tornado that took the lives of 160 people in 2011. My father lives just outside of Joplin, and even with a warning from an old radio in the barn, he barely had enough time to make it to a neighbor’s cellar just as the storm was bearing down on them. My father was lucky that day, other people were not so fortunate. As my partner, Chad White, and I began developing concepts that could improve safety in severe weather events, we quickly discovered numerous other applications like smoke alarms, where technology could provide critical warnings and make the difference in someone’s life. After a house fire destroyed my mother’s home in 2013, we knew we were on the right path and Halo Smart Labs was born.
Fascinating! So, what products are you developing?
Most people don’t realize, that when buying a smoke detector they will have to choose what type of fire to protect their family from. Either a “flash fire” or a “smoldering” smoke fire, photoelectric and ionization sensors work and detect smoke in different ways. Since there is no way to predict which type of fire will strike, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends a dual sensor approach for maximum protection. We actually took it one step further and included a carbon monoxide sensor as well.
We are very proud to say that Halo is the only smoke detector to include technology to detect both fast and slow moving fires as well as CO in a single device. We also knew that in order for to communicate these different warnings we wanted to include a lighting ring.
Is this your first project aimed towards the Internet of Things?
This is not my first M2M communication product; in the past, I built message and data distribution systems for companies large and small using various embedded platforms. However, this is our first product in what has recently been labeled ‘IoT,' and our first consumer product.
Cool. What is the biggest thing you’re working on right now?
Right now, the biggest thing we are working on is our Halo smoke alarm and its introduction to the market on Indiegogo. We've been able to utilize the tools, resources, and partners like Silicon Labs to ensure the product meets our demanding standards. At the same time, it's up to our customers to help us align their needs with our features and functions. This campaign is exactly what we need to engage our customers on a scale relatively unavailable in test groups; it also ensures that we're giving people a product of genuine benefit to their lives.
I'm always interested in learning about the inside of new products. Do you use any Silicon Labs technology?
Silicon Labs solutions are fundamental to many of the functions offered by HALO. We are leveraging Silicon Labs technology to allow Halo; the safest, smartest smoke detector on the market, to receive relevant local weather warnings and alert the user. From the beginning, Halo was engineered to be a multi-radio device capable of supporting the communication standards found in the home automation sector today. Silicon Labs not only provided us with a solid design for adding Zigbee support to Halo, but their stellar development tools allowed us to quickly implement the design.
Halo also uses an intelligent sensor algorithm that removes the irritating false alarms often associated with smoke alarms. Our team makes retrieving accurate data a top priority, and Silicon Labs digital humidity sensor plays an integral role in Halo’s sensor-driven logic, allowing our device to avoid the false alarms that have become the norm with today’s other smoke alarms.
Now, I know this is a big question, but in your opinion, what does the future of IoT look like?
We're planning to continually focus on connected devices that represent huge values in our customers’ lives; particularly in areas of safety and security. While time will tell whether or not the novelty and convenience of applications of connected devices have a place in the way consumers engage IoT; we are certain that the fundamental human need to feel safe at home will remain the primary means for entry in the connected home.
To learn more about the Halo smart smoke detector, check out the crowdfunding campaign.
I’m honored to share Ben’s story as my first blog in the Silicon Labs community, and I would love to hear from you. Are you an IoT hero? Do you know someone who is? Feel free to nominate them by posting on this forum board.