By Ian Reynolds-Young
‘Positive’, ‘responsive’ and ‘refreshing’. OnlineSensors has only been in business for a short time, but feedback like this has already proven the capability and efficiency of the company’s instrumentation, which consists of IoT USB sensors.
The experiences of leading-edge machine manufacturer Aeguana provide a notable case history for the fledgling firm, which was founded and is run by 31-year-old Joseph Witherall.
‘Aeguana have a smart freezer. They used a small micro pc to monitor the temperature, so they could log it’, Joseph said. ‘They were using an interface into the pc, but the sensors kept failing. They contacted me and I talked them through what we could do. They asked if we could make some modifications to match their system, which we were able to do by changing the default settings.’
In common with many success stories, Joseph’s career wasn’t meant to follow this path… ‘When I left school, I wanted to join the RAF as an avionics engineer. I was accepted for training, but then the financial crash happened and my support was cut’, he said. ‘After multiple attempts I was selected for an instrument apprenticeship. In 2016, I landed my first job as a Junior Electronics Designer and subsequently, completed an Open University course in Electronics Design. Since then, I’ve specialised in Electronics Engineering and learned the accompanying disciplines, such as 3D CAD and Desktop software development
‘These skill sets complement each other’, Joseph said. ‘I can develop from initial idea to the final product. Iunderstand the frustrations some companies have with encompassing all disciplines to develop their solutions. That’s essentially why I started OnlineSensors Ltd; to provide bespoke electronics, instrumentation project solutions and manufacturing, coupled with industry contacts to further magnify resources.
Businesses can use OnlineSensors to provide their engineering and manufacturing solutions, eliminating the need for them to hire more staff or even start their own specialist engineering / production department.’
OnlineSensors manufacture easy-to-use products to interface with widely available systems, such as USB Interfaces. ‘This allows my customers to concentrate on their overall product, rather than get entangled in engineering problems. Our products are customisable and expedite the deployment process’, Joseph said.
‘We provide ongoing support with integration examples and our aim is to be responsive, with a down-to-earth attitude. We encourage businesses operating vending machines, smart freezers and the like to exploreour proven, cost effective and reliable instrumentation, or to challenge us to design a bespoke solutionspecifically for them.’
Pambo Palas, a co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of Aeguana, was happy to relate how OnlineSensors stepped in to address a specific issue his company was facing. ‘We produce a range of automated retail equipment, including smart fridges and freezers’, he said. ‘We had a back-end solution to measure temperature in real time, but we had some quality issues with that system, notably around mechanical durability. Our operations team identified OnlineSensors as a possible solution, so we reached out to them. Subsequently we worked with them as they customised their solution for our particular requirements. They were very flexible and very accommodating and quickly developed a thorough understanding of how we work and what we wanted to achieve. With that knowledge, they modified their existing temperature sensor and the firmware.
‘We tested the OnlineSensors solution and it out-performed our initial sensor. Many of the more intricate problems we were experiencing in the field were ironed out. In the 3 or 4 months that we’ve been ‘live’, we’ve had fewer failure tickets raised and we’ve experienced a sharp reduction in machine down time. We are very happy with the results’, Pambo confirmed.
Joseph’s ‘baby’ is growing fast and is beginning to thrive internationally. For instance, OnlineSensors recently received an enquiry from a Greek vending machine manufacturer. They were experiencing difficulties in monitoring humidity and, as they did in relation to Aeguana, Joseph’s team was happy to work with the company to provide another bespoke solution, which is currently undergoing trials.
Reminiscing about his thwarted attempts to join the RAF, Joseph acknowledges the old adage ‘as one door closes, another one opens.’ Mind you, he retains his love of everything to do with aviation – he’s currently working towards obtaining a Private Pilot’s license. Which makes the Founder of OnlineSensors, quite literally, one of automated retail’s genuine high-flyers.