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Working to develop ‘intelligent furniture’

Newbury Innovation helps to produce ‘charging trolleys’

Working to develop ‘intelligent furniture’

As more and more aspects of our lives become connected, the need for bespoke electronics continues to grow.

One of the most eye-catching ideas currently under development is that of ‘intelligent furniture’.

Newbury Innovation is working with Armor Associates to manage a furniture company’s Intelligent Furniture Programme.

There is increasing use of mobile devices (tablets, chromebooks, laptops) in schools and therefore a need to securely store and charge devices so that they are available for teachers when needed.

The next generation of ‘charging trolleys’ are internet connected and intelligent – supporting notifications (eg of number of devices charging, doors unlocked outside teaching hours, location of trolley), remote control (via a web app) and smart charging of devices to save energy and ensure that devices will be ready when needed by a teacher.

Armor Associates founder and director Will Steen said: “Soon after starting work on the Intelligent Furniture Programme, we realised that we needed an electronics design partner and a local printed circuit board [PCB] assembly service.

“A search identified Newbury Electronics, a meeting with Phillip King followed and then an introduction to Jon Hawkins and the Newbury Innovation team.

“Our client’s ethos is to create ‘agile and adaptable learning space’.

“Electronic design expertise, rapid prototyping and responsiveness to design changes are key to enable us to drive product development at speed.”

Newbury Innovation, based in Faraday Road, is the design and development division of Newbury Electronics Ltd, which has been trading for 60 years.

It has supplied electronic design services to create the manufacturing packs (BoM, Extended Gerbers) from specifications developed by Armor Associates.

These manufacturing packs have then been turned into small quantity prototypes using Newbury Electronics (PCB Train), combined with a WiFi-enabled MCU module, tested by Armor Associates and then rapidly iterated to production-ready designs with electronic and production engineering support.

Newbury Innovation technical director Jon Hawkins, said: “The ‘connected product’ design approach starts with an outline of the key features and customer value areas.

“From this, ‘user stories’ were developed and from these the key capabilities for the hardware components, including the PCBs, are established and form the basis of a design specification or brief which we take as our starting point.

“To illustrate, one user story was for the charging trolley to report over the internet if unplugged from the mains power.

“This required a battery-backed supply to the micro-controller with the capability to recharge and which could also protect the battery from discharge if left unplugged over the summer holidays.

“We were able to design and support development of a robust and cost-effective solution.”

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