Building IoT Devices Is a Snap for Startup Interstacks

The Pennsylvania company has developed a modular system with Lego-like blocks that enable sensor-based tracking and wireless connectivity for un-networked industrial machines, with RFID functionality in the works.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 14, 2017

Many new industrial machines are being built with intelligence to enable Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, but millions of machines are still in operation that have no such connectivity. A group of engineers from Carnegie Mellon has created a company offering a product they developed that is intended to get old machines to speak up.

Their Pittsburg startup, known as Interstacks, is offering a modular IoT-based system that snaps together like Lego blocks, allowing users or systems integrators to simply plug blocks of functionality together to build a system featuring sensors and wireless connectivity, the way they want it. That stack of blocks can then be attached to a machine to connect it to a network.

Users can plug blocks of functionality together onto a Superbase, in order to build a system incorporating wireless connectivity and sensors.
Several dozen industrial companies are now piloting the technology to track conditions around their facilities, and especially the machines within those facilities.

Interstacks offers a variety of blocks that can be used; the only requirement is a base block, known as the Superbase, which serves as a CPU. The blocks that can be built onto that base provide a variety of functions. For instance, a Wi-Fi block enables transmission to a Wi-Fi server, while an HDMI block allows an external display to be attached to the device, an infrared remote block can enable infrared capability, and an I/O expander block enables LED lights, sensors and switches to be added. The company soon intends to release a cellular-based block, and is currently working on a UHF RFID-based block.

Approximately five years ago, Interstacks' founders began designing technology at research lab Maya Design. Interstacks was launched to sell the product developed there a year ago, says Gary Kiliany, the firm's development director.

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