Cherry Hill native David Nghiem’s father Albert was a master’s level engineer for a number of years when he was involved in a car crash in 2005. Albert suffered mild brain trauma from the accident. While David said his father can still perform everyday functions such as going to the gym and gardening, there are times where he is unsure about whether he has done a routine task such as turning off the stove.
“We’ll take a drive to Philadelphia,” David said. “We’ll go across the bridge and as soon as we cross the toll, (Albert) will freak out saying the stove is still on. We’ll get into a screaming match, and I’ll have to turn the car around.”
The problem gave David, a hardware developer now living in Maryland, a brilliant idea.
David created the Stove Top Sensor for Paranoid, Stubborn Older Parents. The sensor adds web connectivity to the user’s stove. If the homeowner feels they may have left their stove burner on, they can send a text message to the sensor. The sensor has the ability to detect a stove’s temperature and then use the information to tell the user whether the burner is on or off.
David describes the sensor as just another invention in a wave of innovative ideas where household appliances are connected to the Internet.
“A lot of the devices and appliances we have today are now connected on the Internet,” he said.
The device uses a simple text message to work and does not require the user to have a smartphone. David feels this makes it user-friendly for people of all ages.
“Everyone has a cell phone nowadays, so being able to text your device to see if your appliances are turned off is really useful,” he said.
The invention has made a positive impression since its public debut at the TechCrunch New York City Disrupt 2015 Hackathon, a conference where technology startups can launch their products in front of potential investors.
David won a sponsorship prize from Twilio, a cloud communications company based in San Francisco. The prize included an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco for a week. In addition to enjoying the trip and touring the Bay Area, David spoke to companies and investors who were interested in his sensor becoming a piece of hardware on stoves across the country.
“I have had some investor interest out there,” David said. “They want to see the next prototype.
David is hoping to form a startup company based on the sensor and other hardware he is working on. He is planning to take the original Stove Top Sensor and improve upon it to make it marketable to hardware and appliance companies.
“There’s several ideas that I have to make it more artificially intelligent,” he said.
In addition, David is looking at different ways to get the project funded. He is entering the sensor into a Hackaday prize competition where companies may be willing to build different components of the project. In addition, David is planning to start a fundraising campaign on crowdsupply.com. One of the biggest challenges facing the project is money.
“It’s a lot more difficult getting investment dollars for hardware than software,” David said.
Despite the challenges ahead, David is excited about the prospects of his newest invention. He believes the Stove Top Sensor could become a fixture on most Americans’ stoves in the near future.