Robotics engineer Taylor Alexander needed to lift a nuclear cooling tower off its foundation using 19 high-strength steel cables, and the Android app that was supposed to accomplish it, for which he’d just paid a developer $20,000, was essentially worthless. Undaunted and on deadline—the tower needed a new foundation, and delays meant millions of dollars in losses—he re-wrote the app himself. That’s when he discovered just how hard it is to connect to sensors via the standard long-distance industrial wireless protocol, known as Zigbee.
The result is an in-the-works project called Flutter. It’s what Taylor calls a “second network”—an alternative to Wi-Fi that can cover 100 times as great an area, with a range of 3,200 feet, using relatively little power, and is either the future of the way that all our connected devices will talk to each other or a reasonable prototype for it.