Porticos Develops Automated Medication Dispenser

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, and Porticos Asia, the Hong Kong team which leverages Asian manufacturing for US and European clients, collaborated on a concept design that ensures accurate and consistent medication dosing for those concerned for their loved ones.

This smart, connected health hub dispenses the right pills at the right time of day. Since patients and pharmacists don’t have to sort or count pills with this devices, the dangers of human error are drastically reduced. Plus, the device can send reminder alerts to patients and connected them to trained pharmacists who can answer questions and give them advice.

Finally, patients and their loved ones can feel confident that medications are being taken properly, at the correct time, consistently with this wireless device that could fit easily into any home. Those who have been ridden with concern for their loved one on multiple medications are finally afforded some peace of mind with this life-changing device!

Detail Design: Balancing Precision and Ease

One of the fundamental pieces of the platform solution is to provide the medicine to the patient in a format that the device can properly dispense. For this innovative machine, that means a cartridge containing prepackaged foils of medicine. To meet this need, Porticos developed and designed “The Spooler.” The Spooler allows the pharmacist to efficiently and reliably package the patient-specific foils into cartridges that can then be put into the unit for dispensing by the patient.

Developing a product with such a high-stakes role in patient health presented several challenges. First, the Porticos product design team needed The Spooler to be agile and dependable—small enough to fit on a countertop, fast enough to produce a medication pack every 30 seconds, and reliable enough to be a life-or-death part of a healthcare plan. It also needed ethernet capability, and an easy-to-navigate touch screen, so even the least tech-savvy patient could use it with ease.

As the name suggests, The Spoolers’ main function is to wind and unwind the foil packets of medication to fill the cartridge. One of the obstacles faced by performing that function while meeting the time requirements is for the medication packs to jam or be torn by the mechanisms during that process. To overcome this obstacle, Porticos’ hardware engineers developed a variety of unique mechanisms, and performed designs of experiments to prove out the concepts. As a result, Porticos was able to create a Spooler that winds and unwinds smoothly every time—a reliable solution for the most critical part of patient care for this device.

One of the key steps that Porticos advised all customers to consider as part of the design process, is to prototype the design to allow functional evaluation before proceeding to production manufacturing. Case-in-point—an obstacle that was identified during initial prototype functional trails, specifically engagement and disengagement, was the Spooler’s “arm.” The arm interfaces with a hub in the cartridge to perform the winding function. Originally, Porticos’ hardware engineers designed a traditional latching mechanism to secure the arm in place, but soon realized that optimizing the process necessary to ensure good engagement with the cartridge hub, and the need for the pharmacists to easily disengage the arm was problematic. To solve this challenge, the team of hardware engineers devised a unique magnetic solution that not only met the functionality requirements, but exceeded the life cycle requirements as well.

As further testament to Porticos’ innovative contribution to the Spooler and overall product, Porticos’ engineers were named as inventor on multiple patents.

Hardware Production Challenge: Balancing Cost and Medical Standards

Once the Spooler was designed, a cost-competitive production plan that could also meet the high-quality standards for medical equipment was needed. Porticos Asia, the hardware production services arm of Porticos US, was able to identify the perfect production spot for a custom build—one that could match quality and cost efficiency with an aggressive delivery schedule. Ultimately, they were able to ship the first batch of Spoolers just twelve weeks after the start of production—all the while analyzing the manufacturing flow for further cost reduction in future production runs.

For more examples of how Porticos is Product Design for the Way We’re Designed, visit porticos-us.com.

Fiercely Small: Porticos Helps Design Radios that Channel Durability and Portability

Police need reliable technology that can work overtime. Fire responders need loud, clear communication tools that work in any environment. EMS need multiple communication channels, so they’re always accessible. They all need their equipment to be as tough as the people using them.

But just like the rest of us, emergency responders also need their technology to be portable. When Harris, a leader in communications technology, was ready to work on the development of a smaller, LTE-capable portable radio, Porticos was proud to answer the call.

Harris has been a leader in radio technology for over 80 years, meaning many of Harris’ customers have already purchased accessories for other radio series. They knew that the new radios would need to remain backward compatible with these accessories while channeling cutting-edge advancements in size, durability, and quality.

The radio would have to offer the best in communications technology, including extended battery life, superior audio quality, plus GPS, Bluetooth®, Wi-Fi, and LTE capability.

Most important, they would need to be built tough: sealed against water, protected against drops, and ready to work in fast-paced, sometimes dangerous environments. Furthermore the radios needed to be easily upgradeable to allow the customer to take advantage of LTE technology or upgrade from single-band to full-spectrum at their convenience.

Balancing the need for durability and portability is a challenge that Porticos has met before. Porticos team members focused on each aspect of the design to ensure that the modular construction wouldn’t impact the durability. For example, in order to meet this project’s goals for extended and upgradeable battery life, Porticos developed an external, replaceable battery with an innovative latch system that is both easy to remove in the field and durable enough to stay in place during harsh use. This allows for easy battery replacement in the field or upgrades to higher capacity batteries for customers who need it.

Product Design for Durability“We tested the product in some incredibly harsh environments to ensure that these radios will be reliable in the field,” said Porticos engineer Mike Kiplinger.

With the end customers in mind, the Porticos team also spent a lot of time considering ergonomics. As a result the radios’ side buttons and top switches were designed to be easy to operate and replace, but also reliable enough to stay in place during use.

Porticos is proud to have been chosen by Harris as a development partner and of our ability to achieve world class results by developing the smallest full-spectrum LTE-capable portable radio on the planet; the Harris XL-200P.

Innovation and Experience: Porticos Sponsors Internet of Things Meetup

The popularity of IoT—or, the Internet of Things—isn’t difficult to understand; after all, IoT is the field of smart watches, phone-controlled homes, and t-shirts that can measure your heart rate. It’s a field brimming with innovative startups, investments from tech heavyweights, and research in medical, military, industry, and consumer applications.

As an engineering firm helping companies meet product-design goals in those same fields, Porticos proudly sponsors NC RIoT, our state’s IoT think tank.

NC RIoTThe NC Regional Internet of Things, or as it’s better known, NC RIoT, is one of NC’s largest meetup groups. Hundreds attended last month’s RIoT IX event, which asked asked RIoTers, “If you had $10M to invest in IoT, where would you invest?” Keynote speaker Daniel Chu of Verizon Ventures was on hand with his answer, describing his organization’s investment approach when funding IoT companies.


Porticos at NC RIoT
As a Title Sponsor for RIoT, Porticos appreciated RIoT IX’s focus on funding for IoT. Our product design and development firm has experience bringing product ideas to life and could help bring the next great IoT product to market.

“The power of Porticos’ sponsorship goes beyond their investment,” said Larry Steffann, General Manager of the Wireless Research Center and co-founder of NC RIoT. “It’s true that we couldn’t do what we do without our sponsors’ monetary support, but we also need expertise. RIoTers can look to the team at Porticos for examples of successful product design, for case studies about testing and verification, and for guidance on how to grow ideas into manufactured products.”

NC RIoT found a home in our area for the same reason that Porticos decided to open in the RTP: local talent. Porticos’ team of engineers have undergraduate and advanced degrees in mechanical, aerospace, and quality engineering, plus experience across industries—making our team uniquely qualified for any product development challenge. The Raleigh area is similarly unique; with major names in higher education, medical research, and tech, our area is poised to foster the research need and opportunity of IoT.

“Porticos is excited to be a new partner and sponsor of the RIoT phenomenon,” said Porticos CTO Kevin Carpenter. “RIoT isn’t just about building our local skills and connections. It’s about encouraging other companies to relocate to this area, because Raleigh is where real IoT gets done. This is where you go to find the expertise. This is where you go to take that next step and actually develop a product.”

Both Porticos and NC RIoT benefit from the talent and opportunity in our unique area, and NC RIoT is helping more and more companies learn that Raleigh is where IoT is happening.

We also have a similar focus on innovation. NC RIoT’s mission is to harness the power of IoT and turn that energy into opportunity for our region. Similarly, Porticos works to harness the power of good ideas and to develop innovative solutions that bring products to market effectively. Whether we are working with a customer on research and ideation, concept development, prototyping, testing and verification, or manufacturing support, we innovate at every stage of the product development process.

Like NC RIoT, openness to new ideas is at our core. We hope to see you at a future RIoT event. Check out their schedule at www.ncriot.org, and make sure to stop by our booth to learn why Porticos is product design for the way we’re designed.

GPS for the rest of us: Porticos contributes product design to new, affordable asset-tracking device

When your inventory and your company assets are expensive, it’s good to know where they are and how they’re doing. But tracking devices can be bulky and cost prohibitive, meaning only the biggest of budgets can afford the luxury of resource tracking.

ViaTRAX QuickCheck Asset Management (VQAM) is the new solution: it’s a uniquely durable and cost-efficient GPS-based asset tracker, about the size of a deck of cards. Its affordability could bring the security and logistics of asset tracking to more industries than ever before. Built by the ViaTRAX Automation Corporation, VQAM is one of the smallest, longest lasting and simplest GPS asset trackers in the world, at a price in reach of small- to mid-size companies and individuals.

But because the device needed to be both small and capable, ViaTRAX Automation partnered with Porticos to develop the product’s plastic enclosure. ViaTRAX realized that to achieve the form factor and durability required, they needed to partner with companies experienced in developing rugged wireless devices.  Porticos and Device Solutions were the obvious choice to meet ViaTRAX’s development needs.

The ViaTRAX QuickCheck Asset Management (VQAM) is a uniquely durable and cost-efficient GPS-based asset tracker
Porticos delivered a robust weatherproof enclosure in an inconspicuous package.

The Porticos team had to meet very demanding product requirements for this design. The team had to ensure the plastic enclosure would keep the device small while also providing room for a battery, circuit board, sensors, and mounting flanges while maintaining a small footprint. Furthermore the device needed to meet ingress protection standard IP67 (waterproof to 1 meter and dust tight) while maintaining a discreet look.

“After decades in the tech industry, our core team has a lot of experience in software and business in general however we are relative newcomers to hardware design and manufacturing,” said Sean Webster, VP of Business Development. “Porticos has been so helpful in the design process. They were friendly, attentive to detail and helped us learn along the way. We are very pleased with the final design and are impressed with the final product.  We would not be where we are today without the help and expertise of Porticos.”

What makes the VQAM even more capable is that it can provide location information even when a GPS signal is unavailable,” explains Porticos Lead Project Manager Ludmila West. “In those situations, for example if the asset is inside a metal building, the VQAM switches from GPS location to using the cellular towers for location.”

The VQAM is a small, durable, battery powered GPS asset tracker which can be easily mounted to the asset.  It is built to operate for up to three years with periodic location and health reporting. Overall, this dynamic unit is ideal for inexpensive asset tracking across industries and consumer types.  The ViaTRAX VQAM is another example of how Porticos Designs Products for the way We’re Designed.

The ViaTRAX QuickCheck Asset Management (VQAM) is a uniquely durable and cost-efficient GPS-based asset tracker

Digital Medication Dispensing—An Easy Pill to Swallow

Deadly medication mixups threaten patients and those involved in their care. Drug interactions, lawsuits, and even death can result from human error or lack of communication. Suppose a prescription is hard to read, or a patient forgets to take a pill?

PharmMate™, Porticos’s latest engineering challenge, takes the uncertainty out of prescription management by dispensing medicines as scheduled—no need to rely on a patient’s failing memory or coordination between family members. The brainchild of the medication-focused PharmRight Corporation, PharmMate™ sorts, counts, and dispenses dosages according to the doctor’s orders.

Need a reminder? The device syncs with cloud-based applications and reports, records, and reminds patients and health care teams about medication schedules. At the office or on the go, caregivers can ensure patients get the right meds at the right time, simplifying medication delivery and tracking in-home patient compliance.

Streamlined Design Means Streamlined Function

A refined, efficient design makes the appliance user-friendly and reduces cost. Medical Team Leader Ken Hogue explains how the team brainstormed many solutions then prototyped the highest ranked idea. “After several incremental improvements we arrived at the final design. As often happens in innovation, the final design is a hybrid taking the best elements of several ideas.”

Complex Problems, Simplified

Pharmaceuticals come in dozens of shapes and sizes, a significant challenge for Porticos engineers. Designing a delivery system to accommodate all pill configurations demanded creative collaboration, and engineers had to anticipate the needs of patients, pharmacists, medical professionals, and family members. The design team considered multiple contingencies, ensuring that the end product offers reliable dispensing of the whole range of pill sizes and shapes.

Bill Park, President and CEO of PharmRight Corporation, is confident that “Our new home medication dispenser design will greatly simplify setup for caregivers, enable direct loading by pharmacy service providers using RFID technology, and make it easy for patients to take their medications as prescribed.”

Working Prototype Undergoes Testing

Porticos demonstrated a working prototype of the PharmMate™ and PharmRight will conduct internal testing on the complete system in August 2014. A 50-unit usability test is scheduled for the fourth quarter 2014.


About Porticos— Porticos, Inc. is a mechanical engineering and product development company located in Research Triangle Park, NC. Established in 2003, Porticos continues to produce innovative and effective solutions for its clients and the markets they serve. Porticos, Inc. provides mechanical design, analysis, research and development services to clients including Dell, Motorola, Raytheon, and many others. For more information on how Porticos does “product design for the way we’re designed,” please visit www.porticos.net.

Porticos’s Latest Development Project Implements Kid-Friendly Design in a Revolutionary Communication Device

Is there any fear stronger than fear for a missing child? According to the US Department of Justice, nearly 800,000 American children are reported missing every year. Together with Filip Technology™, Porticos has developed a groundbreaking tool that will help parents keep in touch with their children: The FiLIP™. This revolutionary communication device is designed for parents who want to keep in touch with their children but aren’t ready to give kids access to a full-featured phone.

The Porticos team aims for innovation, and that’s exactly what this project required. The idea was to develop an easy-to-use device that could make phone calls, send emergency alerts or short messages, and share and save location-based data. All of the electronic hardware required for those services also needed to be small, portable, and—most important—child proof. According to Porticos’s Medical Team Leader Ken Hogue, size and durability were two main design goals.

“The real challenge of the project was to achieve an item that is the world’s smallest in its category,” said Hogue. “The FiLIP™ has a simple, clean appearance and sophisticated electronics, packed into the smallest package possible.  Every component had to be justified, or it was eliminated.”

The device was recently named “the world’s smallest commercially available communications and location device.” Hogue attributes this award to the “novel proprietary design,” which resulted in two patent applications with Porticos engineers listed as inventors. However, the small, wristwatch-like* FiLIP™ is also durable. It weighs less than two ounces, but its rugged, water resistant design easily fits with a kid’s lifestyle.

A new survey by Parenting.com lists the average age of a child receiving their first cell phone as 11.6 years old. According to the study, over 95% of parents surveyed listed “emergencies” or “peace of mind,” as reasons for purchasing a mobile device for kids. However, giving young children cell phones does more than keep them in touch with parents; it opens them to the world of mobile texts, picture and video sharing, Internet browsing, and more—some of which they may not be ready for.  Additionally, the devices are expensive and fragile, often not built with children in mind. The small-but-durable FiLIP™ is a better solution, because it only includes features that parents would want for their child, and its durability is better suited for kids. It’s a specific product that strives to perfectly match the needs of a specific audience.

Of course, this difficult design work is what Porticos does best: turns good ideas into great products. The challenge took innovation, but the result is a fantastic device that meets a real need. “It’s all worth it to create a unique product that can bring parents peace of mind,” said Hogue.

*Additional accessories provide for alternate wearing and carrying possibilities.

About Porticos — Porticos, Inc. is a mechanical engineering and product development company located in Research Triangle Park, NC. Established in 2003, Porticos continues to produce innovative and effective solutions for its clients and the markets they serve. Porticos, Inc. provides mechanical design, analysis, research and development services to clients including Dell, Motorola, Raytheon, and many others. For more information on how Porticos “turns good ideas into great products,” please visit www.porticos.net.

About Filip Technology™ —Filip Technology™ is focused on providing solutions designed to keep us in touch with those who matter most. Its products combine the two most important elements in family mobile offerings – communications and safety. Founded in 2010, Filip Technology is privately held with headquarters in London and U.S. offices in New York and Raleigh, North Carolina. The FiLIP™ was developed by a global team of engineers and is manufactured in the U.S. in partnership with AMTI.