Fully funded in minutes, this impressive measurement device takes compact to a whole new level.
This handy little device caught our eye on Kickstarter. Designed and developed right here in Australia, the Pokit wireless multimeter was funded in minutes, and smashed through their goals. We wanted to catch up with Paul Moutzouris, CEO of the company behind Pokit.
Pokit looks like an awesome device, most notably it’s tiny size! How did the idea for Pokit come about?
To be honest, we initially developed a basic version of Pokit just for fun. We thought it would be a cool little device to have around and we planned to use it as a giveaway to promote our product design consultancy. However, as we showed people what we were working on, we were surprised by their reaction. Most people thought the product was amazing and immediately wanted one. Over time, we realised that there was a large group of people who wanted a measurement device that was extremely portable, versatile and affordable. These people are predominately working with low voltage platforms, such as Arduino or Raspberry Pi, and include the community of makers, electronic hobbyists and students who either live without the necessary test gear (due to the prohibitive size and cost), or those who value the ability to measure anywhere inspiration grabs them. This community has guided Pokit to become what it is today, and will continue to shape Pokit in the future.
It’s true that many makers will only use a fraction of the settings on their multimeter. We’ve reviewed some other products in the past, which are also leveraging wireless communication and an app for display. How does Pokit differ from some of the other players in the market?
Pokit has many unique and innovative qualities, which differentiate it from other products and make it ideal for makers and electronic enthusiasts. For example, Pokit is so compact that you can attach it to your keychain and keep it with you all the time. It also has leads that retract at a press of a button, making it very convenient. You barely notice it’s with you, then when you need it it’s right there by your side. This appeals those who work on projects spontaneously or away from the bench.
Secondly, Pokit is not just a multimeter. It is also a digital oscilloscope and logger - providing users with versatility. Users can not only measure signals as they might with a conventional multimeter, they can also view their waveforms. Pokit also takes measurements over extended periods without a connection to a phone. This, in combination with its size and battery powered operation, makes it ideal for logging in tight or remote locations.
Thirdly, the maker community is built on affordable, customisable development platforms that facilitate sharing. Why should your test and measurement tools be any different? For this reason we decided to publish Pokit’s APIs, allowing users to create their own measurement applications and share them with others. Pokit’s applications are now as unbounded as the imagination and creativity of community who use it!
Creating your own customised app for your multimeter sounds pretty cool. It’s important to note the comprehensive DSO functionality, not just multimeter/data logger functionality. Inspecting waveforms is a common requirement. How does the DSO functionality compare to a desktop unit?
Pokit is not intended to replace your professional desktop oscilloscope, assuming you’re fortunate enough to own one. Your DSO will have a much higher specification. Of course, it is also likely to be 100 times bigger and cost 20 times more! For this reason, we feel that comparing Pokit to your DSO is a little out of place. Pokit is also more than just a scope - it integrates a multimeter, logger and will eventually have numerous other applications. We see it as a new class of tool with some constraints, yet broader capabilities. That said, Pokit does capture and display waveforms up to audio frequencies. It supports forced and one-time triggers with an adjustable level, and has differential measurement cursors. Currently, Pokit does not support continuous triggering in order to conserve power.
The Pokit interface is quite different from your conventional DSO. Instead of lots of buttons and dials, it uses pinch and drag to zoom and pan waveforms, and to set time bases/scales. It is intuitive, easy to use and less restrictive. After using Pokit you will be left wondering why you ever needed all those buttons to begin with, and why all measurement tools aren’t designed this way.
Saving and sharing waveforms and logs is also easy with Pokit. You simply use the Pokit phone app to share your data to the web in the same way you are accustomed to sharing photos and text.
That sounds amazing. What are some things we should know about Pokit that may not be apparent?
What you may not know is that Pokit can acquire and display current waveforms just as easily as it can voltage, but without the need to use external sense resistors. Pokit is also able to log ambient temperature.
Pokit is also a truly floating device, meaning that you don’t need expensive and bulky differential probes to take measurements across circuit elements or devices. It can be placed anywhere in a circuit and it will measure without the need for a ground reference.
Since commencing our campaign, Pokit has achieved a number of stretch goals. Pokit will now be supplied with a Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) mode, displaying the frequency content of captured signals at no extra cost for Kickstarter backers. We are also including a simple battery analyser application.
Sounds like some great bonuses to reward those backers. You were funded in just 20 minutes but have raised over $100,000, that’s amazing! You only set a $20,000 goal. Did you expect it to take off the way it has, or was that something of a surprise?
We are very thankful for the community’s support of Pokit. We actually reached our funding target of AUD $20,000 in the first 20 minutes of the campaign and hit our first two stretch goals in the first two days. We also raised ~$100,000 in the first 5 days of our 30-day campaign. We are looking forward to seeing the final result.
We have known for some time that people wanted and valued Pokit from their positive comments. This was further confirmed in a pre-sale test conducted via our website earlier in the year (www.Pokitmeter.com), through which we acquired over 1400 subscribers in 8 weeks. This was a great validation of the product, yet we were unsure if this would translate to purchases, particularly because many subscribers were from countries which are less familiar with Kickstarter. Another concern was that we would have liked to have spent more time developing our social media following and getting published prior to launch. With these things in mind, it is sufficient to say we were a little nervous at the launch. However, this feeling was ultimately displaced by a sincere appreciation for the many people who backed Pokit.
One thing we noticed on your kickstarter campaign was many comments calling for mains-power (i.e., 240V) capability. Do you feel this is a “standard request” that people make, even though many never measure mains power anyway?
The primary challenge in measuring high voltages is that you need space to meet the isolation and clearances required for electrical safety. This is one reason why conventional multimeters and oscilloscopes are usually quite large. Extending Pokit to cater for the people who want HV may require the removal of features or an increase in size. This is something we believe undermines Pokit’s uniqueness, and we have received comments from our backers asking us not to venture down this path. That said, we listen to everyone and understand that Pokit would be even more useful if it could measure 240VAC. For this reason, we are working on an innovative solution that we believe alleviates compromises. We will unveil this development at the end of the campaign, or when we meet our final stretch goal.
What R&D did you undertake for Pokit, prior to launching your Kickstarter campaign?
We have been working on Pokit with some consistency for the past 18 months. So far, we have developed fully functional prototypes and verified electronics, embedded code, enclosures and the IOS app. We have also received parts for 20 Beta-test units, which we will send out to our selected Beta-testers when the campaign ends. We have developed fully automated calibration and test jigs that are significant projects in their own right. At the moment we are focusing on refining Pokit’s speed and accuracy, and we have already attained specification which exceeds those that have been published.
Awesome - we all know that delivery is a too-often forgotten aspect of a crowdfunding campaign. What was the biggest challenge with development?
I have worked on over 100 electronics design projects in my career, ranging from biomed through to consumer products. From an analogue circuit design perspective, Pokit has been one of the most challenging. This is because Pokit is very constrained with respect to size, cost and power. If it was bigger, more expensive or plugged in, it would have been much easier to develop.
I will be slightly technical here and explain a few of the challenges:
- A multimeter will generally have different plugs for voltage and current measurements. Its designers don’t have to worry about measurement bandwidth as it is not a scope. However, Pokit has one set of integrated leads that are used to measure everything, resulting in a need to incorporate switches to disconnect circuits. The challenge is that each switch introduces capacitance, which impacts measurement bandwidth.
- Further, your oscilloscope has higher power and voltages to drive its pre-amps. Its designers don’t have to worry about multimeter circuits hanging on the scope front end. However, Pokit is powered from a tiny button cell with only a few milliwatts of power available. As a result, Pokit requires switchable resistive dividers to bring sensed voltage into the correct measurement range. Each switch and resistor impacts frequency performance and this is made more challenging by the presence of multimeter circuits. Even a few Pico Farads of a device pin or surface mount pad makes a significant difference.
This situation is made more difficult when combined with space and cost constraints. Small and low cost electronic components tend to have lower specs, requiring clever circuit design in order to not diminish the final device specification. Some of the recent attained stretch goals (e.g., 1M samples, sec sampling, etc.) will reopen some of these challenges.
Despite the great result on Kickstarter, is there anything you would change in relation to your campaign?
It is always possible to do things in a better way. We would have liked to have launched earlier in the year, increased our social media exposure, and engaged with publishers earlier. Don’t get me wrong, we are very happy with our campaign, but with Kickstarter, anything you can do to inform people about your product early, goes a long way to improving your campaign result.
When will Pokit be available commercially?
Currently, Pokit is only available for pre-purchase through Kickstarter; however, it will be offered for general sale through our website at the conclusion of the campaign. Longer term we will also sell Pokit through various distributors and we have already established relationships on several continents. For the time being however, our focus is on meeting our Kickstarter commitments. Our backers will get units first and will have the opportunity to join us on the journey and help shape Pokit.
We’re glad to hear your focus is on those backers, they’re responsible for helping get it launched, after all! Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding the product, launch, or things coming in the future?
We are just getting started with Pokit. Aside from continuously improving Pokit specifications, we have several new innovative ideas we believe our community will love. I would like to tell you more, but these are currently under wraps. What I can say is that in the future, Pokit will be extending its capabilities and offering new accessories that will increase its utility and value considerably.
Fair enough. Well we’ve loved hearing all about Pokit and the road travelled thus far, and wish you success in the future!
The Kickstarter Campaign:
While the Kickstarter will be wrapped up at the time of printing, you'll still be able to check it out at:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pokitmeter/a-multimeter-oscilloscope-and-logger-that-fits-in
Buy The Pokit Meter:
For those who missed the Kickstarter campaign but would still like to purchase their own meter will be able to do via the official website: www.pokitmeter.com
Chief Executive Officer:Paul Moutzouris, Project Management, Design Review, KS Campaign Management
Senior Software Engineer: Ran Peleg, Embedded Software Development
Senior Software Engineer: Phil Symonds, IOS App Development
Software Engineer: Alex Mantaut, IOS App Development
Design Engineer: Matias Fineschi, Electronics Design, KS Campaign Support
Design Engineer: Leandro Arcusin, Electronics Design
Design Engineer: Alexander Alfonso, Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development
Senior Industrial Designer: Shimi Barr, Initial Industrial Design
Senior Industrial Designer: Rowan Bell, Industrial Design, KS Campaign Support