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Kasie Smith
Serendipity Media, LLC
"The difference is in the details, and the team at Engine sweats the details. From design concept until the last "i" is dotted and "t" is crossed, Engine is creative and efficient in getting the job done. After three major website updates and multiple small projects, I can say with conviction: Engine consistently brings creative ideas to life."
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Ajacs Die Sales Corporation
REVUE Magazine
REVUE Magazine
REVUE Magazine reinvents itself monthly as the premier guide for music, arts, food and drink in West Michigan, and its online presence mirrors that creative energy. Engine delivered a website design that takes into account the need for speed, flexibility and striking graphics that can be switched out in a snap.
Holland Board of Public Works
Holland Board of Public Works
The Holland Board of Public Works sought to improve its outreach to its some 75,000 customers who use electricity, water and wastewater treatment services. Engine responded with a customized website that allows BPW staff to update information quickly -- a critical feature in emergencies.
Ajacs Die Sales needed to cut the time it took to maintain online catalogs of parts from more than 50 leading suppliers of industrial goods, yet keep its website inviting to visitors. Engine developed front and back end systems that balanced both needs perfectly.
Grand Rapids Pizza & Delivery
Grand Rapids Pizza & Delivery
Grand Rapids Pizza & Delivery wanted to improve the time it took for customers to order menu items over the phone or online, so it turned to Engine to integrate three separate ordering methods into one seamless system.
Van's Sports
Van's Sports
As one of the largest marine OEMs in the Midwest,Van’s Sports Center sought to streamline access to several databases involving more than 15 million parts. Engine provided the knowhow to integrate all the information into one smooth system.
Toburen Law
Toburen Law
Attorney Mike Toburen needed to raise his online profile in a crowded West Michigan marketplace for legal services. He turned to Engine to create a website that conveys competence and confidence through clean design and great content.
Divani wanted a dynamic website that captured the bar/restaurant’s comfy, yet playful, personality. Engine responded to the challenge with a website design that acted as a perfect backdrop for strong or subtle images that could be swapped out easily to mark different promotions.

Vroom -- The Digital News Bureau of Engine

Our Approach

Austin Dean at Start Garden is working to introduce The Things Network to Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids is the first city in Michigan to harness a new technology though The Things Network that may someday reduce traffic congestion, fight crime, manage pollutants entering the Grand River and improve the efficiency of trash collection.

Next Friday, Austin Dean and his colleagues will flip the switch on a shoebox-sized device atop a four-story parking garage in downtown Grand Rapids that could guide the way for the city in the 21st century. The transceiver will allow any member of the public to send and receive encrypted data through the internet without wires, WiFi and cellular connections.

After that gateway is opened, anyone roughly within a ½ mile radius of the transceiver at 40 Pearl can send data via long-range, low-power radio waves from remote locations throughout the downtown area, said Dean, operations director at Start Garden, which is supporting the project along with Steelcase Inc. and the city of Grand Rapids.

Austin Dean Resized 3Austin Dean stands by the gateway at Start Garden“The applications are limited only by someone’s imagination,” he said. “For instance, you could install sensors in the city’s sewer system to remotely monitor stormwater runoff from particular branches or keep track of busses as they are running their routes.” The beauty of the system is its low cost in transmitting and receiving data, which allows devices to talk through the internet without Wifi codes, mobile subscriptions or setup costs.

As a way to foster creative thinking, Start Garden will be hosting practical demonstrations of how to use the remote sensor network during its Startup Weekend, running from Jan. 13-15 at its offices. Staff members will show any participants how to radio link with the gateway using a $20 microcontroller called an Arduino Uno and sensors to monitor the environment digitally, such as temperature, light, water flow, and movement.

“It’s relatively easy to create these sensor packages and connect through the gateway,” said Dean, who credits Darrin Sculley at Steelcase as the technical whiz who made the project possible. Steelcase paid for the components and designed the mounting brackets for the transceiver, and the city of Grand Rapids installed the device about two weeks ago.

Dean said similar networks are being tested in San Diego, Louisville, Ky. and Austin, Texas under the federal Smart City Initiative that was launched last year to see how cities can improve the lives of their citizens through wireless data collection and analysis. The Grand Rapids system will link with The Things Network, which uses a radio frequency protocol called Long Range Wide-area network (LoRaWAN) for its transmissions, sidestepping the need for 3G or WiFi.

Here’s how the Grand Rapids system works. A battery-powered sensor package in a remote location detects a change in its environment, encrypts the data and transmits it via radio waves to the Start Garden gateway. The gateway has a hardwired connection to the internet, and the data is sent to The Things Network, where is it stored on the organization’s server for retrieval and further action. 

The Things Network states on its website that can entire city can be connected through this type of network with a minimum of cost. For instance, the city of Amsterdam has been connected with only 10 gateways at the cost of $1,200 each, according to the organization. The website shows Grand Rapids as being the only location in Michigan with an operating site, although the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor may soon join that list.

Grand Rapids has a data network to support traffic controls and homeland security efforts, said Paul Klimas, director of information technology for the city of Grand Rapids. He said there have been discussions about the possibility of using street light posts for a network connecting neighborhoods, but there aren’t any plans to implement such a system.

“There’s a larger question here about these types of networks,” Dean said. “Would it make sense for the city to use public money to set up these networks -- is that a good use of public funds? I think maybe it can be. We’re certainly going to find out more with our own project.”

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