The WaveLink Story: How An Engineer's Mindset Is Making The Lake Safe
WaveLink co-founders Matt Fitzgerald and Arnar Thors have experienced the joy of life on the lake. But like too many people who've spent time on the lake, they know families that have experienced the devastation that follows an electric shock drowning (ESD).
But Matt and Arnar are engineers, and instead of thinking, "how do I prevent my dock from causing this problem," they think, "how do we solve this problem for everyone?"
Today, we'd like to introduce Matt and Arnar and share how they partnered with Roger Miller to create WaveLink.
Growing Up on the Lake
Arnar's parents built a place at Smith Lake in 1986.
"My dad was an engineer. He was a DIY kind of guy who liked to figure things out, so we did everything ourselves. I didn't like going to the lake at first because we always had so much work to do. Now that I’m older, I appreciate the place a lot more and enjoy working on it just like my parents did. There were a bunch of groups that would get together to ski barefoot and eat. We were always going to somebody's house to grill out. After, parents would hang out and talk for hours while the kids went to ride four-wheelers and that kind of thing. We developed really close friendships. In fact, I’m in the process of restoring a boat that belonged to one of my neighbors, who was like a second parent to me. We lost him to cancer, but I look forward to taking his wife out for a ride when she is back at the lake."
Arnar has continued the family tradition of keeping busy at the lake.
"Times have changed and most people go to the lake to relax, but I always have some project going. I'm not content sitting around all the time; it's a relaxing thing for me to have something to work on. I bought my family's original cabin from mom, and now my kids get to work at the lake just like I did back in the 80s. But they also get to bring friends to the lake to do the same stuff we did as teenagers. I just want to make sure they're safe."
Matt grew up in South Alabama, and he didn't spend as much time at the lake growing up, but his wife's family has a house on Lake Tuscaloosa and he's been visiting Arnar's place since they were in college.
"We love getting our family together on the dock," said Matt. "For a long time, there wasn't even a boat there. We would all just hang out with kids and dogs everywhere. It's always such a great time for our family."
"We were always careful to wear life jackets and that kind of thing because we didn't want anything to disrupt the fun we have at the lake, our lives, or our family. When we started hearing about ESD and what it did to families that were every bit as cautious as us, I thought, 'we've got to do something.’"
The Problem to Solve
"Matt and I were talking about this problem and had begun concept development on a possible engineering solution when Roger Miller brought the topic up one morning following a Bible study at our office," said Arnar. "Roger is an electrical contractor, and he'd already tested all of the electricity detectors on the market. He told us that every detector he had tested either sounded false alarms or failed to detect dangerous electricity."
"Arnar already knew a lot of people on the lake who’d thrown away their electricity detectors because of their false positives and unreliability," said Matt. "That's when we were like, 'Yeah, we've got an idea for how to do this better, let's join up and solve this problem.'"
Matt says the collaboration has been crucial to solving a complex technical problem.
"Our experience is mostly in production and automation, and we work alongside a staff of electrical engineers. We are experts at developing a process and then optimizing and revising it over time. We also have experience developing products that depend on hardware and software working together. We enjoy the opportunity to explore a question with a blank slate and wanted to find out what is putting electricity in the water and what happens in real-world scenarios before we locked in on any particular solution. We could tell that the current products on the market hadn't approached the problem with an engineer's mindset. We kept working on this until we developed an innovation that will enable WaveLink to accurately provide the information people need to be safe at the lake."
"Yeah, we didn't get in a hurry," said Arnar. "We spent years developing the approach, testing, and adapting. There was no way we were going to launch some product until we were sure it could perform its most important task. We knew we had to get this right before we took it to market.’"