Tag : design

What is getWaiter!

GW-iconexport@2xgetWaiter! is a project we have been working on for the last few months for a company called GeniusIn based in Olney, Buckinghamshire in the UK. The concept behind it is to use technology to improve your bar, restaurant or hotel experience, an idea conceived by pair of entrepreneurs around ten years ago that has been waiting for the right time.

Hasn’t this been done before?
Yes and no. There are a number of competing systems, each has their strengths and weaknesses. Many of the existing systems have used expensive hardware that the restaurant or bar needs to purchase or rent, for large establishments this can prove quite expensive, either that or they are very complex to setup and maintain. getWaiter has been designed to be completely set up by the individual bars and restaurants themselves with very little ongoing maintenance.

Why is this the right time?
Until recently the only way to implement getWaiter would have been to do what others have done and design and manufacture bespoke hardware that would need to be placed on every table, every pool side chair and every lounge sofa in every restaurant, bar and hotel you wanted to offer the service in, this would potentially cost many thousands both in design and in the implementation. getWaiter uses the technology that many people already carry around with them all the time – their smartphone. This coupled with the advancement in cloud computing means all the pieces of the jigsaw are complete and the dream could be realised.

How does it work?
GW!-Table-CardBy using an app on your smartphone or tablet (Android and iOS at the moment, more to follow soon) you scan the QR code located on your table. The phone then sends a message to the getWaiter servers these in turn send a message to the waiters terminal located in the restaurant, bar etc. At the end of the experience the customer can provide feedback, if they wish.

Sounds expensive?
No, not at all. getWaiter has been designed to be free at the point of delivery and requires very little investment as the customers bring their own hardware! Using the getWaiter website you can print out the codes for your tables on you own printer (professionally printed and mounted table codes are available from the getWaiter online store). For the waiters terminal all you need is a computer connected to the internet, this can be an existing computer although we recommend a tablet computer as getWaiter has been designed for ease of use on these, you don’t need and expensive one either, a £40 tablet from Amazon has been running for several months with no issues.

Why free, whats the catch?
There is no catch! The individual businesses and sites can use getWaiter for nothing for a long as they want.

If it’s free, how is all this funded?
In two ways.

  • Reports. A series reports that can be tailored to the individual businesses and sites to enable them to optimise many aspects of their businesses.
  • getWaiter merchandise. There is an online store that will professionally print your table codes for you and mount them in a number of ways to suite the environment then will be placed.


Where can I find out more information?
Go to www.getwaiter.com, have a look around the website, set up a site and have a play – no obligation, no cost!

What was RAKtronics part in this project?
We have been heavily involved with most aspects of the project specifically:

  • Designing and developing the apps.
  • Designing the interface between the app, the cloud service and the waiter stations.
  • Designing (but not developing) large sections on the website.
  • Coordinating between the getWaiter team and the developers.



Central heating timer inspection system

Central heating timer inspection

Notable features…

This is another system I was very pleased with. It ran fast very efficiently and fulfilled the customers requirements.

All of the software was written in visual ‘C’ and used multi-threading for various sub sections of the application notably the PLC, image processing and user interface.

The company was Invensys.

We had an enquiry from a company that makes central heating timers. These were tested by hand and was a laborious job that relied on the concentration of the individual. Also, some of the tests were subjective, one person may pass some cosmetic damage, another would not.

vcl-inv-timer The requirements:-

  • 100% Accurate, no false passes, very low false fails.
  • Fast, quicker than by hand.
  • Minimum change over between batches.
  • Rejects to be isolated and a fault report printed.
  • Minimum user input.
  • Test for cosmetic damage.
  • Fully test the display.
  • Full electrical test.

What we came up with:-

  • A very accurate system, can’t remember the exact results but we did exceed expectations.
  • Unsure of actual speed but was substantially faster than by hand.
  • The timers had to be loaded and unloaded by hand, but apart from that and selecting the timer under test it it all automatic.
  • All the reject timers are pushed down a locked and covered chute and a ticket printed.
  • Each timer was taught and a script written for the individual tests. The number of these was only limited by the hard disk capacity.

How the system works…

vcl-inv-inputThe timers are loaded on to the input conveyor, make sure they are the correct way around (they will automatically be rejected if they are).

vcl-inv-int-illThe timers are then automatically feed in to the systems and the two inspection areas.

vcl-inv-camcosThe first inspection area check makes sure the timer have been loaded correctly and then proceeds to perform a cosmetic check.The cosmetic check makes sure we have the correct model by looking at the part number and the providers logo. It then check all of the surfaces for print quality and any blemishes. If any of these fail the functional check is skipped and the timer is placed into the rejection chute.

vcl-inv-camfuncAssuming the timer passes the cosmetic check the timer then passes to the functional check area.The meter is first held in place from above by the plunger plate that is lowered using a pneumatic cylinder.Once this is in place a second pneumatic cylinder below the timer raises a contact block on to the electrical contacts on the rear of the timer. This provides power for the timer and monitors the outputs from the heating and water relay contacts.


vcl-inv-scriptA script is loaded from the hard disk. This script is unique to each style of meter and contains a list of instructions to test the individual timers.

vcl-inv-plusideA set of pneumatically controlled plungers press the buttons on the timer in accordance with the script.

vcl-inv-blobAt each stage the display is read and the voltages and the voltages on the contacts measured, all controlled by the script.

vcl-inv-outputIf the timer passes all the tests it is placed on to the output conveyor.

vcl-inv-rejectIf the timer fails any of the tests it is placed into the output chute and a fail ticket is printed by a small printer in the side of the machine.If either the output of reject chute gets full the system automatically stops and a warning traffic light on the top of the system flashes.

Construction details


vcl-inv-dwg-topThe top down drawing of the system.

Note the four conveyor sections in the detail below.

vcl-inv-dwg-sideThe drawing of the system from the side.


vcl-inv-conThe base frame and conveyor.

vcl-inv-int-pnuThe pneumatic valve block.

vcl-inv-int-rearThe open rear.

vcl-inv-plungeThe functional test area.


The input and output conveyors

The tests

Finished system

vcl-inv-sfrontFront of system.

vcl-inv-srearRear of system (panel removed).

vcl-inv-sleftLeft (output) of system.

vcl-inv-srightRight (input) of system.

My part in the projectvcl-inv-sfront

This was one of my projects so I…

  • Project managed.
  • Liaised with the client.
  • The mechanical design.
  • The electrical design.
  • The electronics design.
  • Pneumatic design.
  • Some of the build.
  • The software.
  • Testing.
  • On site installation.
  • On site commissioning.
  • On site training.


Fuse inspection system

Notable features…

This is another system I was very pleased with. It ran fast very efficiently (not without it’s teething problems!), the customer was so pleased with it he ordered several more. All of the software was written in visual ‘C’ and used multi-threading for various sub sections of the application notably the PLC, image processing and user interface.

The company was Pico electronics.


We had an enquiry from a company that added value by inspecting fuses. The fuses where brought in and needed to be tested for continuity and the identification marking.

The continuity check was already in hand, what the company needed was a way to read the ratings on one end of the fuse and the safety markings on the other.

The requirements:-

  • 100% Accurate, no false passes, very low false fails.
  • Fast, sub 1 second.
  • Minimum change over between batches.
  • All passed and failed fuses to be counted to verify.
  • Minimum user input.
  • Verify the voltage and current rating from one end cap.
  • Verify the safety makings on the other end cap.

What we came up with:-

  • A very accurate system, can’t remember the exact results but we did exceed expectations.
  • A 600ms test time per fuse, almost twice the required speed.
  • Apart from manually loading and unloading the fuses the only interaction was to select the correct test on the test software and press the go button.
  • All fuses going down the pass and fail chutes are counted.
  • After some fine tuning on the design very little user interaction was required. The system was self monitoring and a traffic light indicator warned the operator of any snags, this way a single operator could manages several machines.
  • The system was so successful that we ended up building several more for the company.

How the system works…

vcl-fuse-hopperA set of three vibratory feeders feed the fuses in to the system.

The fuses are first loaded in to a bulk hopper, these are then trickle fed into a rotary bowl feeder, this is controlled by the computer to maintain a constant level in the rotary bowl. The fuses pass from the rotary bowl into the linear section.
The final linear feeder creates a steady controllable feed of fuses in to the system.


vcl-fuse-feedLinear to feeder tube via pneumatic actuator.



vcl-fuse-inspDown through tube into inspection area.

vcl-fuse-spinThe fuse is clamped between two rotating shafts and rotated under a line scan camera, this has the effect of flattening the fuse.

vcl-fuse-fuseThe optical character recognition finds the relevant text and symbols on the ends of the fuse, it is then compared against the expected result and a pass fail decision is made.

vcl-fuse-dropvcl-fuse-pfThe fuse drops into a small holding area until the pass fail decision is made, one of a pair of sliders then opens to allow the fuse to fall into either the pass of fail bin below.

The yellow devices in the picture are the inductive counters that verify that the fuse has dropped down the correct chute.

vcl-fuse-binsThe pass and fail bin. Any attempt to remove these while the system is running halts the test and invalidates any results.


An overview of the complete testing mechanism part way through the build.

My part in the project

This was one of my projects so I…


  • Project managed.
  • Liaised with the client.
  • The mechanical design.
  • The electrical design.
  • The electronics design.
  • Pneumatics.
  • Prototype assembly.
  • PCB design and build.
  • The software.



We also sold the company one of our Checkfast systems to check the integrity of the wire inside the fuse (not the continuity).



The top image shows a good fuse, the lower fuse may fail due to the small wisp of wire on the lower left. Other fails would include no wire or a broken wire.