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Wayd McNally

Location: Charlottetown, PE

Award: Award of Distinction

Category: Industry

Year: 2005


Devised methods to effectively monitor the processing and packaging of consumer goods, through his patented wireless detecting products, such as the Crackless Egg and Smart Bottle. Problems in handling equipment may be quickly identified, reducing loss and maintaining product quality.

News Release

Wireless Technology Enhances Consumer Goods Safety, Production

Charlottetown entrepreneur's invention wins $25,000 Award of Distinction

Calgary, AB (September 15, 2005) — Entrepreneur Wayd McNally's encounter with a bruised potato inspired him to invent a wireless technology that detects and reports damage, waste, safety problems and other environmental conditions in the bulk processing, handling and transportation of foodstuffs and other consumer goods.

Charlottetown, PEI-based Sensor Wireless Inc.'s patented wireless diagnostic and risk-management tools, such as Smart Spud, CrackLess Egg, Produce Wizard, Smart Bottle and Agent QC, are improving the entire supply chain management of foodstuffs and other consumer goods.

McNally, President and CEO of Sensor Wireless, has won this year's Manning Innovation Awards prestigious $25,000 Award of Distinction, sponsored by CanWest Global Communications Corp., for his innovation now being used in more than 20 countries around the world.

McNally, raised on a farm, got his bright idea when he was just 21, lying on his back in a field, looking up at a potato-harvesting machine that was bruising too many potatoes, reducing their market value. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be simple just to take something and throw it in the harvester with the potatoes, watch it and know exactly where the problem is and what's causing it, so you can fix it?'"

After patenting a wireless-detection and -reporting "electronic potato" — dubbed the Smart Spud — McNally went on to develop industry-specific devices for eggs, produce and beverage containers.

Sensor Wireless customizes its solution to look like a particular shape or size 'vessel,' whether it's a potato, an egg, produce or a beverage container. "We have a real-time, wireless application, which enables us to transmit the data and translate it into some useful information that tells the customer the magnitude of the problem and where it's located, so the problem can be quickly fixed."

Sensor Wireless's devices enable up to 11 different parameters on the condition of the product being monitored — including mechanical forces acting on the object and temperature — to be recorded in real time and transmitted simultaneously back to users on a handheld Palm or desktop computer.

Sensor Wireless's technology "has provided food and beverage processors around the world with an important tool to increase food safety, reduce production losses, and verify the safe production operation of their product lines," says Frank Hennigar, President of the giant U.S.-based Food Systems Group of the Americas Inc.

McNally, named one of Atlantic Canada's Top 50 CEOs by Atlantic Business Magazine, formed his own consulting firm after graduating from agricultural college. He started Sensor Wireless in 2002 by cashing in his RRSPs, getting a loan from his mother, and refinancing his property.

Today, the company has 10 employees, over $1 million in annual revenue, and is an IBM Business Partner. Its products are being used by North American companies such as Campbell's Soup, McCain Foods Canada, Coors Breweries, Dole and Del Monte, Abbott Laboratories and Cal-Maine Foods, and abroad by such firms as Carlsberg and Tuborg Breweries of Denmark and Kirin Breweries of Japan.

Since 1982, the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation's annual program (www.manningawards.ca) has rewarded leading Canadian innovators with $3.5 million in prize money. This year's four major winners, being announced throughout September, will share a total of $145,000. All will be honoured at the annual gala awards dinner Sept. 30 in Winnipeg.

* For more information about the award-winning Sensor Wireless Diagnostic and Risk-Management System, visit www.sensorwireless.com or contact Wayd McNally at (902)-626-3952 or email wayd@sensorwireless.com

* For more information about the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation, contact Don Park, Executive Director, at (403)-645-8288 or e-mail Don.Park@encana.com

Media Backgrounder

$25,000 Award of Distinction, Sponsored by CanWest Global Communications Corp.

Wayd McNally, Sensor Wireless's Diagnostic and Risk-Management System

Wayd McNally's award-winning innovation all began with a bruised potato.

One day, McNally was lying on his back in a muddy field, looking up at a potato-harvesting machine that was bouncing around too many potatoes, reducing their market value. The agricultural college graduate, who at 21 was running his own consulting company, had become an expert in helping farmers identify why potatoes were bruising during harvest. But after spending hours trying to figure out why the harvester and the potatoes weren't seeing eye-to-eye, McNally was stumped.

"So I thought, 'Wouldn't it be simple just to take something and throw it in the harvester with the potatoes, watch it and know exactly where the problem is and what's causing it, so you can fix it?'" McNally's bright idea has led to two patents, and to Charlottetown, PEI-based Sensor Wireless Inc. products like the Smart Spud, CrackLess Egg, Produce Wizard, Smart Bottle and Agent QC — wireless diagnostic and risk-management tools that improve the supply chain management of goods.

At the time McNally was pondering potatoes, the only product available to help farmers was a round ball placed in the harvester with the spuds. The ball could sense the shock and record information. But then the device had to be retrieved, its information downloaded into a computer, and the data analyzed — all of which made the technology difficult and expensive.

McNally, who helped run the family farm when he was 6, after his father lost his left arm in an accident, wanted something better, simpler and less expensive. "I wanted a wireless device that could send me a signal I could collect and translate into useful information that would tell me what the magnitude of the problem was and where it was located."

He and a designer of custom-made machinery developed a real-time, mechanical impact-recording device for the potato industry. They came up with the Smart Spud and a co-patent. This "electronic potato," made with the then-latest radio or wireless technology, was designed to mimic the look and movement of a potato travelling with real potatoes through the harvesting equipment. The rubber-coated Smart Spud is still helping the potato industry improve quality and reduce waste.

Sensor Wireless's Smart Spud 4.2 "has improved the bruise-free ratio, increased efficiency and productivity and saves on labour costs," says Keith McGovern, Farm Division Manager for Fargo, N.D.-based R.D. Offutt, the largest independent potato producer in the world.

Static force and pressure exerted on mass-produced products like eggs or produce, or on fragile vessels such as glass, aluminum cans or recyclable plastic containers, can be caused by poor equipment set-up on assembly lines and other problems. This can crack eggs (even hairline cracks could cause salmonella contamination), bruise produce and, in beverage containers, cause breakage, scuffing, improper accumulation on the line and label wear and damage.

McNally had to significantly change the platform technology behind the Smart Spud for eggs, produce and beverage containers. He developed new, industry-specific, wireless diagnostic and risk-management tools, for which he obtained a sole patent. In 2002, he formed Sensor Wireless Inc., of which he is the President and CEO and sole shareholder.

Sensor Wireless's products enable up to five accelerometers — miniature sensors that measure force of impact — to be strategically placed on each microcircuit in the device. Each sensor reports "impact magnitude" (the mechanical force acting on the object) back to users on a handheld Palm or desktop computer. These force-impact sensors can be complemented with temperature-monitoring sensors and other kinds of sensors. Up to 11 different parameters can be transmitted at the same time.

While the devices use radio technology made by wireless manufacturers, they are unique in how Sensor Wireless puts the technology together. "We customize our solution to look like a particular shape or size 'vessel,'" McNally says. "We also have the real-time, wireless application, which enables us to transmit out the data and translate it into some useful information for the customer."

Like many innovators — indeed, like the potatoes that first inspired him — McNally has had his share of bumps and bruises on the way to market.

To start Sensor Wireless, he had to cash in his RRSPs, get a loan from his mother and refinance his property. A couple of grants from the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program helped keep him going. "You have to definitely believe in what you have and what you can do. If I didn't see the value that we provide to our customers, then I wouldn't be doing this."

Take the CrackLess Egg, a sensor inside an acrylic case that is the exact weight and size of a Grade A egg. A study done for the PEI Egg Commodity Marketing Board found that a producer generating 85,000 eggs each day would save about $37,000 annually using the sensor, simply by reducing the number of cracks by one per cent. Customers who've used the device say they typically increase production by between one and seven per cent — resulting in a quick return on their investment.

Sensor Wireless has numerous testimonials from customers of its other products like the Smart Bottle, which recently replaced a competitor's monitoring system at Coors Brewing Co. in Colorado.

Agent QC, launched last September, is the modular and less expensive version of Smart Bottle. Agency QC consists of three customized cylindrical vessels that have the same shoulder height and diameter of 50 per cent of the beverage containers made in North America. Companies signed to use the product include Coors Brewery, Nestle Purina, Campbell's Soup, Pernod Richard and Harness International, one of the top three plastic container handlers in the world.

Sensor Wireless, now in the third generation of its technology, is turning its focus to diagnostic and risk-management devices for household goods suppliers and manufacturers. The company's new wireless module, currently being tested, includes enhanced memory and battery power, can utilize other radio frequency protocols such as Bluetooth, and integrates with existing GPS (Global Positioning System) or GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) communications networks.

"This application gives us the ability to track and monitor quality of any product, not only in the processing or manufacturing plant but anywhere outside the plant," McNally says. With a Web-based server, Sensor Wireless's new tool can collect real-time data on goods as they're being transported and transmit this information once or twice daily. "The system can alert you to where problems occur, what the magnitude of that problem has been, and provide you with an audited record that you can show for liability purposes." Potential applications are as numerous as the goods that are inevitably damaged in transit: candles, glass vases, toasters, plasma televisions and furniture — even the health of live hogs being shipped by tractor-trailer in a system called "Track-Trace-Alert."

"We want to offer the manufacturer and the purchaser the ability to track how goods are being handled, and determine how they can control, order and plan inventory better that way," McNally says.

Winning the Award of Distinction from the Manning Innovation Awards "is extremely significant and will really open up some opportunities for us," he says. "The greatest satisfaction to me is knowing that I'm creating wealth in my community, knowing that I'm giving something back."

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

This year, Manning Innovation Awards presents $145,000 in prize money distributed among four leading Canadian innovators, as well as $20,000 among eight Canada-Wide Science Fair winners. Since 1982, the Foundation has awarded $3.5 million to recognize and reward Canadian innovators.