Tech startup changes direction |

Tech startup changes direction

Anne Knowles
The Reno start-up Pinoccio is expanding into industrial markets with the Filament Network product line and continuing to sell its Scout microcontrollers.
Courtesy photo |

One of Reno’s most visible tech start-ups is changing course.

Pinoccio, the two-year old maker of wireless microcontrollers for do-it-yourself applications, is expanding into the market for industrial applications.

The company is adding Filament Network, a new product line of industrial-strength microcontrollers for commercial customers, and also changing its name to SWFL Inc.

Its original Scout product for so-called makers or hobbyists will continue to be sold under the Pinoccio brand.

“We were getting a lot of interest from industrial customers, but the problem was we didn’t meet the needs of the industrial client,” said Nate Ashley, director of business development at the company.

“So we needed to create separate brands.”

Pinoccio’s microcontrollers can be used for mesh networking, which enables equipped devices to communicate with one another via low-power radio, with one device Wi-Fi outfitted to send data to the Internet and cloud. The microcontrollers are powered by rechargeable lithium polymer batteries.

Applications abound, such as triggering a text message when a doorbell is rung, watching out for chipmunks near a house, and measuring home water use — all projects featured at the Pinoccio web site,

For industrial users, the company needed to put the product on steroids.

“Scout performs well with a dozen or so devices within a 100-meter range,” said Ashley. “Filament can have up to 5,000 devices in a 9-mile range.”

The company is already working with some new users, including a project in Jerusalem to monitor the city’s street lights; a construction company equipping vehicles at a remote site in order to avoid collisions; a bike share program tracking the location of its bikes; and weather stations located on large farms to more efficiently apply water and fertilizer.

Ashley said Filament is geared to end users as well as manufacturers, which can embed Filament Networks in products, and is also working with systems integrators that provide such services as data analysis for all the information that gets collected by the network.

Pinoccio was launched in 2012 by Eric Jennings, CEO and Sally Carson, and raised funds via Indiegogo, the crowdsource web site.

In October 2014, the company took part in the Techstars accelerator program in New York City, where, according to Ashley, it determined it needed to expand into the new product line.

Right now, the company manufactures its Scout microcontroller in Oregon and does some assembly in Reno, but is looking to expand beyond that for the Filament Network product line.

It also plans to expand in other ways.

“We have eight employees now but the goal by year end is 20,” said Ashley.