Ino Technologies founder Mike Lands displays his handheld weather alert system, which combines real-time weather data and local lightning detection to aid avid outdoorsmen and others of changing weather and dangerous conditions. Courtesy Jonathan Castner

On the alert: Louisville startup forecasts saved lives with handheld lightning-detection device

LOUISVILLE — Michael Lands was fly-fishing on the Poudre River earlier this summer when Mother Nature provided him with some real-world validation of the lightning-detection and weather-data device he launched this month.

As he’d hoped, the device that measures various weather-related metrics such as temperature, barometric pressure and heat index, in addition to detecting nearby lighting strikes, alerted him that the skies were about to open up on him and a friend. They quickly got out of the river, scrambled up the side of the canyon to a ledge for cover, and waited out the storm.

“It was pretty serious, and it was pretty heavy for about 20 to 30 minutes,” Lands said in a recent interview. “For our use and that situation, it was pretty handy to have.”

Lands’ company, Ino Technologies, is ramping up manufacturing for the handheld Weather Pro device and will begin presales on its website in October, with the first units to be shipped in November. The Weather Pro will retail for $497. http://inotechnologies.com/

Lands said his hope is that the Weather Pro will not only increase people’s enjoyment of the outdoors but also help save lives along the Front Range and anywhere else severe weather can strike. In July, a recent University of Colorado graduate was killed by a lightning strike while he golfed at Indian Tree Golf Course in Arvada. In August, lightning killed an Arvada man near Red Feather Lakes in Larimer County.

Lands said that while television and online weather warnings do a good job of alerting people to major fronts moving through, there can often be small cells such as the one that hit Indian Tree that move through areas quickly and catch people off guard.

“That’s something a device like mine can help with,” Lands said.

Lands, of Louisville, and his father, John — both engineers with sales and marketing backgrounds — began developing the Weather Pro in late 2013 based on a new idea John had for detecting lighting.

While there are plenty of weather-data and lightning-detection devices on the market, few if any, Lands said, combine the two functions. Many of the lightning-detection devices also rely on national weather feeds and require an Internet or cellular connection. But Ino’s Weather Pro relies solely on its own sensors to provide real-time and hyper-local data so that it can be used even in the most remote locations.

The Weather Pro’s internal sensors measure temperature, humidity and barometric pressure, and also detect lightning. From those other readings, heat index, dew point and altitude can also be measured. The device also features a color touchscreen and uses a USB-charged lithium-ion battery with up to 17 hours of battery life.

The Weather Pro can detect the direction of lightning strikes, as well as distance in bands of zero to three miles, three to eight miles, eight to 20 miles and 20 to 40 miles. The device emits different sounds to indicate users of strikes within the different distance bands, alerting them to take cover as the strikes get close.

Lands said he’s hoping to reach a wide range of users. On the recreational side, that includes all types of outdoor enthusiasts and youth sports leagues. On the industrial side, he said construction and oil-production companies would not only find the Weather Pro useful in protecting their people but also the thousands of dollars of equipment they’ve often got at a job site.

From a recreational standpoint, Lands admits that the $497 price tag might make the Weather Pro a “prosumer” type of device for the more avid outdoors enthusiasts. But he likened it to GoPro cameras that initially took off with more extreme athletes in a similar price range but soon became common on people’s outdoor adventures. He said his plan is to do multiple products to meet different price points.

Lands said he’s also hoping to miniaturize the hardware enough that it could be incorporated into smartphones at some point.

Lands, Ino’s sole employee, has bootstrapped the business to this point, but declines to disclose how much he’s invested. He bases the company at his home and works with contractors in the Boulder and Broomfield areas, while manufacturing takes place in Aurora.

Ino is the second startup for the mechanical engineer, but he most recently served as vice president of sales and marketing for analytical instrument company ASD Inc., which was acquired in 2013. Lands said his own outdoor hobbies sparked his initial interest in developing the Weather Pro, but he quickly realized the broader appeal.

“I’m a golfer and fly-fisherman …  you’re always concerned about the weather,” Lands said. “Everybody’s concerned about lightning. When you’re out on the water or out on the golf course, it can be quite hazardous.

“When I thought about it, it affects everybody. People like to know what’s going on around them.”

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