Before they founded Lab651—named, locals will recognize, after St. Paul’s area code—Justin Grammens owned a software consulting organization, while Troy Pongratz separately owned a mechanical engineering firm, and they found themselves getting asked to create a lot of connected
“I ran a software company for many years,” says Grammens, “and I started to be asked could you make a physical thing, could you design the elec-tronics inside that thing.” Meanwhile, Pongratz, who has a mechanical background, was starting to work on a lot of projects that involved electrical work and was constantly seeking out subcontractors.
“These devices are so interdisciplinary,” says Grammens. “You need a physical device to generate the data, which means you need mechanical and electrical engineers to make the device. But you also need to process that data and present it in a way that people can interact with it, or have it automatically acted on, so you need a mobile app, and then you also need software developers.”
Grammens and Pongratz recognized that the diverse needs of this space would reward a single company that could do all of this, and so Lab651, which combines all of these specialties, was born.
Lab651 provides engineering services to companies that range from start-ups to the Fortune 100. They provide both physical product development (mechanical and electrical engineering) and software engineering services.
This can involve everything from UX and user interface to mobile, cloud, and voice-controlled applications. “Because we have all these disciplines in-house,” says Pongratz, “we can be a one-stop-shop for this kind of product.”
They now develop software and firmware, and the physical devices themselves, for the consumer, industrial, and medical markets, and help companies get their products to production and help to support and main-tain them as well.
Abilitech Medical brings innovative solutions to the market that allow people living with upper-limb neuromuscular conditions to function independently. The compa-ny’s first product, the Abilitech™ Assist, will be a one-of-a-kind powered orthotic device providing functional assistance and support to both the elbow and the shoul-der, to improve the lives of people in the U.S. affected by neuromuscular weakness.
Vitals enables safer community interactions by allowing individuals with visible and invisible conditions and disabilities to create and share a personalized digital profile with authorized first responders via a secure, online portal and mobile app – improving real-time communication, reducing the risk of misunderstandings and promoting greater independence.
Kenmore® Smart connectivity transforms your relationship with your home. Link, control and monitor your Kenmore Smart products all from one app. The Kenmore Smart app allows you to personalize the way your Kenmore Smart appliances operate based on your schedule and daily routines, making life easier and providing greater peace of mind.
Lab651 has now worked with a multitude of major brands, including Craftsman, Anytime Fitness, Cirrus Aircraft FOB (EE, ME), 3M, and Kenmore. But some of the work they’re most proud of is the work that combines technological innovation with social good.
One of their earliest clients was Vitals Aware Services (TheVitalsApp.com) who wanted people with cognitive and emotional special needs like autism and PTSD to be able to have better interactions with law enforcement.
So Lab651 built them an app that police have on their phones, and a corre-sponding device for the individual to carry, which emits a signal to the app when a first responder comes within a hundred feet. The signal can convey any kind of information, typically instructions on how to interact with this special needs individual, and sometimes a video of their mother, or a Disney song to comfort them.
“This is now being used by one in four police departments in the state of Minnesota,” says Grammens, “and we’re running pilots in several other states.”There’s also an exoskeletal device that assists individuals to perform daily tasks who have suffered an injury or have an upper-limb neuromuscu-lar condition for Abilitech Medical. It’s still in product development, but
Craftsman Smart Lawn talks directly to your mower using Bluetooth technology. It provides up-to-date information about your mower’s battery, blades, air filter, and engine oil, then notifies you whenever something needs attention, making maintenance simple. There are many features to Craftsman Smart Lawn, all with protecting your investment in mind.
Lab651 did early- stage development with them, building up an application and working on controlling the motors. Lab651 specializes in being able to work within their clients’ culture while at the same time helping advise and steer.
The founders also note that Minnesota’s economy has many sectors—technology, agriculture, retail, medical and more—that need new and innovative products, and Lab651 provides the perfect combination of product development and software development services in one company.
“This is a powerful and rare combi-nation,” says Pongratz.The demand is only growing. As the world becomes more and more con-nected, say the founders, the products and devices in our lives are going to get more and more intelligent. “It’s no longer going to be just ‘nice to have’,” says Grammens. “Companies are going to need to make their products smarter to compete.”
Lab651 is perfectly positioned to support those companies. “The crossover between our UX/UI, software app and voice-controlled experiences group on the one hand,” says Pongratz, “and our Product Development group on the other, allows us to work on projects that most companies just don’t have the capabilities to do.”
Lab651 is at the forefront of this evolution in products, and, as Pongratz says, “We have the skills to help our clients dream big, and we’ll be there to help make it happen.”