It Started with a College Project for this 2019 ICUEE-The Demo Expo Exhibitor -
For Tim Ledford, Brandon Bledsoe and John Thompson, what started as a passion project tailored toward making the jobs of their loved ones safer is now re-shaping safety for anyone working near energized power systems.
The trio are founders of Safeguard Equipment. While students in the entrepreneurial and electrical engineering program at the University of Idaho a few years back, Ledford, Bledsoe and Thompson were tasked with essentially inventing a product related to safety and bringing it to life.
What came about as a result is now the personal voltage and current detector known as Compass, a product that’s well-suited for power utility applications and capable of being used in a variety of other markets.
“Compass is a groundbreaking piece of technology that can be placed on a person’s hard hat, and it provides a 360-degree detection capability,” said Safeguard Equipment Director of Sales Bob Behrens.
“We’ve worked very hard as a company to motivate workers to be safe through the form factor. The form factor is placed on the hard hat, providing the ability for men and women on the job to be able to actually see voltage and current for the first time. Wherever they go, while wearing Compass, they’ll be able to see both an electric field and a current field.”
Product Garners Praise and Business Honors
According to Behrens, when the Compass was first developed by the founders of Safeguard Equipment, it was as large as a laptop computer. Now it’s the size of a stick of gum. The product drew so much praise and attention that, during their senior year, Ledford, Bledsoe and Thompson secured several honors and $32,000 in prize money by participating in a number of business entrepreneur competitions.
One sponsor of a large competition they won was Avista Utility out of Spokane Washington. After seeing Ledford, Bledsoe and Thompson’s passion and revolutionary technology, Avista Development decided to partner and invest in this trio. The three men used the money to launch their startup venture, Safeguard Equipment.
While Compass is currently most often used in power utility applications, other potential markets for the product include first response, fire, police and industrial manufacturing.
Compass is not only able to detect voltage and current, it is engineered to be attached easily to the underside of a person’s hard hat – essentially allowing it to become personal protective equipment (PPE). Compass then provides proximity alerts for voltage and current long before its user comes in contact with a threat. In addition, it also shows the approximate direction of the energized conductor.
A Unique Opportunity for Industry Networking
Safeguard Equipment will have its flagship product, Compass, on display at The Utility Expo, slated for Oct. 1-3, in Louisville Ky.
According to Behrens, this year’s ICUEE is not to be missed. “ICUEE is the premier opportunity to network with professionals across our entire industry,” he said. “Meeting with the thought leaders and influencers at the show allows us at Safeguard Equipment a unique opportunity to help fulfill our mission of saving lives and revolutionizing safety.”
“Applications where Compass is most useful include dealing with downed powerlines after storms,” according to a safety expert for a power utility company located on the West Coast. “The wires can be buried in trees and under snow, or, in some cases, you are in situations where you need to assess an outage. Having Compass at your disposal in these scenarios is critically helpful.”
Voltage and current cannot be detected by normal human sensing capability. While, according to Behrens, Compass should not be used as the primary means to assess whether voltage or current is present in a particular environment, it leverages technology and form factor to help augment human sensory capabilities, which can ultimately help save lives.
Save the date for The Utility Expo, The Demo Expo for the Construction and Utility Industries, Oct. 1-3, 2019, Louisville, Ky, owned and produced by Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). To get the latest information about the show, sign up for show alerts.