Snowmobile lock readied for market
January 1, 2003
Filed under Features
Several years of poor snow conditions would normally make someone interested in marketing a snowmobile-related item pause, and perhaps reconsider.
Not Jay Ripley and Carl Ellingsworth.
The men, who make up the company Dynamic Resolutions Inc., based in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, hope to introduce their first product into the snowmobile market this winter. It’s a theft-deterrent device which, when mounted into the engine, will prevent a snowmobile from starting.
They call it EngineLock.
The device works as a computer-controlled switch, which mounts inside the engine. People without the proper encoded tether cannot start the engine, Ripley said.
“It would take about one year to go through all the possible code combinations at a rate of 100 tries per second,” he said of someone attempting to break the code of their 64-bit serial number.
“Our plan is to provide it to the snowmobile market, at least in North America,” said Ripley, chief administrator for Dynamic Resolutions.
Ellingsworth, the company’s chief engineer, lives in Ottawa, Ontario, and does much of the design and development. Ripley, in British Columbia, handles most of the business end in the company. They’ve gone through at least five years of planning to bring them to the point of being able to put a product on the market.
The development process has been time-consuming, Ripley said. There’s the testing, finding engineers to do the circuit board design and layout. Then there’s the research and patent process. Finally, there’s the marketing and lining up a manufacturer.
Ripley said the company is within a couple months of having a universal EngineLock that’s applicable to other recreational vehicles. And he even sees a larger potential for the device in the motorcycle and ATV markets. Still, he wants to start with snowmobiles.
“Snowmobilers are the ones who are crying out the most for something like this,” he said. “There’s no security — nothing — in stock equipment.”
Ripley says he’s in the process of getting investors and seeking out venture capital money. So far, he said, investors seem open to the product and its potential, and he’s secured at least three.
“I don’t think it will be that difficult to get investors, and it should be viable to the investment community,” he said. “We have the only product out there that does this.”
The company seems to have the urgency to produce something this winter.
“We’re on a timeline that can only be described as ASAP,” Ripley said. “We’re getting a person involved who has a marketing background, and we’ll be fine-tuning the plan in the next month or so. We want everything ASAP, but we want to get it right business-wise. Timing is not just a marketing thing.”
But when Ripley talks about the exact direction of the product, it’s apparent he’s keeping some options open and is a bit more flexible on his marketing.
He talks about selling the product himself, licensing the technology to a third party or even to a snowmobile OEM. “We’re just going into this heads-up,” he said. “We know there’s money to be made by selling it. We’re aware that other people are interested in this, and that by selling it or licensing it, there could be better profits for everybody.”
The immediate plan, though, is to market it themselves, directly to consumers. The price is set at about $260 for the product alone, and about $385 for the product and dealer installation.
“If we miss the snowmobile season in North America, we want to forge ahead and make the device universal for all small engines,” he said.
From Idea To Reality
For Ripley and Ellingsworth, the idea for the EngineLock came as much out of necessity as engineering curiosity.
Growing up together, they’d fashion secret switches for the engines on their off-road motorcycles to prevent other friends from “borrowing” their rides without permission.
Then, Ripley vividly recalls the night in the early 1990s when his pride and joy — a 1980 Ski-Doo Blizzard 7500 — nearly became someone else’s.
He and Ellingsworth stopped at a trailside hotel to warm up after a long ride, and when they came back out, someone had ripped the wire harness out of Ripley’s machine.
After a late-night ordeal of getting the machine back in their home garage, the men realized the next problem. “We had to start digging into the engine just to solder the wires back together,” Ripley said.
A lifetime of tinkering with engines and this pivotal incident led the men to create their EngineLock.
The circuit device mounts behind the stator plate, with its two wires exiting the engine through the same grommet hole as other wires. The wires, a one-way data communication line, feed up to the tether location. Plans are to make adapters for machines without tethers.
“We wanted the smallest package with the least amount of components,” Ripley said. It’s gone through several prototypes since the first version five years ago, he said.
Ripley does admit that other security devices in the automotive industry, and even Ski-Doo’s Digital Encoded Security System, work in a similar manner to his EngineLock. The difference, he said — and cites his international patent searches as proof — is the mounting position of the lock.
As far as he’s researched, all other devices mount outside the engine, which he said can still be easy for a thief to override.
“Ours, and we’ve applied for the the patent, is on the inside of the engine,” Ripley said. “You can’t rewire it because you’d have to rip apart the engine.”
It’s not a 100% foolproof device, but it will take a thief significantly longer than the usual 90 seconds needed to steal a machine, he said.
“You can get around ours, too, but it will take hours to do that,” he said.
For now, Ripley and Ellingsworth still have their day jobs. Ripley owns a concrete company and Ellingsworth repairs imported cars. Should the business go the way they hope, Ellingsworth may soon move out west to do full-time R&D on the EngineLock and other pet projects the two can develop.
“We’ve complimented each other all along,” Ripley said of their association back to childhood. “He’d rip things apart; I’m more into theory, logic and handing him the tools.”