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Jun. 17, 2019
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Dock moving is going global with Ottodock

By Pamela A. Keene
 
Four engineering brothers, a handful of college students and inspiration from an inventive father are the impetus behind Ottodock, a fully autonomous dock management system that will soon be in beta testing on Lake Lanier. 
 
When network engineer Tom Torre and his family moved to Lake Lanier in 2016, he was plagued by consistently low lake levels that prohibited enjoyment of the lake, resulting in constantly manually moving his dock. Eighteen months later, winter rains drove lake levels up, and up and he was faced with keeping his ramp above water. 
 
“After a year of pushing the dock in and out, it was time to invent a remote-control dock to do the moving for us,” said the erstwhile inventor. After a call to his brother Phil, an electrical engineer, they were on their way. “We grew up with short-wave radios, oscilloscopes, gyroscopes and Geiger counters, and we had a great time building inventions to solve problems. This was no different.” 
 
As kids, the two actually developed a way to remotely control the lights and appliances in their aunt’s home down the street. “Our dad Otto Torre was the guy everyone went to when they had a problem and people always said he was the smartest person they knew,” he said. “We learned so much by watching him and learning alongside him. So we decided to name the company after him.”
 
Several years ago, Tom had coached a home-school robotics team, reconnecting with the students during a project showcase at Georgia State University. Those students and a couple of others joined the project, assisting with software development and data collection. Another student developed the app. Tom’s sons, Joshua, Benjamin and Daniel, are handling math modeling, video marketing and 3D modeling. Phil’s son Michael has crafted the complex drive system components.
 
Along the way, Tom’s retired engineer brothers, Bill and Chris, added their expertise: Bill took on electrical safety and math modeling; Chris wrote and filed the invention’s patent, filed in January 2019. 
 
Here’s how it works – from anywhere in the world. “The app monitors lake levels, provides live video feeds, gathers weather data and takes location readings to determine when the dock should be moved,” Torre said. “The app sends a message to the homeowner that the dock needs to be moved to keep it safe and secure. The app engages the drive unit, located beneath the gangway, and the smart winches on the deck move the dock in and out. The homeowner also can activate the app for manual moves by using the app or saying, ‘Hey Google/Alexa, move my dock in/out.’”
 
The new company made its public debut at the mid-April Lake Lanier Association annual meeting where Tom signed up seven Lanier dock owners who agreed to be beta testers. It showcased a three-dimensional model that demonstrated the capabilities of the system. 
 
“We’ve tested Ottodock on our dock for the past two years, and we’ll be initiating beta testing in the next four to six months,” he said. “Our plan is to gather 12 months of data, then we’ll be ready to roll it out. Imagine a senior citizen being able to move a dock with the push of a button, or part-time lake dwellers remotely controlling their dock from anywhere at any time. You can be on a cruise in the Caribbean and if the lake is dropping, you won’t have to worry about your boat sitting in the mud when you get home.” 
 
For more information about Ottodock, visit ottodock.com or call 706 265-3637.

Posted online 5/28/19
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