Got a wet smartphone? TekDry can help

October 17, 2014

Randall native and Wilmot High School graduate Craig Beinecke and his business partners are urging people to “think twice before using rice” to dry out wet electronics.

The partners, who met in graduate school at the University of Denver, invented a contraption that dries out wet electronics better than rice, Beinecke said. With it, Beinecke, Adam Cookson and Eric Jones founded TekDry, an emergency electronic device rescue service.

They say they have submerged smartphones, laptops, tablets and cameras in water for more than a full day and brought them back to full operability with TekDry. Even sticky substances are no match.

“One man’s phone soaked in (soda) overnight,” Beinecke said.

The man did what most people do, but aren’t supposed to in this situation: He tried to turn it on several times and charged it overnight. Six days later, he gave the inoperable phone to the team at TekDry.

“We actually put it in warm water first to dissolve the sugars,” Beinecke said. “When we were done, he said it worked just like before.”

For now, TekDry is mainly a mail-in service. For $69.99, which includes two-way shipping, you can mail them your device and they will get it to work again. If it doesn’t work, you only pay the shipping.

There is one walk-in location in Colorado, and the team’s goal is to have self-serve kiosks in retail stores throughout the country.

“Rice is our biggest competitor,” Beinecke, 42, said. “And it doesn’t work any better than air drying.”

To prove this, they commissioned a third-party engineering study. The results showed the rice actually slowed down the drying process, he said. After 48 hours, the rice extracted 13 percent of the water from the device simulator, while 15 percent of the water came out of the device left to air dry.

“Our process gets 100 percent of the water out,” Beinecke said.

It was Jones who had the idea for the now-patented process, which he developed after a friend dropped her cell phone into a toilet and came to them for help.

“It uses a combination of thermodynamics and low pressure,” Beinecke said of the process.

After a crude, low-tech version of the magic box worked on their friend’s phone, Beinecke got to tweaking it to speed up the process. When he came home for Christmas in 2012, he bought a bunch of parts and built a high-tech system that can dry the devices in 20 minutes.

“We can do any shape or size,” Beinecke said.

By December 2013, the process was patented.

“A professor told us we should quit our day jobs,” said Beinecke, who in June left his job of 15 years as a control systems director.

The portable drying model the team carries resembles an industrial-sized toolbox. The kiosk looks more like an ATM.

Beniecke said he also likes that their service will help reduce electronic waste.

“Electronics make up 70 percent of all toxic garbage,” he said. “It definitely has a sustainablility aspect.”