My Tonal Side Projects

In the previous post, I mentioned that, since June 2017, I've been serving as the head of patent development for the fitness startup Tonal.

This post discusses the additional work that I do for Tonal beyond patent development.

The nature of patent work is that it is very much a series of "booms" and "busts". In the boom-time, we're preparing and filing patent applications. In the bust-time, we're collecting info and planning our next filings. To be clear, the "booms" and the "busts" refer to the demands on my time as head of patent development.

Regarding the additional work, a natural talent that I bring to the work of my clients is an instinct for identifying what is "broken," or "at risk," or "missing". At Tonal, that talent is, of course, useful in deciding what patents to file. But my talents extend beyond patent strategy.

Data Science

About a year ago, the company CEO explained to me the difficulty of hiring quality software engineers in Silicon Valley. I knew that I could help.

Before studying law, I studied and practiced computer science. Also, over the past few years, I have also been performing data science projects for a number of clients.

Tonal employs a very talented data scientist. Now, data science is a big job. In order to do it, one needs a source of data in a useful format. With Tonal, the raw data comes from a number of different sources, including the Tonal machine motor, cameras, and sensors.

So someone needs to write code to collect and organize the various data into forms useful for data analysis. This is where I come in. I code in C++ and Python to do "data preparation." This allows Tonal's data scientist to focus his best talents on the science.

Product Prototyping

Recently, I recognized a second use for my coding skills at Tonal. In connection with a patent we filed, I got the idea for developing a rough prototype of a feature described in that patent application.

This feature is currently well into the future of the company's product roadmap. An early prototype could give the company a useful head start when the time comes to focus on this feature.

A key aspect of this work is that I avoid disrupting or distracting the Tonal employees who are fully engaged in executing the company roadmap.

This requires that I draft the specifications and requirements of this feature myself — this is normally the job of the product development team. Then, I write and test the code that implements the feature — normally the job of the software team.

My experience as a lawyer, as a computer scientist, and as a consultant come in handy here. Structured writing and coding is at the core of this experience.

Keep in mind though, this is just a prototype, not a finished feature or production code. So the bar is lower for this work.

Still, I'm excited to work on this prototype. And even though I'm not disrupting the Tonal employees on this work, I'm keeping them apprised of my progress.


In sum, I enjoy driving the development of Tonal's patent portfolio, and these side projects make working at the company even more interesting for me.