Cable Ferret sees around dark corners

Inventor Andrew Wigney uses a push pull rod attached to the inspection camera to reach the ceiling and investigate the cause of a problem – whether it’s a leak or faulty wiring.

Auckland entrepreneur Andrew Wigney has always had an inventive mind, finding solutions where others don't see.

Andrew, managing director of The Cable Ferret Company, has developed the world’s first wireless and rechargeable inspection camera which enables electricians, plumbers, cablers and other tradespeople to work efficiently in the dark confined spaces of walls and ceilings.

The Cable Ferret wigcam, the small, lightweight camera linked to a bright LCD display screen, can reach every nook and cranny and allows the contractors to quickly pull through cables or find and repair the faulty wiring and water leak. The wigcam can save time and costs.

"I see a problem as a challenge rather than an issue," says Australian-born Andrew, who trained as an electronic technician.

Andrew, who moved to Auckland in 2011, starting thinking about an inspection device after one of his staff – he was managing a data communications cabling business – drilled a hole in the ceiling and burst the Darwin hotel’s high water pressure main. The technician couldn’t see what he was drilling into.

"After Darwin I got some small cameras and played around with them. I could see there was an opportunity in the marketplace and I wanted to see if my idea would work," says Andrew.

"My first design was too big and bulky and I then moulded my own plastic to get something that worked. We minimalised the electronics, installed more powerful batteries, and made the camera lightweight, strong, waterproof and dust proof."

The compact inspection camera (wigcam) is 83mm long, 33mm wide and weighs 33 grams. The 4.3 inch LCD screen provides a high-resolution picture, and the wigcam has a wireless range of up to 12 metres. The screen can be held in the other hand while the contractor works the camera into the dark hole.

The camera can be fixed to a flexible one metre long gooseneck to go around any corner or in any direction. A push pull rod, stretching out eight metres, can be screwed into the top of the camera so it can reach greater heights.

There other accessories in the kitset: battery charger and cables, rechargeable battery pack, camera thread adaptors, SD memory card for storing photos and videos, conduit adaptor, a display mount for hands-free viewing, a short rod, hook and magnet to pull back a cable or retrieve a metallic object, and an instruction manual. Andrew has thought of everything.

"The wigcam is the most versatile of its type; there’s nothing like it out there," says Andrew. "It’s a mature product but it’s not something that the contractors are used to. Like anything new, they have to be sold it."

The wigcam, manufactured in China, was launched commercially in early 2014 and during the first two years Cable Ferret sold more than 2000 units, mainly in Australia and New Zealand.

The wigcam is sold through the electrical wholesaling chain, J. A. Russell, with its 68 branches throughout New Zealand. Cable Ferret has also appointed agents in United States, Dubai and Britain to increase export sales.

"We have an electrical reseller in Vermont testing the market in the US," says Andrew. "We want feedback on the price point and whether they need or like all the accessories. There are tens of thousands of independent home inspectors in the US and that’s a huge market to tap. We will also be testing plumbing resellers and builder suppliers.

Cable Ferret’s product is extremely versatile and adaptable, and even stretches to chimney sweeping. The company’s contact in Britain is a Welsh business that resells chimney sweep equipment in Europe and is looking to include the wigcam in its offering.

"We are cautious about how we expand because we are self-funded. But we are aware that we need sales people onboard to take the business to the next level, and we are looking at options to attract investors," says Andrew.

Cable Ferret has had strong support from Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED). "ATEED provided us with a NZTE voucher which meant a business strategy workshop was affordable," says Andrew. "ATEED also put us in touch with various business experts and invited us to seminars which provided valuable additional business knowledge and great networking opportunities."