Month: May 2013

The arm wrestle as we inch closer.

We’ve been back in Shenzhen for the past few days, and as always it’s a stressful but exciting time. The factory is humming along as the tooling continues and we await the first batch off the line.

Having done the rounds on Monday though, the 500 initial units are behind schedule, which is frustrating, as the UL/CE certification can’t commence without them. This isn’t down to any single factor, more a combination of many little things (e.g. minor component swap outs, power supply performance tweaks, correcting texture samples, serial number printing, end of line test gear, etc, etc).

The revised date for the initial 500 is now June 14th and considering certification takes three weeks, all going well we should be in a position by July 8th to push ‘go’ on the main run and starting rolling shipping as the bulbs come off the line.

This is has been frustrating but as I have to remind myself we’re creating the assembly line, not just the first batch. Once this first 500 are tested, certified and we’re 100% happy with it all then we’re in a good position to crank a lot of these things out in a short amount of time and get them on their way to you! 🙂

Probably the only people in the world happy with the few extra weeks are the software team. Damn them (note: we do love them), but having a few extra weeks up their sleeve gives them time to refine, test and build more stuff before submitting to the app store (and Google Play). For example, the ability to issue over-the-air firmware updates to the bulbs was always going to be a push for us, but we’re now confident this will make the cut.

The other thing we wanted to show you in this update was some real-world examples of how your bulbs will perform in the wild. Here’s a comparison we took of LIFX on one of its brightest settings vs some other bulbs we had at hand.

‘Images taken using identical camera settings for each bulb. With rubber chicken control’

So, apologies again to keep you waiting. The bottle neck has caused us a headache but it’s something we’ll push through and it’s good to know we’re inching ever closer.

Next update will be before June 14 when we’re back in Shenzhen again and I’ll report back on these dates as we guide the production through this tricky phase, and onto the fun part, eating Congee at the hotel, wait, no, sending these on their way to you!

 

It may appear that things are quiet at the LIFX HQ, but like a duck in a pond there’s a lot of activity going on under the surface. Tooling is nearing completion with 500 units being readied to hit the production line. Back home the firmware has progressed to alpha testing stage.

photo

It’s exciting to be this close but also quite daunting as our baby is now almost entirely in the hands of our Shenzhen production partner. The time we’ve spent with them over the past three months is greatly reassuring at this stage: they certainly know what they’re doing and they know how to do it well.

We’ve booked flights back to Shenzhen on the 20th of May, and according to plan we don’t anticipate any deviation from the revised timeline. Getting our hands on and testing the 500 bulb batch will really confirm how well we’re tracking.

One unpleasant surprise we’ve had is the cost of tooling and certification works out roughly double our initial estimates, including tooling for the packaging (yep, packaging has tooling too!). This isn’t a huge drama for us, but it’s a lesson to remember the correlation between production volume and higher setup costs. Overall the packaging has been an adventure in itself (e.g. minimum surface area for postal labels, etc). We’re happy with progress on that front too and think you’ll dig it.

thumbnail

The other major component of the project nearing completion is the app.

The iOS version and Android versions are mostly written and functional; and we’ll update you when they’ve been submitted to the App Store and Google Play. The overall interface has gone through a few iterations even since the last video, and we’ve sweated the testing of UI/UX with different users of varying degrees of skill.  The overall goal is to make things fast, fun and easy to use but with plenty of ability to customise your lighting and geek out on some finer points if you so desire.

Part of these efforts involves trialling a browser/AirPlay implementation of a virtual bulb so you’ll be able to experience the app even before your bulbs arrive. Developers will probably find this useful too when the official API/SDK specs are released in the near future.

Logistics is yet another whole field we probably now know more about then we ever wanted to. Once we’ve tested and refined the first 500 bulbs, we push ‘go’ on the production run from Shenzhen. At that point, as bulbs come off the production line, we commence rolling shipping (most likely via air mail). Air mail costs more (we’ll absorb) but it means getting the already-delayed bulbs out faster to backers. Between myself, Andrew and Mike we’ve spoken to nearly 25 different logistics companies and settled on Shipwire as our preferred option. They’ve been a massive help and have personally spent a lot of time on optimising our campaign. Big thanks to Jeremy on this one!

So things are certainly afoot and we’re building up to the major anticipation/nervousness/excitement of folk using (and judging) the product we’ve poured so much blood, sweat and tears into.

Stay tuned for our next update from Shenzhen.