UL confirmed with us last week that we had a couple minor remaining issues related to our recent Luminode design modifications. We have since fixed those issues and resubmitted back to UL. Since the fixes were merely to re-route a few circuit board traces we are confident that we will receive design approval very soon. Meanwhile, our manufacturing partner in China is ready to begin production on new units as soon as we get official approval from UL so we can restart the physical tests as quickly as possible.
At the international Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas earlier this year, you might think that “smart homes” and “smart phones” were synonymous. Here’s a roundup of just a few examples:
- NDTV reports from the show floor that Samsung and LG were out in force. ”We are texting friends and family throughout the day. Why not do the same thing with your air conditioning system or your vacuum?” asked LG national product trainer Randy Overton.
- Samsung Electronics introduced Smart Home, a service for managing its smart TVs, home appliances and smartphones.
Engadget profiled the Canary, who displayed their beta home security console. Equipped with a camera and a mic, it texts you should it see or hear anything odd in your home when you’re away. Pretty cool stuff.
- We’re big fans of home-town favorite, Seattle-based Snupi and their Wally Home sensors that alert you to water leaks and temperature changes.
At Think Automatic, we know that having a killer mobile app will help bring smart homes to the masses. Heck, I’ll admit to enjoying being able to turn my lights off from bed.
But when we think about the smart home of the future, we get more excited about sensing and learning than programming and controls. And a smart home doesn’t have to mean you’re constantly communicating with devices via text message.
That’s why we’re excited about Ubi. This “ubiquitous computer” recognizes voice commands, connects to the internet in your home, and holds a wealth of possibilities for connected devices. And, like Think Automatic, they have a learning algorithm. “The Ubi gets smarter. Updates are automatically pushed to it and it learns over time. ” They’re speaking our language, and with two Ubi’s in the Luminode beta home, we’re excited to integrate them into our platform as part of our “plays well with others” promise.
Stay tuned for updates on that integration, and the meantime, check out the Ubi for yourself!
The world of connected devices has certainly been the media darling of late– and rightly so. Nest was just acquired for a whopping $3.2B by Google. Snupi just raised over $7.4M in Series A funding. And 2013 was a banner year for venture capital investing, with big data, mobile, digital health and the internet of things topping the charts. Hot off the press!
Still more (digital) ink has been devoted to this increasingly popular trend; just today, a Forbes’ headline touted a “new perspective on the Internet of Things. ” Thinfilm’s Davor Sutija describes that “about a trillion sensors are required to power [a] billion connected devices.” Sutija defies industry giants Cisco and IBM with an alternative definition of the “internet of things,” espousing a peer-to-peer device-centric definition of this term of art (vs. the “traditional” definition, centered on the network).
But if you’ve been on the sidelines or in the trenches with IT developments of the last 30+ years, none of this is new, or even news.
The debate between centralization and decentralization is as old as the information technology industry itself. Much (actual) ink was spilled as the pendulum swung between peer-to-peer and client-server architecture. But at the end of the day, from where we’re sitting, there is no “pure” peer-to-peer, nor “pure” client-server universe. The heart doesn’t think and the brain doesn’t pump blood, so the body needs both.
With the “internet of things,” or in the case of Think Automatic, in the “smart home,” or back in the 90′s when I was in Microsoft Research, for what we called “ubiquitous computing,” the heart is the user experience. The brain is the learning algorithm software. And the nervous system is made up of the network of “things” that benefit from and respond to the intelligence of the brain.
Whatever you want to call it, the “Internet of Things” isn’t new. With the benefit of Moore’s law (such that every 18 months technology is twice as powerful at half the cost), micro-controllers are now as powerful as the supercomputers of 30 years ago, and the notion of a trillion sensors can become an affordable reality. Eighty years ago, Dick Tracy’s creators had the imagination. Fifty years ago the Jetsons and Star Trek had the vision. Today, enabling technology, the investment community and the consumer are finally catching up.
The design to fix the Luminodes for UL re-submission were completed on January 24th and the design files have been submitted once again to UL. It should take about 2 weeks for UL to review the design changes, after which will will need to manufacture new test units to resume the UL physical testing. Exact timing is still difficult to determine, but rest assured we are working as hard as we possibly can to get through this important testing process.
Late last fall, after almost making it through UL, we were hopeful that a trivial hardware fix was all that would be needed in order to resubmit for testing. This turned out to be not quite the case.
Based on my experience at UL I was able to reconstruct a very accurate test apparatus for the Luminode and determined that a slightly more involved hardware fix was necessary. I was able to isolate two heat sources secondary to the triac component that controls the lighting load. These secondary heat sources were related to our UL required feature called an air-gap switch.
I hand modified a Luminode to test a slightly different approach with the air-gap switch. Then using a test “stub wall” that I built, similar to what is used at UL, I was able to verify that this new approach brought all of our temperature readings down significantly.
We expect to have these changes incorporated into our design by January 17th, at which point we will resubmit to UL asap for design approval, followed immediately by producing more parts in order to restart the physical tests. Exact timing of those steps is still to be determined.
Meanwhile we are still refining all aspects of the system and plan to have live video demos available in the coming weeks. Spoiler alert: I am literally able to configure, from scratch, every room in my home and all 20 Luminodes in 4 and a half minutes using my phone!
For those interested, below is a photo of the test stub wall. The wires coming out of it are temperature probes attached to internal components and surfaces of the Luminode.
As always, thank you for your continuing patience and support!
- Team Think Automatic
Since our UL setback last month we have been revising and refining our course of action in order to get the Luminode successfully through UL in a timely fashion, which we are determined to do. Meanwhile I have installed 18 Luminodes in my home (with light loads since they’re not UL approved yet) and I have finally experienced Luminodes learning my patterns in a real world setting and I love them! I know, of course I would say that since they’re our invention, but they really work!
After just a couple of days they learned to come on softly on the first tap when I get up in the middle of the night, a little brighter over morning coffee in the kitchen, and then in the evening the sink and counter top zones automatically get triggered from the same Luminode that triggered soft coffee light in the morning. And on top of all that I configured the whole house in less than 5 minutes using my smartphone which also presents me with auto-generated scenes that the system configured and figured out that I like.
So in a nutshell. The learning algorithm works, UL is still getting closer, meanwhile the phone UI is getting better all the time. Hopefully by next week we will be able to shoot a live demo video in my home showing how simple it really is to setup and powerful to use.
As always, thank you for your continued patience and support!
Happy Thanksgiving to all the folks in the US!
I’m nearing the end of my week here with UL in Melville, NY. The folks at UL here are a great group of people who love what we’re doing and are really rooting for the Luminode. They are helping us make the Luminode the best it can be by ensuring that it is safe and reliable through rigorous testing. And today during part of that testing we unfortunately had two test units temporarily stop working likely due to heat issues. We believe this is due to a coil operating close to its rated current combined with potential ventilation issues. Therefore I made the decision to halt the tests while we investigate replacing the coil with a higher rated one that keeps cooler. We are hopeful that this combined with minor ventilation changes will remedy the issue. If all goes well we may be able to resubmit to UL within 2 weeks since we can likely make the changes ourselves without going back to the manufacturing plant.
Thank you from all of us at Think Automatic for your patience, support, and understanding as we navigate this important safety approval process.
Stay tuned as we learn more… Next update likely by the end of next week.
I’m here all week at the UL test facility in Melville NY observing and helping facilitate the Luminode safety tests. Yesterday we had one unit not pass the incandescent overload test. It was not a dangerous failure but it did stop working properly and all 6 samples in that test must continue working after the test. To address the issue I modified the firmware that controls the flow of current to the load so as to handle inrush currents better and I agreed to reduce our rating to 500 watts down from 600 for incandescent bulbs. We do plan to keep our 150 watt rating for LED bulbs.
After these changes we have now successfully passed the overload test and are moving into the endurance tests. These are due to finish tomorrow morning after which come the temperature and short circuit tests.
If all goes well from here we could have UL approval as soon as next week and start getting these into your hands soon!
As always thank you for your continued patience and support!
The good news is that we are confident that the Luminode will be UL approved. The less than good news is that UL approval turns out to be a lengthier and more involved process than we anticipated.
About 2 weeks ago we found out that the UL office close to our manufacturer in China was unable to perform our tests for us and they sent our test samples to a UL office in New York. The New York UL office informed us that instead of the 6 test samples we had provided, they actually need about 46 samples to complete all of the tests. So we decided to have them run the most demanding tests on the 6 units that they did have.
So they ran the incandescent overload and endurance tests. Although most of the units survived the overload tests (off and on 100 times at 150% of max load), none of them made it through the endurance tests (off and on 10,000 times at max load). After reviewing the failed test samples and the UL reports I was able to reproduce the failure mode by running the overload test myself but on and off about 300 times.
The really good news is that the defect turned out to be caused by a firmware error! That means easy fix! After the fix I was able to successfully run the overload test cycled off and on at 915 Watts over 1500 times without showing any signs of failure!
We will continue running our own UL tests in parallel with producing more units to complete the official UL tests. We expect to have the new units in about 3 weeks time. I will then be taking the units personally to the New York UL lab shortly thereafter depending on both our schedules at that time.
We are well aware that we are many months behind our original schedule, but we are determined to get there. And hopefully soon!
As always thank you from all of us at Think Automatic for your ongoing patience and support!
The RazBee, which enables the Raspberry Pi to communicate with the Luminodes and other products in the future, is now officially certified by the FCC!!
Our single remaining regulatory hurdle is UL certification for the Luminodes themselves which could be any day now. As soon as we have UL approval we will finally begin production of Luminodes for distribution along with RazBees!
Stay tuned for our hopefully soon UL approval announcement with final delivery schedule!
As always thank you for your patience and support!