18 February, 2020

Production Update: 360 Edition

Hello dear backers, 

In this update, we’ll detail the potential impact of the coronavirus on production timelines and share the progress made on Alpha testing, hardware and firmware development. 

The impact of coronavirus on production timelines

As the coronavirus keeps spreading, a few of you have asked if there would be an impact on production. We’re keeping a tight loop with every supplier but we have to accept that there is a degree of uncertainty on the delays this epidemic will introduce. Obviously, our first concern is that every one of our partners remain healthy in these difficult times, but we also understand you want to know how it’ll impact delivery. Here’s what we know: 

  • Chinese new year has been extended by a week or two in some cases, which means our partners remained closed for a longer period
  • Transport within China is complicated right now + flying in and out of China is restricted by many airlines which affects our supply chain
  • Some cities and neighbourhoods are quarantined, which makes it harder for employees to transit to work
  • Factories are reopening this week but with less staff which slows the output considerably

Luckily, communication with our various suppliers has remained good. This being said, it is very difficult to provide updated timelines right now. On our end we are ready to go but we have to wait for every manufacturing partner to be as well. Suppliers are slowly getting back to work but it is hard to say when production will fully ramp up. As other major tech companies are announcing delays, we should expect a revised schedule as well. Rather than provide a tentative date now that we couldn’t guarantee, we will provide further updates as the situation unfolds. Thank you for your understanding and patience!

The SmartHalo crew alpha testing during winter

Progress on Alpha Testing, hardware and firmware

Alpha testing – the first phase of testing – is still underway and has already helped us identify areas of improvement on the firmware iterations that lead to a final product. Here’s an overview of the progress we’ve made so far: 

Alpha testing

  • We have feature parity with SmartHalo 1: every feature that uses the circular halo interface (such as navigation, the alarm, fitness and notifications) work as intended and have been tested on the roads thoroughly, which means we can dig into powering that sweet PeekDisplay now. 
  • We noticed the alarm speaker was not as loud as our first generation SmartHalo. After several rounds of troubleshooting, we discovered that the way internal components were stacked in the device created pressure on the speaker’s membrane which altered the output of sounds. This is now fixed, as we’ve rearranged the internal components’ placement. FYI: this speaker is also used to give optional audio clues in navigation or when there are incoming call or text notifications.
  • We’re reaaaally happy with the front light. We’re currently spending time refining the reflector with optics professionals. This will help better distribute light and provide stronger lighting on the ground. By the way, if you owned SmartHalo 1, you’ll be thrilled with version 2’s light, it’s night and day! 😉

A side-by-side comparison of between v1 and v2. Not only is version 2 stronger, but it distributes light better for cycling.

Hardware

  • We’ve received “first shots” of every component of the casing and mounting base. These are plastic parts coming out of the real production molds but that don’t yet have the final textures and colors. It allows us to validate how everything fits together mechanically, with each revision improving the fit and feel. 
  • We’re currently refining the fourth version of our printed circuit board (PCB). Each iteration brings minor improvements such as chip and connector placement, power management, test point placement and screw holes placement. 
  • The top lens is finalized. This part has 4 roles: it diffuses the Halo’s 24 RGB LEDs and hides the LEDs hot spots, it lets the PeekDisplay’s OLED screen show information, it blends all these elements into a shiny black appearance and protects the top of the device. Easier said than done but we’ve made it. 

Looks good doesn’t it?

  • We’re doing mechanical tests on the casing and the anti-theft mounting base. This is basically us attempting to break or steal SmartHalo in any way we can. It led to many under-the-hood refinements and we’re really pleased with how tough our device is. Next in line are temperature stress tests, sand/dirt tests and waterproofing tests. 
  • Near final samples of our HaloKey have arrived! Your personal key will allow you to remove your device easily. They are slimmer and sturdier than SmartHalo 1’s keys, as they are now made of zinc. As you can see, we still need to refine the finish and textures. 

The HaloKey™: use this to unlock your device. Material and finish are not final.

Firmware

  • As mentioned in the last update, adapting the PeekDisplay for all possible use cases is the biggest remaining project and the one we’ll be spending the most time here on out until release. Right now, we are investigating how to dynamically display assets and fonts.  
  • We’re implementing power saving strategies as we speak to gain hours of battery life. It’s a step-by-step process: each week we make small wins. This consists mainly of deactivating chips when they are not in use and optimizing their usage without the user noticing it. Remember: there is no on/off button on SmartHalo, it activates when you get near it with your phone, the app active and Bluetooth on. When you leave, it activates the alarm discreetly. It works like magic, but it’s actually the result of thousands of lines of code and creative thinking. We’re aiming to have a device that lasts dozens of hours but obviously your mileage may vary depending on which features you use most. 
  • We’ve completed what we call the Golden Firmware. This is the version of the device’s operating system that is “flashed” on devices in production and will be on your SmartHalo 2 when you receive it. It’s a barebones version that has some very basic functionality as its main purpose is to be updated: since there is time between the production start and the moment you get your device, it gives us development time. In practice, this means that when you receive your device, you’ll be prompted to update it with all the features we worked on after production started. It should take you around 10 minutes and will happen only once: future OS updates will be way faster. 

Mobile Apps

  • With all this on our plates, we’ve chosen to defer the work on our iOS and Android apps a bit. Once we’re done stabilizing the operating system and finalizing the hardware, we’ll carry on with an updated version of our app that you see on the Kickstarter page. It aims to simplify the UI, allows you to customize your device even further and it’ll just look cooler. It’ll be released later in the summer, which means that on launch, you’ll still be on version 1 of the app for a few more months. Don’t worry though, it’s still very functional! 

 

Whew! Hopefully, by reading this, you get a sense of how much work is put into creating tech devices we all love. Even though this is our second iteration, we’re still learning a bunch which is obviously thrilling for a team of creators. We’re always happy to answer your questions as best as we can so don’t hesitate to ask away in the comments below should any point above pique your curiosity. 

-The SmartHalo team <3

PS: as mentioned in previous updates, the survey will be sent out a few weeks before shipping.

 

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