Rapid development of a Kickstarter success story.
Earlier this year, a Kickstarter revenant Lumulabs approached to us. They were previously very successful with their debut product Lumu Lite – a sophisticated light measuring device for smartphones. This time, they had in mind an even braver move – new, better and more powerful device – hence the name – Lumu Power which is a dedicated Apple iOS accessory device.
We all know that Kickstarter projects may come a little behind or at least very tight on schedule. It was the same with Lumulabs – the guys came to us with a demanding task to develop a state of the art light measuring device, to meet all the requirements and to make it production ready in less than two months!
Lumu Power is a device that combines several different light measuring devices in one: color temperature, white balance, flash and ambient exposure or illuminance. All in one device! Since Lumulabs provided very clear requirements and specifications that device had to meet, we didn't wait for a second but rolled up our sleeves and dug into work.
Firstly, we developed a very basic prototype just to test if we are on the right road with our ideas to meet the most demanding requirement – measure flash and ambient illuminance with single sensor in the range of 0,15 – 250 000 lux with the accuracy of 3% (!). We did this with clever fast dynamic range switching design. After a bunch of testing and all the flashes that hurt our eyes, our design of electronics proved to be the one to go with first hand.
Before making the first »serious« prototype, there was a lot of 3D modeling, measuring and tight cooperation with our customer with the desire to make it as right as possible in the first go. We made sure that all the components were properly placed to fit perfectly in the desired housing. We applied all the best engineering practices we knew. The PCB itself is quite impressive – a very small 4-layer board with dense component placement on both sides. Besides the PCB, we also had to envision the tiny flat flex connection cable for connecting the PCB to Apple's Lightning connector.
While developing Lumu Power, we had in mind that this device will be produced in large quantities. Therefore, careful component selection can make a big difference in the final price per piece.
Cooperating with suppliers of components has a huge role when developing large quantity products. You have to keep in mind that the cheapest part you can buy at your local parts supplier in small quantity can be very cost ineffective at large quantities. That also sometimes means that using some different component can take longer to implement and develop a device but can make a big trade-off in the overall price.
In our case, using more cost and performance effective processor meant a little longer development time but made quite a difference in the final BOM price.
As always, hardware itself does nothing without proper firmware. There is quite sophisticated piece of code running on the Lumu Power to ensure that this little guy can do what normally several measuring instruments do combined. This is where things get really interesting. Since Lumu Power is a dedicated iOS device, we had to have that in mind when developing firmware. All certified Apple accessories have dedicated authentication chip onboard to identify themself when connected to the host. Developing that type of code is quite a demanding task. Besides ensuring the core functionality, you need to have in mind future updates. That's why we developed sophisticated bootloader code to ensure that Lumu Power's firmware can be later updated via the iOS app.
Lumu Power was recently presented at the world's leading trade fair for photo and video Photokina 2016. News reporters and other professionals from various industries tested the first Lumu Powers in real life and the feedback was outstanding. You can see the video yourself:
This project again showed that with close cooperation and communication with our customer, we can quickly achieve great results! And at the same time make photographers all over the world happy.