Awesome. Awesome!

Hope you are all doing well. I absolutely have to share some stuff with you. 

A lot of the cool stuff which is currently happening is a little bit behind-the-scenes-stuff and not yet visible to everyone. It’s all preparation for June and July. I will try to share it without spoiler. 

  • The units from the last batch were shipped to testers and test labs all around the globe. As expected - the units are doing a great job - no new findings so large batch manufacturing starts now! I mean NOW. yes. NOW! Isn’t this awesome?
  • The team will fly over to China, the improvements to the test-stations-software were successfully tested in Switzerland (Mainly efficiency improvements) Kevin and team will upgrade all China stations immediately when he arrives so daily high volume production can begin 
  • The BETA team is very, very active. Tons of daily interactions, bug reports and fast fixes. All members of the BETA team - chosen members and NEEO staff - who are participating are just awesome. I check the activities daily and love the way things go and the way you guys help each other. Thank you for being awesome! Special thanks for the guys who have spontaneously donated for this month coffee!
  • Finally I met a community manager who I trust to be the perfect fit. You will all get to know Patrick in June/July. He is... a.w.e.s.o.m.e!
  • At the same time you will also get to know a new planet. Less cryptic (and more) info on this will follow.
  • More exciting stuff: 3 weeks ago the NEEO SDK was published for coders who have a BETA unit. Amazing things like devices implementations, samples and documentations started to appear just hours after the coders got access to it. This is going to be extremely powerful. And it is ready today - which means from day one when you guys get your units, the coders among you will by able to create and connect all sort of things. 
  • Software is improving very fast, thanks to the hard working developers and the BETA team. Version 37.2 was published and improved things nicely. The next major update is planned for this week. I have tested several in-between-versions and it’s promising. New, more advanced NEEO Link with encryption updates, lot’s of bug fixes, UX improvements, stability improvements and even better black level for the display. 
  • We have just secured a significant amount of additional working capital - ramping up into very high numbers of units needs a lot of cash and securing funds is always a challenge for a young company. This is a bit off-topic but I just wanted to share so you know I’m working too 😉 It’s not directly linked to your reward or so but of course everyone benefits from a overall healthy development of the company. 

10 additional BETA slots this week

By the end of the year we want to grow the BETA team roughly by another 50 BETA team members. To get this started we will open another 10 slots by the end of this week. If you had previously applied to be a tester but you didn’t make it you don’t need to re-send you application. All “old” applications will go through the same process as new ones and have the equal chances.     

Please only apply if you are willing to actively report on each firmware version. The most active BETA members will stay in the program for a long period of time and get nice gear from us. 

Generally everyone who wants to join the BETA team please be aware of the following:

  • We really care about having active testers, make sure you have some time available to play with the product and to provide feedback. 
  • We care about testing a big variety of setups. We therefore include testers based on the gear they have
  • You will get the weekly BETA releases. Sometimes they are not stable. If you (or your family) prefers to have a stable setup at all time - you better don’t get into BETA firmware or the testing of it 
  • You might test some yet secret functions - make sure you are happy to keep the surprises for you as long as the function is not announced
  • NEEO will provide you hardware for those tests, over time the most active testers will get even more NEEO stuff to mess with 

To apply for the beta program please reach out to support@neeo.com. Send us an e-mail with a short list of the equipment you will test NEEO with. The new testers will be chosen and be informed in about a week from today. 

Many of you will be invited to remain part of the BETA team for many month, even years. Potentially also for future products.

Kickstarters - update your shipping address

An important one for our crowdfunding backers:

Update your shipping address!

Most of you have completed the survey quite some time ago but about 150 backers have either an incomplete or missing address in there. Please make sure yours is correct. Also - if you have moved, it’s your change to update your address.

  1. Login to kickstarter
  2. Go to “backed projects” 
  3. Choose "NEEO - The Thinking Remote" from the list
  4. Click onto the “SURVEY" tap
  5. Check and update your address
  6. Done

You need to make sure you have a valid phone number added so the courier can reach you if needed.

Please make sure to change the address in the SURVEY section, this is the address that counts. 

Speed of light contest

Light is fast. Very fast. 
Now, YOU need to be fast. Very fast. 

Here is the question that you need to answer (approximately) right: 

What’s the speed of light in a vacuum?

Simply send us an e-mail with the answer to support@neeo.com The 3 fastest correct entries win some lights. As a winner you will be able to chose between a set of HUE bulbs, LiFX bulbs or Z-Wave dimmers. 

China rocks!

Units ready for the IFST and AFTS (final system tests)

Units ready for the IFST and AFTS (final system tests)

How was China?

When I came back from the factory in China two weeks ago people asked me how it went. With a smile on my face and a ton of enthusiasm I would give the short answer: Very very very good! 

And of course, there is also the detailed answer which I want to share with you. 

Actually, let me walk you through the factory:

Before getting onto the assembly floor we usually meet in out small office that we have inside the factory. We usually first get through a quick planning session on the white board and then everyone gets ready with the "very fashionable” ESD clothing - from shoes (sort of Birkenstocks) to cap (sort of a baker’s cap). You of see some of that on the picture of Jessica and David below. 

When you arrive at the entrance of the production floor you would maybe be a little bit surprised about the high level of security. You can roughly compare it to inernational airport security - apart from the important difference that in our factory’s case you are not allowed to bring in (or out) anything just like that. On this level that type of security is pretty standard especially though given the fact that some of the largest brands in the world manufacture just next to us in the same facility.

Imagine a hall the size of a target supermarket. When you walk in you see hundreds of white pick n’place machines and reflow ovens. For those of you who are not familiar with such machines - it looks a bit similar to the x-ray machines at airports -just much bigger. The noice level in the hall is not particularly high but you will notice a lot of beeping signals from all the machines. These machines are the place where the PCB boards get assembled - or more precisely - where all components get placed and soldered onto the bare PCBs. Anyways - first time visitors might gaze at another type of machine even more: There are about a dozen of self driving vehicles that are driving raw parts and products from one end of the hall to its destination. It’s fun to watch those little vehicles which look like sort of a wheeled robot version of a turtle. Those so called “AGVs" are even sort of friendly, if you stand in their way they will stop, talk to you in Chinese and just wait until you step aside.   

I saw this a couple of times now but still -everyday I think it’s special to arrive in such a different world. You can really dive into it as you are pretty isolated from the outside world as you don’t even have your smart phone with you. 

To get to the coolest spots in the hall, you walk down maybe 200ft to our reflow line and then you follow it all the way to the other end of the hall. In between you get to the assembly line of one famous product that I like very much. I have to admit I can never resist to walk by without quickly looking at what’s going on at their line and sometimes I watch a couple of units being made. The craftsmanship of manufacturing is something beautiful. If you continue to walk for about 300ft you arrive at the NEEO assembly line which is itself about 100ft long. Look, maybe I’m strange. As a kid I loved seeing documentaries of things being manufactured. I was (and still am) especially fascinated by human and machine working together harmoniously. 

The moment when I arrived at our assembly line now seeing all the adapters and fixtures in place and a big team working on them was unbelievable. Seeing dozens of awesome operators running every test with every single unit and also seeing raw parts on one side of the line and final products going into the gift box on the other side is a crazy feeling that is hard to explain. I’m extremely proud of everyone who is involved to make this possible. Thousands and thousands of thoughts and work-hours went into the development of such a well working manufacturing line.   

During my time in China I worked on most of the stations myself to get a better feel and idea of how well things work for the operators. The operators laughed sometimes when they saw me being not even half as fast as them, but hey - I tried! ;) We optimised quite a list of things with them to improve their daily work environment. We made sure everyone gets the best conditions like better table height or we improved things like the visual feedback during tests so the guys could read it easier and from distance. I was impressed how well everyone there understands the specific manufacturing details of our product. They also clearly all aim for the same high quality standard. There is quite some manufacturing knowledge - especially in the field of mobile devices -  that you find exclusively in China today. Let me tell this very clearly: I’m so thankful to have those guys being part of this. I believe we have a much stronger than usual link to the entire manufacturing team over there. Most of us don’t speak Chinese but with the help of translators and body language we got to know everyone better and also during lunches and sometimes dinner we had fun and beautiful moments beside work. We all worked hard but we also laughed a lot and I’m pretty sure everyone agrees this is not “just a job”. I was pretty touched when one of the operators told me (via a translator) that they will miss me very much when I leave. 

I look forward seeing them again soon! But - I had some good reasons to travel back: I brought the official serial #1 NEEO back home!   
 

So - What’s next?

Toward the end of this month we plan to start making higher volumes. Here is the updated list.

Points form last month:

  • Manufacturing another badge of ~300 units DONE
  • Mid to late March: Running one last reliability and durability testing round with these latest units DONE
  • Mid to late March: Approving slightly changed docking station top lids (we scrapped the last batch of 10K units that I mention in the last update as they did not fully meet quality standard)  DONE
  • Mid to late March: Full round of quality checks on the 300 units DONE

Next steps:

  • Late April/ Early May: Getting into production of thousands of units 
  • Getting the golden master version of the firmware ready and install it onto the flash stations in China
  • Optimize some production tests (won’t cause a delay) 

Remaining challenges:

  • We currently see no bigger challenges remaining

 

Jessica & David welcoming the official Serial #000001

Jessica & David welcoming the official Serial #000001

Reliability Testing

ONE OF THE FIRST 3ft DROPS OF A BRAIN

ONE OF THE FIRST 3ft DROPS OF A BRAIN

We did quite some reliability tests in the past but we had another round scheduled to test the latest build. Short summary is: This thing is not going to break! 

I think it’s pretty mean trying to “destroy" any NEEO gear - even if it’s for a good purpose. It was hard watching the lab guys torture 10 perfect units. The cool news: All units have passed. To bring it to the real limit we ran additional drop tests with one brain to see how much it takes until it finally dies. It took 21!! drops onto graphite form a 6 feet height until the light guide loosened- but the brain was still functional and the aluminum only showed very few marks. 

One other cool result was the drop test of the remote. We ran all the standard drops for mobile devices several times but it was kind of "boring" as literally nothing broke! The aluminum shell barely got some marks for the impact on the graphite. We also finalised the official tests with zero functional damages. The only thing that happened with some of the drops was the back shell of the remote that jumped out sometimes. Clicking it back in takes 2 seconds and can be done by everyone so this is no issue. The testing team was very impressed. The engineer who was running the reliability lab said NEEO was the most solid mobile device he has ever tested. Not so bad.

Software Status Update

Our software crew usually pushes out a new release to the BETA testers every week. The last released version (v0.30.1 “Flame") includes a ton of good stuff like improved pairing, better encryption, a ton of improved Z-Wave handling, better consistency between app and remote, recovery mode improvements, faster reconnect of Wifi and much, much more. 

This release is pretty nice but some parts are not as stable as its predecessor. This is usual though and the team is typically pretty good getting back to stable fast. I heard form Joel at our stress-test lab that they are are already messing with v.0.33 . and apparently this one is going to be a very promising and robust release. The software team has grown a bit and the amount of work that gets done weekly is super impressive. To give you an example: The last release notes had 58 items on it and each one of them I commented with NIIIICE!

You can look forward to it!

 

Backer event and ISE

We attended the ISE show in Amsterdam and as usual we were very busy. This time we brought mostly engineers to the show because I really want to share that experience with everyone within the team. It’s so different to witness live how people react to NEEO compared to just hearing it form someone else.

The guys did a very solid job and I heard from a couple of visitors that they loved talking to engineers because it’s so much more authentic than talking to some sales guys. We will definitively continue to have engineers on the front. I believe in the real stuff, that’s why I’m writing this blog myself and not leaving it up to some marketing dudes :-)

At ISE we showed a different setup compared to previous shows. We brought more than usual AV sources with us - such as the latest XBOX. For that reason the TV was short of HDMI inputs. We thought that’s the perfect use case to show implementation of an HDMI matrix switcher. Many thanks to the crew at HD Anywhere for the matrix you provided us! 

ISE is a trade show for professionals so one thing we showed in particular was the integration with other home automation systems. Hundreds of visitors were amazed to learn that they can actually use NEEO in traditional systems like Control4, Crestron etc. On day one we will have sample integrations available for the installers of those systems.

Many of those dealers also figured they will actually be fine doing all their automation purely on NEEO. There was not one single use case the guys came up with that could not be covered with NEEO. Also some of the largest Z-Wave dealers who mess with demo systems right now plan to use NEEO as their primary controller in their upcoming projects. Of course I love to hear that!

Thursday Evening we have held the 'BEER with NEEO’ event for backers exclusively. Ohhh man this was a great evening - with one very special moment. Thanks everyone for coming over. We made sure every backer got a pass for free beers and we started the evening off very casually with some food and great discussions. Jeremias did a great job moderating through the evening. After the first couple of beers it was time for the competition. We had prepared some cards with questions to test your NEEO knowledge and we had some exclusive prizes for the top five winners ready. 3rd to 5th place received a hand made NEEO brain trophy. 2nd place was my NEEO skateboard signed by the team. I initially wanted this skateboard to ride in the office from my desk to the printer but thought it’s also a cool prize for a backer so I let it go. The first prize was a brand new 55” Samsung 4K TV. Brand new is actually not completely true: It was the actual TV we used at our trade show booth. Congrats to the winners!

Of course we had a present for every backer. We had some special edition backer t-shirts. Also we brought some NEEO chocolate for everyone from Switzerland (the good stuff). 

The very special moment was planned as a surprise just after the prize ceremony. I held a short speech explaining how important you people  -who believe in us- are, especially during troublesome days. I then mentioned that there is one amazing guy among the kickstarter community whom I wanted to thank especially this evening. Niels de Klerk who is the most active person in the commenting section. Well, we had a little surprise ready for him. In a black box. There was a NEEO logo on that box. And in there was the first NEEO combo ever delivery to a backer! Uuuuhhaaaaa! I waited very long for that moment and man this was special. Niels you deserve it and you are an amazing beta tester too. Thanks so much for being part of this!

Speaking about beta testing: JOIN THE BETA GROUP

Join the BETA group

As we are getting more and more units manufactured later this month we can make over 50 additional BETA tester slots available. BETA testers get weekly firmware releases and get access to the latest developments to provide feedback before a stable firmware then gets pushed out to the entire NEEO community. 

A big thank you to the current tester groups who have done excellent work in the last year! Your effort helps finding the hidden issues, bugs and edge cases we all want to tackle. Thanks for being so active!

Everyone who wants to join the BETA team please be aware of the following:

  • We really care about having active testers, make sure you have some time available to play with the product and to provide feedback. 
  • We care about testing a big variety of setups. We therefore include testers based on the gear they have
  • You will get the weekly BETA releases. Sometimes they are not stable. If you (or your family) prefers to have a stable setup at all time - you better don’t get into BETA firmware or the testing of it 
  • You might test some yet secret functions - make sure you are happy to keep the surprises for you as long as the function is not announced
  • NEEO will provide you hardware for those tests, over time the most active testers will get even more NEEO stuff to mess with 

To apply for the beta program please reach out to support@neeo.com. Send us an e-mail with a short list of the equipment you will test NEEO with. The new testers will be chosen and be informed in about a week from today. 

We look forward having many of you on the BETA team. Many of you will be invited to remain part of the BETA team for many month, even years. Potentially also for future products.