Thursday, August 21, 2014

USB Phone Charge Monitor

Over the last few years the USB standard has had trouble keeping up with the need to charge tablets and phones at ever increasing currents. It resulted in a fragmentation of the standard and all sorts of implementations.  Even more annoying one can sometimes find combinations of phones and changers which seem to work.... but in practice the phone is charging only at an extremely low rate.

This USB voltage tester I snagged off ebay is a good example of a solution to this problem... pop it into your bag and when faced with a new or dodgy charger one can see if it's functional.

The display is an organic LED and it alone was worth the price of the whole module... so clear and bright!

Video here:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Robosmart Wireless LED Light Bulb

The combination of an LED bulb with some form of wireless remote control is a growing niche of the LED bulb industry.  The unique attribute of this bulb is that it can be controlled directly from a smartphone or tablet with without the need for a wifi network and an external hub.

It's from what appears to be a small start up company.  They chose a very poor wireless  protocol: Bluetooth 4.0.  It's only supported by a very small subset of phones and tablets.... for what is already a specialty market they chose to close them selves even further into a box.  One wonders if they were even  aware of the concept of total-addressable-market (TAM) when they picked the protocol.  A choice of bluetooth 2.x or wifi would have significantly broadened the devices which could control the bulb.... as is it's only the most expensive of expensive smartphones and tablets which can use this bulb.  

The bulb seems to work as advertised, however it's difficult to imagine real life scenarios in a real-home where this bulb could make a difference... I just can't see giving a Iphone 5S to every family member so they can turn on the lights!

It's a solution seeking a problem which can be better solved by much cheaper technology.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

NiceEShop 6w Recessed Led Panel: the future?

Many of my  Youtube videos over the last year have been on LED bulbs.  It's an interesting emerging market with lots of innovation on the engineering and business fronts.

To date, however, many of my tear downs have been on "A19" bulbs...the level of innovation has been over-the top in trying to squeeze LEDs into a package designed for a tungsten wire and glass envelope.

On a completely different axis is this product: a recessed lighting panel.  Here the vendor takes design freedom to repackage LEDs without reference to the past.  It's a good looking product and it performs quite well (other than, I suspect, efficacy).

Over the very long term (> 20 years) as old lighting is retired it would not be hard to imagine products like this owning the market.  The life-span of these panels should be a good-as or greater than the economic life of a typical renovation/build (i.e. they will not stop working before someone decides to renovate or move).

An interesting Amazon purchase from a shop called "niceeshop".

Video below:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Better Looking LED Bulbs: Nikko A19

So, one aspect of LED bulbs that one immediately notes is how ugly they are. As an item for interior design all of the glossy plastic, strange silver's and whites and especially exposed yellow phosphor must cause those who seek a design aesthetic to shrink in horror.

Now, as a design engineer I personally like the weird looks and technology... but if I put on my marketing hat one could see the immediate appeal of an LED based bulb that,well, looks like an old fashioned bulb.

Which brings us to to an interesting find: the Nikko A19 LED bulb.  It's a dead ringer for an incandescent... so much so I took a while at the store trying to decide if I should buy one.  The store display said LED, the price tag sure said "LED" but when one peeks into the box, the bulb is a incredible mimic of an incan.

The construction of the bulb is very unique.  They blow a glass envelope over the LED arrays... I am amazed that they can stay in process and not destroy the LEDs with excessive heat when they do that.  The wiring to the LED array lacks the standard thermoplastic.

The LEDs are mounted to a ceramic tower which should provide good heat conduction.  Snuggled inside the tower is an unremarkable AC-DC converter.  That looks like the weakest point.... an ACRICH type solution which is just a silicon die would seem like a stronger power converter.

The bulb cannot be dimmed  and it appears to have an excellent light pattern and an acceptable efficacy.

It's an interesting technology on the go with this bulb.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hot Coffee Cell Phone Charger

What happens when you have a dead cell phone battery while drinking a delicious cup of hot coffee at the shop?  Well, if you are technically inclined you start to think how you could take the considerable energy contained in hot coffee to create a cell phone charger.

It's a nice thought experiment which covers thermodynamics of water and the concept of specific heat.

Peltier's are incredibly inefficient: I manged to turn 168,000 Joules of energy into 4,000!... but it did prove my speculation.  An amusing morning's fun in the workshop on this rainy Saturday.

p.s.  You get funny looks at Starbucks when you carry your k-type thermocouple thermometer with you to measure your drink....

Peltier Junctions

A fascinating component that can refrigerate without any moving parts.  This tutorial video is a background on how to heat-sink these devices so they can do meaningful work.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Drift Light: Self Dimming LED Bulb... rise of the smart LED

The rise of smart-bulbs.  With the LED emitter array having a good life these bulbs change from being consumer disposable to consumer durable goods.  This means that it's rational to stuff the base full of micro-processor goodness.... this bulbs claim to fame is that it can go into a dimming pattern... helpful I presume for children who want the light to stay on at bedtime and for parents who just want to get to bed and not have to wake up to snap the light off!

Video review, below: