Alexa enabled, 6 USB charging ports, music playing, smart alarm clock. Meet the Sandman Doppler, the best alarm clock you've ever seen!
Latest Updates from Our Project:
Schedule, display, light sensor and color updates
about 1 month ago
– Sat, May 18, 2019 at 12:47:49 AM
Loyal Doppler backer,
Strap in for another informative Kickstarter update!
In this update we will discuss schedule, display updates, our new light sensor, and colors!
First off, let’s talk about timeline and missed deadlines. Yes, we are aware we have missed deadlines, quite a few of them. We are sure you aren’t happy about it and we aren’t either. We want to continue being transparent and explain how and why these missed deadlines happen. Whenever we publish a schedule we try and get buy in and agreement from all parties involved, and yes there are a lot of different people involved in the Doppler at this point. Sometimes some of these parties (including us) slip with their delivery dates, sometimes other things happen which are nobody’s fault. So what has happened in the last couple of months to delay the Doppler further? It’s been a combination of a bunch of things, but the main issue we have been running into is supplier issues around our electronic parts. This is not an uncommon problem and is made worse due to the size of our orders and the fact that we aren’t a household name (yet!). Purchasing large volumes of electronic components isn’t as easy as it should be and it’s a complex and convoluted mess of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and way too many salespeople. A lot of the slowdown at the moment is due to the escalating trade war between the US and China causing a lot of confusion and uncertainty on the best way to do things. Because we aren’t ordering as many parts as larger companies we tend to get assigned the junior salespeople that are just learning the business or ignored in general for a week or two until they decide to do their jobs and try and take our money and give us the parts we need. Hopefully, you can tell, we are getting a little frustrated about this, but it’s part of the process and we will continue to fight through things and get everything in order so you can receive your Doppler.
So, what still needs to be done and when will that happen? We are working on our final board revision and our final tool changes (more on those below) before our beta run. We expect these boards to be made and tested in around 3 weeks and the tool mods should take around the same time. At that point we will hit the GO button on the 200 unit beta test. We are estimating that it will take 3-4 weeks to get all the betas built up. We will also be flying to our factory in China to oversee this beta build and make sure everything is functioning properly. So, assuming nothing else slips we are looking at around 7 weeks until the beta units are built. At that point, we will ship all the beta units to our office in the states and then off to our beta testers. We hope this schedule stays on track, but we will let you know if things change.
While the Beta testers are doing their thing and giving us their feedback on the product we will be preparing for the initial production run of 5,000 Dopplers which we estimate will start about 4 weeks after the Beta run ends. We anticipate the initial production run to take 3-4 weeks to make all your Dopplers, and then we will ship the Doppler via a boat which takes around 3 weeks. Once it arrives in our office we will forward them on to you!
These timelines are all best case scenario and all we can do is hope everything goes according to plan and then work hard if something goes wrong. Since we can’t predict the delays that will happen we are hoping to adhere as close to this schedule as possible and will let you know if things slip. As always, we are sorry on these delays, but the Doppler is so darn close to getting in your hands! Thanks for continuing to be patient and sticking with us, you’ll end up with an awesome product you’ll love!
As we mentioned in a previous update we weren’t happy with how the display of the Doppler looked. There were a couple issues that we wanted to improve before we even think about shipping the product. Well, we are happy to show some improvements we have made on the display front.
These changes are most noticeable at night and in particular around the temperature area of the dashboard. These improvements were made by a couple of techniques. Here is a closeup view
We added some epoxy material to pot or cover the lights and decrease “hotspotting”. We still think we can reduce the hotspotting further and the next build will improve this further by changing the color and opacity of the epoxy.
Another improvement we have made is by decreasing the amount of space between the front window and the front of the display frame. Making this tool change allows less light to reflect off the front window and back onto the display frame resulting in an improved display.
The last change to improve the display is adjusting the tint of the Doppler front window. This hides the unlit segments and it’s truly a Goldilocks situation to find a tint which isn’t so dark that it hides the lights but also isn’t too light so you can still see the unlit segments. Another important thing to note with the window tint is the color of the tint. Since the Doppler has red, green, and blue lights you want to make sure the tint you have is a neutral color so it doesn’t affect the color of the segments at all.
Currently we have only ever made Black Dopplers, but that will change as many of you have wanted Dopplers in different colors. Choosing the color of a product isn’t as easy as just saying “Make a Red Doppler”. How do you know that what you picture as red is the same as everyone else? The best way to solve this is by using what’s called a Pantone color. Pantone is a company that specializes in colors and they aim to solve this issue. Here is a quick video inside their factory. In preparation for the production run of Dopplers, we finalized the 7 colors (black, gray, blue, red, orange, pink) that we want the Doppler to come in by selecting Pantone colors for each color.
Once these colors were selected we sent these colors over to our Chinese team who made color samples or chips of each color with the proper soft touch coating. This is not an easy process as it requires mixing the paint and checking it against the Pantone color. The soft touch coating is almost perfectly clear, but it does alter the color slightly which makes this process harder than usual. We are very happy with 5 of the 6 colors. The red color chip isn’t quite what we were hoping for, so we will make a new sample before a red Doppler is made to make sure it’s perfect.
As you probably know, we have had a couple major parts of the Doppler disappear on us for various reasons, so this time we did everything we could to plan ahead. About 6 months ago, we noticed that the particular light sensor we had chosen was beginning to disappear from major online distributors like Digikey. We liked this particular light sensor for its size, features and price. Even though the manufacturer assured up this part would be widely available we have seen situations like this before and we decided to form a contingency plan and find a replacement light sensor just in case the current one was no longer available. Our electrical engineering team decided to design our boards with 2 different light sensor pads on a single board and then we would put whichever light sensor we could get onto the boards. When we tried to order our first 5,000 light sensors a month ago we were told that that light sensor we liked had been discontinued or become “end of life” as it’s known in the industry. Thankfully we had this contingency plan in place already and had the different sensor designed on our board, so we swapped out the sensors, and rewrote some firmware for our microprocessor to use the new sensor. This could have been a pretty major issue, crisis averted.
New board revision
As mentioned earlier in the update we also have made a new revision of the board design. This is not a major revision and the majority of changes that were made were very minor housekeeping type of changes to increase manufacturability, yield and to decrease cost. Since we have a board design that works we have been able to take home and test the Doppler in its native habitat, the bedroom, when we did that we noticed one major issue. The Doppler doesn’t get as dim as we want it at night. One of our favorite features of the Sandman is how dim the display got at night, sometimes so dark you could only tell it was on after your eyes had dark adapted. Since we have had a Doppler in a trade show or office setting and we were still tweaking the mechanical we hadn’t noticed this issue until now. The majority of this board change is allowing us to dim the LEDs down further than we could before. All the parts are ordered for this final board revision before we go to beta. We will share an update with you all when these boards are working and tested! We aim to have the update in 3 weeks or so.
Thanks again for sticking through this process with us, everyone is going to end up with a fantastic product that you will love! As always if you ever have comments or questions please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment here. We do our best to always respond within 1 business day.
-The PAI Team
Battery backup, pick and place, alphas and betas!
2 months ago
– Sat, Apr 06, 2019 at 02:33:03 AM
First off, we apologize for the delay in this update. We have been doing our best to keep you up to date on our progress, but things slipped a little bit since we have been so busy lately.
As mentioned in the previous update, our plan is to continually add features to your Doppler, even after it ships. In order to do this, we will need a robust OTA update solution that allows us to remotely update the software on the Doppler easily, safely, and securely. This is not an easy task, but we are happy to announce that it is working! We are able to remotely update a Doppler with the click of a button, when this happens the Doppler downloads the update from our servers and then restarts with any new features or fixes we have implemented. This is all done securely, so fear not, nobody is going to be hacking your Doppler. Another potential issue with over-the-air updates is what to do when a planned update doesn’t work correctly. The big concern with this issue is: if there is something wrong with the update, what happens to the Doppler now that it has bad software on it? Fortunately, this is something we have thought about as well. If something goes wrong during the update our solution will automatically revert to the previously working software of the Doppler, this is called failover. This will prevent the majority, if not all of the issues that can be caused by the updates. Getting this updater working also allows us to streamline our development process and guarantee that all Dopplers in the world will be on the same software version, at the same time.
One of the software features we have been working on is the internal battery backup. Having a smart alarm clock is great, but what happens when the power goes out? The Doppler has an internal rechargeable battery backup that will keep the time and still wake you up at the proper time if the power goes out in the middle of the night. How does it do this? When the Doppler senses that power has been lost it shuts almost everything down and goes into a low power “sleep mode”. This sleep mode turns off all USB charging, all the lights/displays, and the Linux computer. The Microprocessor remembers the current time as well as the next alarm that is supposed to go off. If the power is not restored by the time the alarm is supposed to go off a buzzer will sound waking up the user. This is powered by a small coin cell battery that is on the button board which is constantly recharged and never needs to be replaced. All of these battery backup features are automatic so you should never have to worry about setting your alarm, the Doppler has you covered!
Another issue we have noticed is the long boot time of the Linux computer. Currently, it takes about a minute for the Linux computer to start up and get Doppler’s functions running properly. For normal embedded Linux products, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but with an alarm clock it is. We decided against using an external power light on the device because we wanted the room to stay as dark as possible. What this means is that when you initially power on the Doppler, it would appear as though nothing is happening for the first minute or so. As you might imagine, this makes for a very poor user experience and we are working on firmware to fix this. When the firmware fix is implemented, and you plug in the Doppler for the first time, you’ll get lights right away (although the time won’t be correct until you either manually set the time, or you connect to the internet). We are still working on these features and with our over-the-air software updates, we will be able to add new ones as we create them!
In our last update, we talked about the Alpha units we made and debuted at CES. Over the last couple of years, our engineers here at PAI Headquarters have learned a lot about the best way to assemble Dopplers quickly and efficiently. Recently, we have been transferring the knowledge we have gained to our manufacturing team in Shenzhen, China. This will help them to build Dopplers even more efficiently than we can stateside. Because the Doppler will be mass-produced overseas, they will be using pick and place machines to load up the Doppler boards with electronic components much faster and more accurately than doing it by hand. Pick and place is a cornerstone in the electronics manufacturing world as it takes the incredibly tedious job of placing components onto a board and automates it to a staggeringly fast speed. We have gone over the manual process before in a previous update but for a quick refresher, you start by placing a substance called solder paste onto the gold parts of the circuit board, these are called pads. The majority of the parts on the Doppler’s circuit boards are about the size of a grain of rice, or smaller, and these parts have to be placed with extreme precision in the proper orientation onto the pads of the circuit boards. Once all the components are placed, you put the boards into a special oven called a reflow oven which heats to a specific temperature in order to melt the solder paste and “glue” the tiny components to the circuit boards using a conductive metal called solder. Previously, we have worked with a local assembly house and all of the components were placed by hand! It took over 30 minutes per board and was incredibly difficult work, but it’s how prototype boards made. When mass-producing boards like we will be doing with the Doppler, you receive most of the small components in giant reels, kind of like an ammo belt allowing the machine to access the parts easily.
These components are then fed into a feeder which gets placed inside the pick and place machine. Next, a machine reaches down and uses a tiny vacuum to pick up a single component and place it onto the boards in the correct spot. Since the parts are so small, there will frequently be an optical inspection step in between picking up the part and placing it on the circuit board to make sure that the machine has indeed picked up a part. Once the parts are put onto the circuit boards, it goes through a separate automated optical inspection (called an AOI) and then into the reflow oven to permanently attach the parts to the board. These pick and place machines will be able to do a Doppler board in less than a minute; some of them can place 100,000 parts an hour!
We are currently programming the pick and place machines for the overseas Alpha run, this will allow us to begin to fine tune all of these steps to make sure the Doppler boards are made efficiently and with a high yield once production starts. By next week, the boards for this overseas Alpha run will be ready to pair with the modified plastics discussed in previous updates. Once we have verified that everything looks good with these units, we will be ready to hit “GO” on the Beta.
Let’s discuss the Beta test. Whenever you build a new product you want to do a pilot run to make sure everything is working properly. We are going to be sending these pilot units to our beta backers. The beta backers will be working closely with us and finding any and all bugs or imperfections they can with the Doppler before it gets into consumer’s hands.
Building 200 units of something isn’t easy, let alone 5,000 which will be the size of our initial production run. It requires a lot of planning and forethought. Over the past month, we have been working very closely with Future Electronics and our manufacturing team to purchase all the electronics components for the Doppler. While this sounds simple on the surface, it’s actually a monumental task. The Doppler has 497 individual parts from 40 different manufacturers on its various circuit boards! Each of those parts requires us to negotiate with a salesperson from that manufacturer or distributor to make sure they can get us the parts when we need them and at a reasonable price. Having Future Electronics on-board has been a huge help since they do a lot of the work for us, but it’s still taken quite a bit of time. The electronics industry is an ever-changing landscape and lead times can be a huge issue. These lead times can be 6-12 months (yes you read this correctly), so we are working on finding a replacement for these parts and buying them up and storing them to avoid these long lead times. Once we have sourced all necessary replacements we will work on getting as many parts as possible for the production build in-house before the beta build is completed. We are hoping to get the Beta build started by the end of the month! Beta backers, stay tuned for more updates coming in the next couple of weeks!
Thanks again for your patience and as always, if you ever have any questions, please let us know in the comments below!
Schedule update, CES recap, and Alpha units
4 months ago
– Sat, Feb 16, 2019 at 12:00:21 AM
Patient PAI people,
We survived CES! It was quite an ordeal, but well worth it. In this update, learn about how CES went for us, what we learned about the Doppler, and what the next steps are.
A quick note on the schedule. Our earlier estimate of shipping production units in March was a bit too optimistic, as it was predicated on the Alpha units being basically perfect. We were hopeful that these Alpha’s would look a little better than they did, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case; we have a full breakdown of the issues in this update. However, the small delay does give us the opportunity to make sure that everything is absolutely perfect with the Doppler before we get the production units into your hands. The good news is that none of the issues we discovered are major, and once everyone is back from the Chinese New Year holiday (more on this below), we will have a clearer picture of how much time it will take to resolve the issues preventing the Doppler from looking its best. Assuming all of the mechanical parts look good (more on this below), the biggest issue in getting production Dopplers into your hands is going to be the lead time for the electronic components. Some of these parts have multiple month long lead times, and we are working with all of our vendors and suppliers to get enough parts for the beta and initial production builds ASAP. We don’t want to give any incorrect information, but our initial rough estimates is that we will begin shipping Dopplers in April or May. Stay tuned for the next update and we will have a more accurate timeline. Thanks again for your patience, we are getting really close!
This was our third time exhibiting at CES and it was our biggest and most successful show to date. Check out the last update we posted from the show floor! The show was a huge success and we met lots of past, present, and future customers. We also met quite a few backers at the show this year, thanks again for stopping by and checking out the Doppler everyone! We also met numerous current and potential partners to help the Doppler grow and expand.
In a previous updatewe discussed our Alpha build. These were the units that we used at CES So, how did the units look? In short, they looked very good. Everyone at the show was very impressed and happy with them and so are we. That said, we have very high expectations and want to deliver a high-quality product, so we weren’t 100% happy with these units. Since our goal is to make sure the Doppler is the best product (it can be/possible/etc.), as soon as we got back from the show, we started working with our overseas team to fix a couple of issues we noticed.
The window on the Doppler is the piece of transparent plastic over the front display. This is a vital piece and the current windows just didn’t fit quite right. You’ll notice that the window tends to bow out, or not sit flat on the front of the alpha units. There is still some tweaking to this part and we are hoping this next revision of the part is going to fit juuuust right.
Another issue with the window was the tint/color. With the tint, some of the windows were too dark or too light which means that they weren’t letting the proper amount of light from the LEDs through. A related issue has to do with the color of the window, both in terms of getting the proper color, and making sure the windows are consistent with one another. In the below picture, all of the Dopplers are set to the same color (white). You can see pretty clearly that although the color of the LEDs is the same, they look very different. This is something we are working on and will fine tune with our overseas team.
Finally, the consistency of the colors on the buttons is not quite right. Some of them aren’t looking as “white” as we would like, and that inconsistency causes some of the buttons to look pinkish when they should be white. This is most noticeable at night, and is basically impossible to photograph. You're going to have to trust us on this!
Unfortunately, we are currently in the period of the year where almost all work in China stops due to the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday. Officially CNY is a 7-day holiday but from our experience, most factories end up shutting down for 2 full weeks. Some suppliers like to take the week before and/or after the holiday off as well, resulting in a shut down of up to 4 weeks. While this is a major shutdown and time sink, it is something that we had planned for. So, even though China is taking a break, we are not (more on this later). We expect everyone to be back up to speed by the last week in February.
Once the CNY holiday is over and all our suppliers are back to work, we will make sure all the new tooling modifications look good and begin ordering all of the parts for the beta test build. As is standard practice in manufacturing, the beta units will be assembled at the same factory in which the production units will be made. This allows us both to create all of the quality assurance and assembly instruction paperwork, and then refine the process as needed to ensure the Dopplers are built the same every time and meet our high-quality standards. Once these units have all been tested and approved, we will ship them back to our offices and then on to our beta backers. Beta backers, make sure to keep an eye out for emails from us in the coming weeks and months! Your role in this part of the process is very important in the final development of the Doppler.
So, what have we been up to?
While CNY has been happening we have been spending most of our energy working on the software of the Doppler. As great as the Doppalator is, having an Alpha unit on your desk to play with and fix bugs is super handy!
Without getting into too many technical details, as we get closer to production, the time has come to change the operating system that the Doppler is running on. Fear not! This was always part of the plan, and we are happy to report it’s almost complete! Prior to this point, we have been using an off-the-shelf Linux operating system called Ubuntu for development because it’s easier to get up and running. Now that the show is over, the goal is to optimize Doppler’s software so we can maximize its speed and performance. As some of you may be aware, although Ubuntu is easier to set up, it also comes with a lot of unnecessary stuff that takes up valuable space, and won’t improve Doppler’s performance. Instead, we are transitioning to something called Yocto, which is an open source project that creates customized Linux operating systems for embedded devices (like the Doppler!). While Yocto-based operating systems aren’t as easy to work with and get up and running as Ubuntu, they allow us to get over-the-air updates for the Doppler working much more easily and efficiently. Once our Yocto is up and running, we will have a customized Linux operating system specifically designed for the Doppler. What do you guys think we should name it? Doppler OS? DopOs?
So, how will these over the air updates work with the Doppler? Here is the vision and what we are working on implementing now.
We plan on continuously supporting and adding new features to the Doppler after launch. So whenever we have new features or bug fixes to send to our customer’s Dopplers you’ll get a notification in the Doppler app saying there is new software available for your Doppler. You’ll click install on your phone and then the magic happens! Your Doppler will download the new software release (with the new features and/or bug fixes) over its WiFi connection and then restart itself when downloaded, don’t worry when the Doppler restarts it will keep all of your custom settings and alarms. We are working to make this process as seamless and automatic as possible. In the future, we plan on allowing your Doppler to automatically update itself overnight and still wake you up in the morning without having to trigger the update in the app. Our over the air updating solution also has the ability to revert to a previous good software release in case something goes wrong during the update. Now all of this isn’t easy to implement so we have been hard at work on making this a reality.
Another thing we have been working on is our IF This Then That (IFTTT) integration. IFTTT is a web-based service which allows users to utilize their internet capable products in conjunction with each other. As its name indicates (similar to conditional statements in computer programming), the way it works is: the user makes/chooses a “recipe” which takes a condition (IF This), and triggers a secondary action when that condition is met (Then That). This allows you to use the two quick access buttons on top of the Doppler to trigger an IFTTT “applet” to open your internet connected blinds or turn off your smart light bulbs. Integrating directly with IFTTT straight off the bat allows for a practically limitless number of customizations that the Doppler can use rather than building out lots of individual integrations ourselves. Around the office the past couple days we have been coming up with lots of different IFTTT recipes, like changing the display color of the Doppler if you have an unread email or you’re supposed to be in a meeting or on your lunch break. Look, we didn’t say that all of the ideas were good, but that’s the thing with IFTTT; you can quickly and easily get everything up and running easily without any technical knowledge. We will be sharing some of the best IFTTT use cases as we get closer to launch. Have a good idea for IFTTT? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks again for your patience, we are heading down the home stretch!
-The PAI team
Hi from CES 2019!
5 months ago
– Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 05:55:45 PM
Hi Kickstarter fans!
Here we are on our last day of CES 2019 and as always it's a tiny bit slower than the first 3 days of the show. We decided to shoot a quick video showing off the Doppler and some of it's features at the show.
Here is the video:
The show has been great and it's been awesome to meet a lot of our suppliers, distributors, current and future customers, and a lot of backers!
Here is a shot of our booth:
We had some nice comfy couches so people could charge up while they recharge. They were a big hit!
Thanks again for your support and patience from the entire PAI team!
Dev-1 and CES
6 months ago
– Sat, Dec 22, 2018 at 12:58:09 AM
Patient PAI people,
Have we got an update for you! We have a very functional Doppler we would like to show you! Read below for how we got to this point, next steps and to learn more about the biggest trade show of the year, CES.
When we last updated you on the status of the circuit boards of the Doppler we were working with our new digital signal processor (DSP) supplier to get everything working on the boards. Well, we are happy to report that the boards are now 100% functional and working great!
Once we got the circuit boards working, it was time for integration. This step is basically taking the Doppler software we have been working on, and getting it to run properly on the newest hardware rather than on our computers. Since we have been planning this integration for a while this went fairly smoothly and we only had one or two unexpected things pop up. After we had the software running properly, we starting checking off features that we had to test and make sure worked (Wifi, Bluetooth, light sensor, microphones, etc). Once all of this was tested, we assembled our first Doppler developer kit, Dev-1.
Dev-1 is actually going to be sent to Israel for our App partner, Zemingo to work with, but first, we wanted to do some testing. We brought Dev-1 home and checked it out in its native habitat, the nightstand. We also brought Dev-1 to an audio testing lab to work on tuning the microphones and Alexa response. Dev-1 is designed with its brain (the board housing the Pico-SoM) on the outside of the case, so in case we ever need to change or swap out anything, it’s much easier. Having the Pico-SoM outside of the case also allows us to push software upgrades and bug fixes very fast as well.
Now that we have integrated everything together and verified, what’s the next step?
We are doing an alpha build of the Doppler which we will be showing at the world’s largest consumer electronics show, CES in Las Vegas. Last year, we went to CES to show off the Doppler prototype, this year we plan on showing off 20 Doppler units, in production plastics! It’s been a rough year filled with supplier issues, but the alpha units we will be showing off at the show this year will be very close to finished and we are very proud of what we have accomplished.
CES is a big deal for a company like us. This year we are doing the show right, we will have a large 20’x20’ booth with comfy couches for all the attendees to take a break and charge their phone.
If that link doesn’t work, shoot us an email at email@example.com and we look forward to seeing you at the show.
One more thing we wanted to share with you as CES approaches. At the show this year we are planning on announcing a new brand, which means a new product… before we ship Doppler. The goal of Palo Alto Innovation was always to have multiple brands underneath the PAI umbrella, and we are beginning to truly realize that vision at this show. The reason we are giving everyone the heads up is we want to make it 100% crystal clear that we did not take any resources away from Doppler to focus on the new brand at any point in the past or in the future. Product development is a cycle, and we are towards the end of the cycle for Sandman, so while our manufacturing, hardware, and software teams have been hard at work on Doppler, our design and graphics team have been working on the new brand. We invested a lot of money in CES this year and we have to make it count, and in order to do that, we might ruffle a few feathers by announcing our latest product before the Doppler has been shipped. We thought long and hard about this decision, and we know some of you will be unhappy, but please believe us when we say that delivering the Doppler to each and every one of you is still our #1 priority. In advance thanks for your understanding!
After CES is over, and we catch our breath, we will be hard at work preparing for the Beta build of Dopplers, which will be a 200 unit pilot test that will be made overseas. These beta units will go to our beta backers and we will work very closely with them to make sure everything is up to par. Thanks again to all our beta backers who are willing to be our guinea pigs! You are going to make the Doppler better for everyone! We will be in close communication with all of you when the beta program gets closer to kicking off. Once the beta units are tested, we will move onto full-scale production! We strive to keep you informed as we continue down this stretch run towards fulfilling your pledges. Thanks again for sticking through this with us, we know it hasn’t been easy, but we promise it will be worth the wait.