April 22, 2013

Category: Author: thomas Comments:

Optimizing Bluetooth Low Energy Performance

Last week, I was working on Loochi’s iOS application and spent some time trying to increase the frequency at which I could send updates from the app to the lamp.

In this article, I share some of my experience tuning this with the Bluegiga BLE112 module. The short answer is that you should use CBCharacteristicWriteWithoutResponse for maximum speed. This made a huge improvement.

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April 03, 2013

Category: Author: thomas Comments:

NodeJS+RaspberryPi - The easy way with pijs.io

JavaScript is a great programming language and lots of people are familiar with it. It should be no surprise that many have compiled nodejs for the Raspberry Pi and built npm packages dedicated to it.

We love nodejs and the expressiveness of JavaScript is perfect for embedded applications, however, we felt that it was:

  • Still, too hard (and too long) to install nodejs on the Raspberry Pi
  • Not convenient to edit code directly on the pi
  • Hard to debug long running process

We aim to fill that gap with pijs.io. PiJS lets you write code for your Raspberry Pi in your browser, deploys automatically to your Raspberry Pi, restarts automatically when the RaspberryPi is rebooted and even gives you a web-console to watch what’s going on.

Of course, it’s completely free (to use - and open source) and you can start using it today. Let’s walk through the initial setup.

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March 01, 2013

Category: Electronic Author: thomas Comments:

Pretty Cool Raspberrypi Poster By Elektor

Elektor just sent out its weekly newsletter: Elektor.POST (highly recommended) and this week they are giving away a very nice RaspberryPi poster.

Elektor RaspberryPi poster

You can download it here

I thought I would point this out because it’s one of the great things Elektor has been doing as part of their new online strategy: Magazines need to adapt to survive and I think they are doing a pretty good job.

I still think access to their forums should be free but at least they are trying something new and different. Big up to them!

Disclaimer: I have been an avid reader of elektor for as long as I can remember (my dad has always been a subscriber) - and I have learnt a lot thanks to them! But TBideas is not affiliated with them in any way ;)

February 08, 2013

Category: Author: thomas Comments:

Controling A High Power Rgb Led With A Raspberry Pi

Update: If you are interested in the Raspberry Pi, we think you will find our latest project interesting too: pijs.io is a web environment to write and run javascript programs on the rpi.

We recently decided to start moving our efforts from Arduino to the Raspberry Pi. Arduino is great for embedded projects and has served us well but connecting an Arduino to the Internet is extremely expensive: paying $100 for a micro-controller and a wifi board is not a good start for an embedded project.

A raspberry Pi meets a high power LED driver

One of the limitations of the Raspberry Pi is that it offers only one PWM output. Some people work around this by plugging a raspberry pi to an arduino or using external PWM generator but we were looking for something simpler and cheaper.

In this article we will show you how we connected a Raspberry Pi to a high power RGB led. Our solution does not require any other hardware and is extremely easy to reproduce!

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January 27, 2013

Category: Inside TBideas Author: thomas Comments:

Inside TBIdeas January 2013 - Indiegogo postmortem, Free boards, Arduino high-power LED driver ... and the International Space Station


Thomas discusses the end of the crowdfunding campaign of Loochi and the new prototypes that TBideas is giving away for free.

He also shows the first draft of the next project: an arduino compatible, wifi enabled, high power led driver. Boris jumps in and demonstrates how to track the International Space Station with it!

Share your questions in the comments and give the video a thumbs up if you like it!

January 21, 2013

Category: Startup-ing Author: thomas Comments:

Lessons Learnt On Indiegogo

On december 4th after several bumps on the road we launched our first Indiegogo campaign for Loochi, our open-source Bluetooth 4 lamp.

In this post we share the data we collected in a month to give you an idea of what to expect, metrics to compare to and a few lessons learnt on the way.

Lessons learnt in our first crowdfunding campaign

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January 15, 2013

Category: Electronic Author: thomas Comments:

Loochi 0.6 Prototypes

Loochi 0.6 board

It’s been a while since we shared progress on our prototypes. Loochi 0.5 should have been the “pre-production version” but we ran into a few issues:

  • The vias under the micro-controller caused some shortcuts. It took me a pretty long time to understand what was going on. I tried putting some tape between the CPU and the board but it became almost impossible to solder the cpu…
  • The bluetooth low energy module we were using is not yet available publicly and only in very small quantity so I switched back to Bluegiga BLE112.
  • We did some physical adjustments because the first board did not fit perfectly in the base and the lenses holes were not in the right place (I messed up some basic sin/cosine math … shame on me)

Anyway, Loochi 0.5 is dead - long live Loochi 0.6! I just finished building the first one and it works perfectly. This is great news: after weeks spent focusing on the hardware we will be able to switch our effort on the software.

As always, source code and design files are available in our github. I have made a PDF version of the schematic for your convenience.

As we announced before, we want your feedback and we will be sharing those boards with you guys. If you are interested by a Loochi electronic board (without the plastic and heatsink) put your name in the comments below, let us know what you want to do with it and we will send you one. We will probably build no more than 10 of those - it’s your chance to get a very unique Loochi … for free!

January 10, 2013

Category: Electronic Author: thomas Comments:

Connect Your Weather Station To Internet

A Wifi weather station based on Elektor USB Weather logger

Christmas brought its usual share of surprises and among them this year was an Elektor kit for a USB weather station (Yes my parents know me well ;).

This kit includes great sensors for temperature, pressure and humidity. It is designed to run on batteries for a very long time and you can plug it on your computer to download the data and plot them.

This is all very cool but in 2013, I really expect my weather station to upload it’s measures to the internet automatically. And it took about an afternoon and a $40 module to do just that …

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January 07, 2013

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

Switching To Git And Jekyll

After a long year spent fighting with wordpress, we just moved the site and blog to jekyll. It will give us a lot more flexibility to update the site as the year goes and we really needed it.

Lesson of the day: when you think about changing your website or adding something to it and you end up not doing it because it is too complicated, then you need to improve your tools.

January 07, 2013

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

What we have in store for 2013


Loochi’s campaign ended yesterday night at midnight. We sent a big thank you to all our backers, you can read it here.

Of course we have known for a while that without a miracle we would not be able to make it and we started to look at 2013 with brand new eyes. We met in late december to set a few principles for 2013. Here they are.

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November 28, 2012

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

How we are going to manufacture those Loochis

This was initially intended to be on our crowdfunding campaign page but we realized that there were a little too many details for most of our backers. So for those who really want to understand everything, here is the detail of how we are going to manufacture each part of Loochi.

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November 27, 2012

Category: General Author: Boris Comments:

Kickstarter = Frustration + incomprehension ?

Not approved... because of ???”)

Frustration & incomprehension should be the good words to describe our current feeling regarding Kickstarter.

Yesterday night, we have received for the third time a short email without any more details indicating

“Your project unfortunately falls outside of our scope and cannot be accepted”

The lack of details is really what is frustrating us today, as if we all have to accept failure / rejection sometimes in our live, we certainly all want to know why in order to try to do better and avoid it next time… That’s why today we ask for your help !

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November 25, 2012

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

Build your own Loochi: the plastic parts

Our goal is to provide a completely open-source smart lamp that anyone can build and tinker with. We hope it will be the basis of many exciting projects in the next few months.

We have covered the electronics in great details but when you are building a lamp, the actual object matters at least as much as what’s hidden inside! For many of us electronic or software geeks, actually building an object can seem quite scary and it would probably have been just a few years ago. However with recent progress in 3d printing, it has became incredibly easy!


In this post, we will look at the different components that compose Loochi, describe their roles and how to build the plastic parts.

Loochi’s components

Loochi is made of 6 different parts shown in the picture below.


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November 08, 2012

Category: General Author: Boris Comments:

Loochi's Kickstarter update

Loochi's Kickstarter update”)

Following our project post for 1st of November, we finally heard back from Kickstarter! As they come with a bunch of questions about the product and we expect to receive next week whole 3D-printed elements to assemble a complete prototype, we have decided to take the time to build it before asking them to validate the project again in 2-4 weeks. We are sorry about such delay, but be sure it will allow us to propose you an even better Loochi ;)

And we plan a few cool updates in the next days ;) Stay tuned!

October 26, 2012

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

Loochi 0.3 and 0.4

On august 24th, we announced that we were working on a new version of our lamp. We have updated the github regularly but had not posted any more technical news so here goes.

I have just renamed the hardware project to loochi-hardware and updated the README to describe our two newest boards: Loochi v0.3 and v0.4.

I am copying/pasting the description here. Be sure to check it out!

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October 11, 2012

Category: General Author: Boris Comments:

Loochi's update

Loochi electronic is now ready for manufacturing

Size reduction factor

We have made huge progress to identify what components are really required to bring you the best quality at the best price. We restarted our design from scratch to reduce the number of components and optimize their use.

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August 24, 2012

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

Complete source files for Illumi v0.2

We are about to start work on the next prototype!

Before we do, we wanted to close the 0.2 version and make sure we had everything published. It is all on our github account.

Main features

It is a dual-board design: a board with the micro-controller and the Wifi card, and another board with the LED drivers.

Features of the motherboard:

  • Arduino-Leonardo clone running at 8Mhz - Programmable via a ICSP connector or through the USB cable (once the bootloader has been burnt). You can use the Arduino IDE to program it.
  • Wifi module RN-171 from Roving Networks with a wire antenna
  • Bluetooth 4 Low Energy BLE112 module from Bluegiga
  • Only 75mm by 50mm
  • Switching 3.3 V power supply

Features of the LED driver

  • Input voltage from ~5V to 20V (depends on the type of LED you want to power) - Compatible with all sorts of high power LEDs
  • Three LT3518 swiching regulator for a 700mA constant current source to drive one RGB led
  • PWM inputs to control the brightness of each component: Red, Green, Blue
  • Shutdown pin to turn off the regulators and save power
  • Three temperature sensors to measure the board temperature

More information and known problems in the README on github.

Updated on Jan 8th 2013 to fix the github links.

August 21, 2012

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

The color of a vacation

I wanted to share with you with beautiful article sent by a friend of our project. This is exactly the vision we had when we started the project.

Click on the image below to get the full article in PDF.


The text is in french but the english translation is included (in the lower left part). I will add the exact source as soon as I get it from our friend.

So if you are travelling this summer, do not forget to capture the colors of your vacations because you will soon be able to reproduce them at home!

Many of you have sent us links to lamps, other projects, articles on lights, etc. We do not relay everything but please continue! We love it! You can also post them directly on our facebook page.

August 17, 2012

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

Some pictures of our latest prototype

So we have been so busy building and experiment with our latest prototypes that we almost forgot to share some pictures with you.

We did share some on facebook but for those of you who are following here on the blog, here they are!

Illumi v0.2

This is the prototype (actually one of them, we have built three) running in the living room next to a LCD TV and a roof lightbulb (above the door) to give you a rough idea of the LED power.

Illumi in a living room

We are pretty happy with the power of this prototype. It gives a lot of light and the driver heats reasonably. It is a much more sustainable solution than the first linear driver (that was described in another post; it’s still a nice solution if you want something cheap and quick to build for development).

More pictures after the break!

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August 17, 2012

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

Build an Arduino shield to drive high-power RGB LED

If you have read our previous post, you know how easy it is to connect a RGB led to an Arduino micro-controller. It is amazing to put this thing in a corner of your room and change the color during the night but chances are … you will be the only one impressed by that.

The very basic LED we used in our previous post has a power of 45mW (go ahead, take the datasheet and do the math, it is an interesting exercice, post your results below!) and generates less than one lumen of luminous flux. This is not enough to light anything so you will quickly want to use much more powerful LEDs.

In this post, we will see how to build a very cheap linear LED driver and plug it to our Arduino so that you can actually drive high power RGB LED with the same software we used last time. This time, it gets impressive!

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August 07, 2012

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

Illumi 101: Build an iPhone controlled RGB light under an hour

This is the first post in a series of article on how to build your own Illumi lamp and how to develop for it. This first article gives you the very basic information you need to get started doing some programming if you dont have much soldering skills.

It will still be a few weeks before the well-polished Illumi is available for distribution in quantities but if you are a developer and want to start working on your own apps that connects and talks to Illumi, we want to show you how to get started today!

Illumi v0

In this post, we will show you how to connect a basic RGB Led to an Arduino micro-controller and connect to it with your iPhone. Of course, it will not make a lot of light, but it is enough to start programming. You do not even need to solder.

This is what we call Illumi v0, our very first prototype!

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August 01, 2012

Category: General Author: Boris Comments:

Components arrival!

We just got the parts for Illumi v0.2 prototypes! There’s a lot of wrapping, the lamp will actually be pretty small ;)Illumi v0.2 prototype components”)

July 19, 2012

Category: General Author: Boris Comments:

Illumi v0-2 - sphere version

As selected by you on our facebook page!

Illumi v0-2 - sphere version

July 18, 2012

Category: General Author: Boris Comments:

Illumi functional prototype v0-2

End of june functional prototype: Proto v0-2

July 18, 2012

Category: General Author: Thomas Comments:

Design of the LED Driver (v0.2)

Warning: this is a very technical post. If you are not into electrical engineering, you might get scared…

In a true open-source spirit, we are releasing early (and intend to release often) the hardware of the LED driver board v0.2.


As of this version, illumi is built around three boards:

  • The LED driver board described in this post
  • A motherboard that includes the main micro-controller and the Wifi chip
  • A 100-240V power supply
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July 10, 2012

Category: General Author: Boris Comments:

Live from the lab

New prototypes on going… Live from the lab!

June 24, 2012

Category: General Author: Boris Comments:

Hello world!

This new blog is dedicated to all entrepreneurs trying to turn their ideas and visions into real products. We will try to regroup here our thoughts around creation process + tips & useful tools we discover & use, hopping all of this could help you as much as online ressources help us for our projects.

T&B team - http://www.tbideas.com