This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the All LED Lighting site may go dark at any time. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.


Kickstarting LED Projects

LED products and proposals appear frequently on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website. Here are a primer and some projects you might want to back.

Kickstarter basics
Kickstarter works on an all-or-nothing funding model. A project's creator sets a deadline 1-60 days out and posts a funding goal and a description of what will be delivered. If backers pledge enough money to meet or exceed the goal by the deadline, Kickstarter collects the money and forwards it to the creator, minus a fee. If the goal is not reached, no money is collected.

Backers are not buying a stake in the creator's company. They are buying a defined bundle of goods and services, which the creator must supply by a stated date.

We discussed this week how Kickstarter worked to fund the Bartendro robot cocktail mixer, a project with an LED component. How about projects focused on LEDs?

A search of the Kickstarter site for "LED lighting" yields 56 results. Twenty-two reached their funding goal, and 28 failed. (These numbers are in line with Kickstarter's claim of an overall funding success rate of 43 percent.) The other six projects -- including two of possible interest to this community -- are now looking for backers.

One that funded
LIFX: The Light Bulb Reinvented blew the doors off its funding goal last year. Asking for $100,000, it raised $1.3 million from nearly 10,000 backers. LIFX is a bit like the Hue from Philips (sponsor of this site), except it needs no separate controller plugged into the home's WiFi access point. Instead, a master bulb connects wirelessly to the home network to distribute control via an IEEE 802.15.4 mesh network. LIFX bulbs are controlled by a smartphone app.

Two in the works
Heroic Robotics Inc. is pitching the PixelPusher, an intelligent networked LED controller that can handle anything from a single LED strip to thousands of lights. This project is 33 percent of the way to its funding goal with 24 days to go. (Kickstarter says 81 percent of projects that reach the 20 percent funding mark get fully funded.)

The project's Kickstarter page describes the project this way:

PixelPusher is a device that connects... individually controllable LEDs to TCP/IP networks via an open protocol. We combine this with a smart, easy-to-use open source client API that allows the LEDs to be organized into arrays of any size or shape, and controlled from any Java, Python, or C# application. We have also developed an integration with the Processing visual programming environment on Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux.

A pledge of $260 will get you a PixelPusher and a 5m string of LED lights ready to plug in. The project is looking for $50,000 to scale up production. Heroic Robotics manufactured 20 units before starting the Kickstarter initiative.

Then there's the Yolo (you only light once) project, whose creator, James Dudley, is looking for $35,000. He seems unlikely to make his goal, having drawn only 2 percent of the desired funds with 22 days to go.

This WiFi controlled LED lighting system consists of four recessed LED lighting fixtures, a WiFi controller, a power supply (which can power up to eight lights), and a simple mobile app to control them all. This is a consumer-level product, not one aimed at makers or hackers.

Yolo's Kickstarter pitch is not one of the better ones I have seen. One common element in effective campaigns is a variety of attractive price points and product/service offerings. Yolo has three options at $240, differing only in the color of the light enclosures. Three other options at $275 also seem to be distinguished by enclosure color.

If you have a DIY LED project that wants to turn into a product, Kickstarter is well worth exploring as a funding source.

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— Keith Dawson Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page, Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting