In April of 2015 I found a Kickstarter called Bluz which offered a cloud-connected Bluetooth LE development kit that could be run off a coin cell battery for months or even years on end. The Bluz is very similar to a product called the Particle Photon released earlier last year and the Photon has quickly become one of my favorite development platforms for developing Maker projects. I figured that a Bluetooth LE dev kit would be a great addition to my maker tools.
After a bit of wait, it arrived on my doorstep and I figured that I would record an unboxing video and a simple test with the Bluz.
Since I pledged $49, I received what they call the Wearables Kit which included one Bluz dev kit, a Coin Cell Battery Shield and an Accelerometer shield.
The accelerometer shield that I received was not a custom Bluz created one, but actually a Sparkfun branded shield that I had already purchased on my own (an extra never hurt).
The coin cell battery shield is unique to the Bluz and allows it to be powered off a single coin cell battery. Included in this shield is an on/off switch that is surprisingly missing from the number of other battery shields that I’ve bought and tested.
The Bluz itself looks very similar to the Particle Photon and actually has the same footprint so that it can take advantage of the same shields as the Photon. It even piggybacks off the Particle’s online development tools and the same deployment pattern (aside from the need to be hooked to a gateway that I’ll talk more about later). One big difference in the immediate presentation of the Bluz is that it does not have a micro USB port for powering it. This is partly due to the fact that it can supposedly last longer periods of time on very little battery and its primary purpose is to not be continually connected to an outlet. The’ recommended method of powering it is to use the coin cell shield, or the VIN, or 3.3V pin
For my unboxing, I didn’t have a method of powering it through the Vin or 3.3V pin directly or a coin cell battery lying around, so I decided to use a Particle Shield Shield in order to breakout a DC Power connection (which ends up powering it through the Vin pin anyways).
The major thing to know about the Bluz is that it needs to be connected to a gateway or the Bluz iOS or Android apps in order to communicate to the cloud. While there are plans to open source the iOS and Android connection code, they haven’t been released yet and this is a pretty big limitation for anyone like myself that wants to use a direct communication line between Bluetooth devices and the Bluz. However, Bluz sells a gateway shield that can be attached to a Particle that allows up to 8 Bluz to connect to it and communicate to the cloud.
Also, I have yet to test out the claim that it can last months or years on a single coin cell battery, but will be using it future projects and will be testing this out. There is one difference in the code that supposedly helps the Bluz achieve this feat. The code inside the loop function contains a System.sleep call in the default sketch.
//this, and only this...
I expect the Bluz to be a worthwhile investment and can’t wait to see what kinds of projects I can build with this low powered Bluetooth LE dev platform. I love that they leveraged the Particle ecosystem and online development IDE as well.
Silic was the first Kickstarter I ever backed (check out what their kickstarter page was like here) and it took about a year for them to get the product shipped to me, but I am definitely impressed by it’s ability to repel liquids. Check out a video of me testing it out with honey, soy sauce, and water.
I tried hot coffee later too and while it did mostly bead off, it left some residue that I had to use water to get off after (supposedly this is due to it being a hot liquid).
The creator had some troubles with his distribution and production which is what led to it taking about a half year longer than expected, but kept updating the backers with detailed information on the process and this ultimately kept his reputation steady despite the delay.
Notes the product as it stands today:
Try not to spill hot liquids on it in huge quantities. (If you do, just through on some water and try and pat out the liquid. The water helps to dilute whatever might be kind of sticking to the shirt.)
It will soak up water if you submerge it in liquid, but will bead off again as it dries.
The stitching does not seem to be the same sort of material and could possibly retain colored liquids (some of the soy sauce I tested got into the stitching, but after I rinsed off the shirt with a lot of water I could not see any staining)
It does seem to be a little thing (the white would definitely show my skin if I didn’t have an undershirt)
The collar isn’t a normal stretchy color, so don’t pull on it too much.
Unfortunately, you can only pre-order for a Winter 2015 batch currently.
Thoughts on Kickstarter:
Whatever money you put into a Kickstarter, you should be okay with the possibility of not recouping anything from it (although this doesn’t happen often if you choose good projects)
They provide you with tips for considering a kickstarter like the founder’s reputation, history, how well their business model seems to be set up, etc.
It’s a great way to assess the market for the product you are creating.
Great way to build publicity for a product that you plan on creating.
Why take out loans or sell equity in your company to investors when you can take pre-orders? (which is essentially what most of the rewards are)