The exciting moment has arrived. After over a year of non-stop work, with its many sleepless nights, highs and lows, innumerable rounds of tweaks, improvements, and testing, we hit the finish line.
During the past month, we managed to wrap up production and assembly in our facility in Taiwan just one week before the Chinese new year!
Because the vessel schedule was packed before the Chinese new year, we had to send the first shipment from Taiwan to the port of Oakland via Korea. The shipment is expected to arrive to the port of Oakland in 3-4 weeks (i.e. mid March).
One the shipment is inspected and cleared through US customs, we will move it to our local warehouse and begin shipping to backers from there.
We have prepared the survey through BackerKit and it will be sent out by the end of this week to get your shipping information.
More detailed information regarding fulfillment (how to adjust or upgrade your pledge through BackerKit, add shipping, VAT related matters etc ) will come in the next update once the survey is out.
For backers from Canada:
The Certification and Engineering Bureau (CEB) is currently in the process of updating the online E-filing application and is shut down their E-Filing service for a period of two weeks. We must wait to get CEB approval on the IC application before we begin shipping to Canada to make sure that we won’t run into issues at customs. This may introduce some more delays (2 weeks) in the process of shipping to backer in Canada.
Thanks for your support throughout this time and looking forward to seeing you use BitLock on your bike.
Happy 2015 to everyone one of you! We apologize for break in communication and the delay in sending this update. We have been hard at work during the New Year holiday to make sure BitLock ships as soon as possible, however we hit a few obstacles that created delays in shipping based on the previously planned time line.
The main source of delay had to do with obtaining the certification marks as explained in detail below. We also had to send the boards back to the factory for rework since they forgot to apply solder to the legs of the micro USB port (which caused lack of structural strength on the micro USB port). In overall, all of these obstacles are now overcome and BitLock assembly must be finished in 2 weeks. We need to allow 4 weeks for ocean freight from our factory in Taiwan to California. We will begin shipping all items in 6-7 weeks from now by latest.
Testing the product is a critical step in order to obtain the necessary standard regularly approvals and print the certification marks on the product and the packaging. We engaged with our test lab beginning of November and they told us when the whole process takes 2-3 weeks in total, and we based everything based on their estimate.
Fortunetly BitLock has passed all of the tests and complies with all of the regulatory limitations for US, Canada, Europe. Please see below the pictures we took during some of the tests in the lab:
However now after 2 months, we are still waiting for th approval of the certification marks by the TCB (Telecommunication Certification Body). Based on our understanding the approval process must be finished this week. Obtaining approval is important before proceeding to print the certification marks on the product, because any necessary modification to the certification marks placement, size, etc means we need to remove and reprint them from scratch on each product.
Circuit boards and programming the boards:
We received the final boards from the factory last week. Our circuit factory was delayed over three weeks based on the timeline they were supposed the deliver the board to us. We had a lot of back and forth with them to improve the schedule. When we received the board initially, we noticed that the factory forgot to solder the legs of the micro USB connector and we had to send them back for re-work.
To program the boards, we made a custom flasher system that is capable of programming 10 boards at a time. Programming of each board alone takes 30 seconds and with this system we could bring that down to 3 seconds per board effectively. However after taking into account the unpacking, mounting, un-mounting, and packaging time, in practice our throughput became 60 boards per hour. That meant we almost spent 1 full week to program the boards and package them in boxes to send them to the factory. We are building a automatic mounting system for the next production batch but this was the best we could do now.
We also had to design the packaging. Since we had very limited resources and time to deliver this batch we decided to go with a low key packaging system which is made of corrugated boards. We would have loved to have enough time and resources to design a better looking packaging that is deserving of our Kickstarter backers, but we did not want to introduce further delay in delivery. We hope you are comfortable with the packaging.
Discontinuing two colors:
We also had some issues supplying the pink and brown colors and to simplify supply chain management, we decided to discontinue pink and brown from color pallet.
We are now talking to few places to lease our warehouse for the incoming shipment and have everything ready to label and ship BitLocks to you.
We will shortly send the survey through BackerKit. On BackerKit you will have the option to upgrade your pledge if you wish.
Further improvements to the product:
We made a few improvement to BitLock as well. In order to remove any rattling noise, we added two washers to BitLock. We also redesigned the print on based on user feedback to use circle and rectangle on the buttons instead of numbers and two arrows showing how the lock opens.
We have been testing Android on different phones and also improving the UI design on Android. So far we have not had any major issues with Android. The only remaining piece on Android is supporting over-the-air update which must be finished before the shipping date.
We apologize again for the delay and look forward to shipping BitLock to you.
We want to thank you once again for supporting us to get to this point and your patience to accept the delay in delivery of BitLock to you. We would like to take a moment to update you about what we have been doing during the past month, problems we faced and solved, milestones we reached, and the remaining things to be done.
Android Beta Testing:
First off, we have great news for Android fans! BitLock Android app is now ready for beta testing. We are looking for volunteers local to San Francisco Bay area to commence beta testing in 1-2 weeks.
Beta testing on Android is going to be a bit more challenging due to diversity of Android devices.
For example, Some Motorola devices including Moto X suffer from WIFI and Bluetooth co-existence issue that has been officially reported by Motorola as a hardware bug:
We would like to test as many devices as possible during our beta phase test, and as a result it may take longer than iOS beta test phase. To volunteer, you should have the following prerequisites:
1) Volunteers must have an Android Phone that runs Jelly Bean 4.3 or KitKat 4.4 or Android L and supports Bluetooth Low Energy in hardware.
2) Volunteers should be local to San Francisco Bay Area. This simplifies the logistics and gives us a chance to closely interact with the users.
3) Volunteers must be a daily biker, and use BitLock at least a couple of times per day during the test phase. It will be great if you would be willing to share access with your friends to further test the test the social features.
4) Be patience: the whole purpose of beta testing is to detect likely issues and fix them early before shipping the final product. You should understand that during beta testing, you might experience glitches or disruption in service. We will make yourself available to you 24/7 and provide a support phone number to call for immediate assistance.
5) Testers should be communicative. The whole purpose of receiving a test unit is to help us gather information about potential issues that you might be facing and get your feedback to further improve the system. We might ask for a few short updates per week.
If you wish to volunteer to become a beta tester, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, telephone number, location, and mention the make/model of your Android phone.
All beta testers will receive an additional free BitLock in early 2015 as a token of appreciation for helping us improve Bitlock System. We will meet and set up each tester individually in our office.
Production and assembly status:
We have successfully finished our pilot assembly in the factory. We are going to leverage the information from this run to further streamline the process the assembly and testing process when assembling the rest of the units. Below are some pictures showing the assembly process:
To ensure corrosion resistance and measure the quality of the plating on the steel parts, we performed salt spray test for the BitLock tube using ASTM B-117 test method: test period at 96 hours with observation in every 24 hours.
After 96 hours, no red rust was found on outside the tube as shown in the picture below:
Every product with electronic components must be tested for electromagnetic compatibility to ensure it is not interfering with other devices.
The Bluetooth module we are using inside BitLock already comes with international certificates, however we still need to perform a set of test at product level (host) including spurious emission tests, safety tests, etc.
The testing itself does not take more 2-3 days, however, in the last two weeks we have been constantly talking to test engineers and regulatory team over at Broadcom to understand exactly what tests we need to performed for each country.
We had to sift through a pile of information to finally determine the necessary set of tests to be performed. Also, there have also been some recent regulatory changes in Europe that we had to make sure that we cover in our tests.
The testing should be finished next week. After that we can add the certification marks (FCC, CE, IC, etc) to the final artwork that will be printed on the product.
Beta testing update:
The beta testing phase was immensely helpful to detect and address issues early on. Our main focus in the first set of tests were to detect hardware specific issues. Issues related to the firmware or iOS/Android app can be easily fixed with remote updates but hardware itself has to be free of any sort of issues whatsoever. Below we will discuss a few hardware issues that came to light during the Beta testing phase. We addressed these issues in the production units. Some of the information provided here might get a bit a too technical, so feel free to skip.
a) Issue with the battery cap:
During the beta test phase, some of the testers informed us of the LED light was fading out when motor began turning as if the battery did not have enough juice.
We begin investigating the issue and observed a very strange phenomenon with the battery cap. We used two probes to measure the resistance of the battery cap. (Please see the attached picture). If we inserted pressure on the probes, the resistance changed dramatically. With light pressure, the resistance was about 300 Ohms and with heavy pressure, the resistance went down to 2 Ohms!!
The battery cap closes the circuit when put in place.
They are made of aluminum and have chromate conversion coating to allow electric conductivity.
Our guess is that since the surface is polished and shiny, the effective contact surface area when the cap comes on contact with probe is very small creating a large resistance.
When we inserted pressure on the probes, we were basically increasing the contact surface area (in microscopic scale) and lowering the resistance.
Please note that when motor turns it draws around 30mA from the battery. If for example, the cap resistance is 100 Ohms, this current can create a large voltage drop (~2V!!) and force the micro controller to restart.
To temporarily fix this issue on Beta test units, we applied copper tape to the back of the battery cap to lower the contact resistance.
To resolve this issue in production units, we decided to gold plate the battery cap instead to improve their conductivity.
(b) Passivation issues with the battery:
The battery technology used in that BitLock is Lithium Thionyl Chloride (Li-SOCl 2) which a special primary (non-rechargeable) lithium metal battery. These batteries have a very low self-discharge rate (0.5% per year as opposed to 10% per month for lithium ion secondary batteries used in smartphones) and the highest energy destiny among all lithium chemistries. Their low self-discharge is due to an effect called "passivation".
Passivation is a chemical term and it refers to phenomena that a kind of chemical film appears on the surface of the metal and prevents the further corrupt from happening on the surface of the metal.
If you are interested to know about passivation, read this document:
Passivation is the inherent character of lithium thionyl chloride battery. Without passivation, lithium thionyl chloride battery cannot be stored. Because the lithium chloride produced on the surface of the metal lithium in thionyl chloride is very compact and prevents the reaction of lithium and thionyl chloride, the self-discharge inside the battery becomes very small. This way, the shelf life of the battery can be over 20 years. This is the positive side of the passivation. So passivation can protect the battery capacity and will not cause capacity loss.
Like everything else in the world, there’s a dark side to passivation too. Passivation can increase the internal resistance of the battery unless the battery is de-passivated by current shocks, "kicks", which will break down the thin film layered formed during storage.
The batteries we were using were stored more than 6 months and were highly passivated, which meant we had to de-passivate them before putting them in the product. But the main issue was that if someone stores their bike for the whole season, the battery would be passivated, and we cannot ask the user to depassivate it themselves. There are of course methods of in-system de-passivation, but we could not use them in our product.
After a ton of research on how to tackle this problem, we decided to switch to another lithium metal chemistry called Lithium Manganese Oxide ( Li-MGO2). The lithium CR batteries in watches use the same chemistry. Li-MGO2 batteries do no passivate (sigh!) and similar to Lithium Thionyl Chloride (Li-SOCl 2) batteries have a 10 year shelf life.
The main challenge was to find them in AA form factor. Luckily we found a dozens of suppliers that make these batteries in AA form factor. There are becoming more popular in the market place. We ordered a set of samples from suppliers and we are very impressed by their performance. With the new batteries, we can still go over 10,000 locks/unlocks and 5 year battery life.
Based on the feedback we got from our beta tester, we added the following improvements to the app.
(a) Secure local caching for offline log in:
It is important for us to make sure BitLock always work no matter if you do or don’t have an active internet connection on your phone. To make this work, we must allow the user to log into the application, even if the application is offline.
(b) Connection time improvement:
We realize that one of benefits of using BitLock is the convenience factor that alleviates the need to fumble with your keys and reach your bag/pocket to pull out your keys. That means the connection time must be very short and BitLock respond very quickly to lock/unlock commands.
We had to make a lot of improvements to lower the connection and authentication time. After making a lot tweaks, we were able to bring the connection and authentication time down to 1 second. We are very impressed with the current interaction speed.
Please note that if the application is running in the background, this may time slightly increase since iOS increases the scanning interval automatically to converse the iPhone battery.
Finally printing of the t-shirts is finished and they will ship to us together with the locks from the factory. I would like to extend our apology to those backers who pledged for t-shirts and still have not received their t-shirt. We will begin shipping all of the t-shirts together with pledges for other backers.
Thanks again for supporting this Kickstarter campaign and we do look forward to see you use BitLock on your bike!
Thank you again for being patience with BitLock delivery schedule. We have been hard at work and strive to stay super-focused on delivering BitLock to you while making sure the product is free of any sort of bugs or hiccups.
This is of course a process which requires going through countless phases of testing and debugging. During the past months, we have been improving our quality control and test processes to make sure that absolutely %100 of the products that leave the door is free from any sort of problems. This means each single product and its components must go through a multitude of tests (before and after assembly). We inspect the ones that have not passed the quality control phase to get to the bottom of the issue and use that information to improve our manufacturing and assembly processes to increase the yield.
Last month we received the preproduction batch from the factory and have been assembling and testing them one by one here in San Francisco.
There were some minor issues with the preproduction units that we had to manually fix. Here's a quick list of issue that we detected in some of the components. For example, there were some burrs inside the cams that interfered with the motor shaft during the assembly. That meant we had to mount every single cam on a metal lathe machine and fix them one by one.
We also detect variations in the length of the vinyl tube covers and communicated that to the factory for better calibration of the stamping tool that cuts these covers.
We earlier detected some noise issues on boards received from the factory on the previous batch. We had to make another revision (9th revision!!) of the boards to address the noise issue and also adjust LED lights which were previously too bight. So far we have not detected any issues with the circuit boards during our beta tests and we are planning to begin mass production of the boards which will take less than 2 weeks.
Such issue are quite common during preproduction. The whole purpose of preproduction tests to spot these issues and communicate them early to the factory before mass production to make sure components are not wasted and processes have high yield.
We have been documenting and improving the processes while assembling the first batch manually here in San Francisco and communicating them to the factory for mass production assembly. We thus far have setup a pilot assembly run in the factory which will further give us more information on the assembly line performance before assembly of the units that come from the mass production line.
So far we have assembled and tested close to 100 units.
As we speak there are more than 50 Beta testers rigorously testing the product and giving us feedback on every aspect of the product. We are now fully ready to start mass production.
Some of our beta testers have emailed us their pictures, and are having fun with their new bike lock:
Beta Tester Feedbacks and Improvements:
We are receiving a lot of invaluable feedback from our beta testers. We have made a lot of improvements to the application based the testers feedback. Here's a quick list of improvements:
We added offline login and functionality into the app, so that you can always lock/unlock your BitLock whether you have Internet connection and regardless of your data connection quality. However when offline, you will lose all other functionality of the application such as access sharing.
iOS8 will be supported from day one. Some of our beta testers had iOS8 and experienced some issues (such as broken menu items) with the app. We improved the application to fix those issue and support iOS8.
UI/UX improvement: We have also received a lot great feedback to improve the user interface and experience of the application and the lock user interface (how the LEDs indicate different states etc) .
We are also working on the activity tracking feature that uses iPhone M7 and M8 motion co-processors to automatically detect cycling activity combined with the lock/unlock context. However, this feature won't be available in the first application release but we will definitely come as an update in the second release.
Also on the backend side, we have built multiple layers of redundancy in application layer so that a new layer will kick in the event one of the application server go down. This way we make sure servers are up %100 of the times even though we already have the offline login and authentication system in place.
Unfortunately BLE stack is not very stable on Android and its behavior varies across different devices. We are doing more cross-device testing (specially on Samsung device families) to make sure the BLE connectivity works seamlessly across all supported Android devices. For example, some devices filter advertising packets and some don't main because of the use of different BLE chip-sets and drivers.
The final surveys will be sent out shortly. If you pledged for a BitLock with a different color, please choose your desired color from the list of colors. Here are the colors ( and codes) to choose from:
We are doing our best to get BitLock to you as soon as possible. Please be aware that shipping is a process. Depending on the following four parameters the fulfillment process and the delivery dates vary for each backer.
1) Color (standard blue v.s. custom color)
2) Early backers v.s. non-early backers
3) iPhone v.s. Android
4) US/Canada v.s International
Custom colored tube covers require a separate run in the factory and the fulfillment process as well as the logistics for custom colored BitLocks are quite complicated. As a result, backers who have pledged to receive a custom colored BitLock may experience further delays. Fulfilling International pledges is also a complex and international backers may experience more delays compared to domestic backers.
Based on the most recent updates from the factory, all of the backers must be able to receive their BitLock in between mid-November to mid-December. We will do our best here to see if we can improve this schedule and make sure we do not have to ask our backers to wait again.
Thanks again for supporting this Kickstarter campaign and we do look forward to see you use BitLock on your bike!
Hope you have had a wonderful summer. We are just a few steps away from shipping BitLock to you. These remaining steps are critical to make sure you do not experience any sort of issues and ensure maximum robustness and reliability.
Before explaining the remaining tasks, I would like to update you on our progress during the last month:
1) We began production-grade tooling of all plastic components, tooling for die punching the steel tubes, as well as tooling for stamping the PVC cover of BitLock. Tooling process typically takes 45 days. We started this process around 20 days ago and the parts should be ready in less than a month. Meanwhile we continue manufacturing BitLock in small batches using our rapid prototype molds and processes we have in place.
2) We started production of all the steel components and have received` a small batch for end to end beta testing the system. These components are heat treated and chrome plated in the factory for maximum strength.
3) We finished making PVC (vinyl) covers through dip molding. The holes on cover are stamped (die cut) with special tools and the logo and other artwork are being screen and pad printed.
4) We manufactured a batch of 100 circuit boards. However we detected a minor issue with these boards that we are going to resolve in the next batch. Basically EEPROM write protect pin was floating and created some issues when writing to EEPROM on some of the boards. We also made a mistake about the value of one of the resistors on the BOM and had to repair these set of boards to replace the resistor with the correct value
We also made vast improvements on iOS application in term of BLE connection management and user experience and made significant progress on Android application.
Here’s a quick list of remaining things that we are finalizing:
1) Finishing writing all test cases for unit testing and integration testing: So far we have written more than 300 test cases and another set of 50 tests needs to be written to ensure robustness of our software stack. We are also building multiple layers of redundancy in our backend system to make sure we have %100 uptime.
2) Finishing over-the-air (OTA) firmware upgrade: This feature is extremely important which allows us to push firmware update to all or selected BitLocks in the field remotely. More than %70 of the work on OTA is finished. We still need to finish the backend management for OTA updates. Please note that we encrypt the firmware image for maximum security so that non-authorized parties or adversaries cannot push a malicious update.
3) Combination code: we are finalizing and testing the user interface for setting/changing the combination code on the lock. Basically, you can set BitLock in combination code by long pressing any of the buttons on the lock. Once in combination mode, you have up to 1 minute to enter the combination sequence, or otherwise BitLock goes back to sleep mode. If the combination is correct, the lock stays authenticated for up to 20 seconds after the last lock/unlock action. Only BitLock owner can change the combination through the application.
4) The automated test rig: We are in middle of building our test rig that allows us to program and test 20 circuit boards in parallel. This will vastly expedite the process since programming each individual board currently takes 30-40 seconds.
5) We need to finish the illustrations that explains the instructions to operate BitLock inside the application. We have worked out the initial drafts but need to have it professionally illustrated.
6) Testing of android: Android development is lagging about 1 month behind iPhone since the development was started a while after iPhone. The lag was intentional. We wanted to make sure iOS features are consolidated and tested before replicating them on Android.
Call for Beta Testers:
At this point we have 30 BitLock that are ready for beta testing. We are seeking volunteers to beta test BitLock with the following prerequisites:
1) Volunteers must have iPhone 4S +
2) Volunteers should be local to San Francisco Bay Area (other domestic). There are multiple reason for this:
(a) We'd want to be nearby in the event of any sort of issues and be available 24/7 to provide personal support and also investigate the cause of the issue.
(b) We would like to study users' behavior and interaction under different controlled conditions.
(c) Additionally we intend to recall all of the beta test units for firmware upgrade, since over-the-air firmware upgrade won't be ready before the beta testing phase.
3) Volunteers must be a daily biker, and use BitLock at least a couple of times a day during the test phase.
4) Be patience: the whole purpose of beta testing is to detect likely issues and fix them early before shipping the final product. You should understand that the test units might experince malfunction or disruption in service. We will make ourself available to you 24/7 and provide a support phone number to call for immediate assistance.
We are planning to hold an orientation meeting for beta tester in our San Francisco office on Monday, September 8t. So please contact us at email@example.com if you wish to volunteer to be beta tester. All beta tester will receive an additional free BitLock in early 2015 as a token of appreciation for helping us improve Bitlock System.
Currently the latest estimated ship date for the first batch to backers by late September / beginning of October. We will work hard to improve the timeline.
Once again I would like to thank you for being patient with the delivery timeline and allowing us to improve BitLock.