“The LIFX Wall”

When Deepend moved into it's new office, I was tasked with creating a centrepiece tech product that would be the first thing clients see when they arrived.


Internet of Things Android IOS Carpentry Electronics 240v 😳

The LIFX wall I created

The requirements from Kath, the MD at Deepend Melbourne, were clear:

  1. It must draw attention.
  2. It must be on the wall at the entry to the office.
  3. It must make new and existing clients get excited when they walk in.
  4. It must have some practical and useful application in our office.
  5. It must use these (hands me a bag of 40 LIFX bulbs).

Instantly recognising the need for a smart cookie to help me on this, I grabbed (some Deependers may say stole) our newly arrived intern Binaz, and immediately got down to business.

Prototyping

With the 40 bulbs in hand, we came up with a rough concept of making some kind of “mini wall” to hold the bulbs. Each staff member would get their own buld, and be able to indicate their status (in office, working from home, sick, etc), by changing the colour of their bulb.

But how big should we make it? There were still some questions that needed answering. The wall we were going to put it on isn’t small, so we were spoiled for choice in terms of how big we wanted it to be. Better build a prototype!

Using a cardboard prototype to assess required size against the wall.

After some cardboard prototyping, we came up with a size that we estimated wouldn't be too heavy, wouldn't mean the lights are too close to each other in order to prevent dangerous heat levels (at full white, even a single bulb is extremely hot), and that would look great at any location in our large warehouse office.

An anti-digital concept arrives.

Initially we thought we’d print labels out for each person and stick them above their light, but we discovered by chance during the cutting process that we could draw on the cardboard we were using with chalk.

This gave us the idea to make the front of the light wall a chalk board so that each person could not only personalise their own light by colour, but also draw their own little piece of art around their light bulb. It was a nice anti-digital contrast, that we felt added to the creativity of the piece.

Prototyping

The prototype helped us with determining appropriate size, so then I measured it out and designed it properly on paper, defining the tools and materials we’d need. Once designs were finalised, we swapped the cardboard for wood and the scissors for drills and put it together over a couple of days.

For 3 days I got to be a carpenter, electrician and programmer.

The wall is composed of different grades of wood, 40 light sockets and about 9 metres of wire. All in all, the WIFI lights excluded, the materials cost about $200-$300 AUD, with a few trips to Bunnings required (an Australian hardware store).

Completion

Once we screwed the lights in (and I gained my vision back), connected them all to the network and mounted the “wall” on the wall, I instantly sensed that something incredibly unique had just been added to our office.

After creating the physical, wall the next step was creating an application that would allow each staff member at the office to control their bulb. I made it easy for them to do so, by presetting the bulb status colors, so that we'd be able to create a consistent color range that our people would learn and be able to quickly identify the color that means "working from home", the color that means "sick", etc.

The app also served as a off location indicator (thanks to the LIFX API), which allows any Deepend staff to check the app at any time to see what the status of somebody is.

Deepend wave app The "Wave" app for staff members to control their bulb.

Becoming a platform

Because it was an Internet of Things device with it's own API (courtesy of LIFX's REST service), in subsequent hack days our devs created all sorts of uses for it.

Some of the more fun ones had it being utilised as a low res "LED" type display to show animations during key moments of the week, such as an arrow pointing to the stairs at home time, flashing red for scheduled team meetings and a fizzing beer pour at "Beer O'Clock" on Fridays.

It also turns out the 40 light bulbs set to white at 1000 lumens makes one hell of a strobe light for office parties.