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  • Xamarin
  • Android
  • iOS

Customer

A manufacturer of smart home automation products, LED lighting and electronics.

Problem

The customer manufactures and markets outdoor lights for commercial and private spaces. The lights have an RGBW capability — an LCD display technology that uses four subpixels (red, green, blue, and white). The lights are controlled by an RF remote control. To allow users greater control and functionality compared to the RF remote capabilities, the customer wanted to create a BLE-enabled mobile application, which would link a smartphone or tablet to a lights string.

The client expected the service provider to have relevant hands-on mobile app building skills. Softeq boasts a track record of delivering lighting control apps, as well as firmware and software for special effects lighting equipment and patent pending light-enabled entertainment systems. Another pro was Softeq’s experience with the apps that link with hardware. The company also impressed the client with a strategic recommendation about Bluetooth chipsets, which would allow achieving a mesh network effect.

Solution

Softeq created a mobile app to be used as a remote control for managing the colorful outdoor lights string. The app connects to the string’s controller via Bluetooth and allows managing multiple parameters:

  • Different lighting modes
  • Color temperature
  • Flashing effects
  • Timer for automatic turn-off, etc.

The lights settings are accessible through a PIN (entered once and then remembered by the app). This helps identify the right string when several individual pieces are hanging in proximity to each other. The lights support a two-way communication — phone to the string and string to the phone. This way the string communicates to the user its latest settings saved.

App’s Features:
  • Manages multiple lights location, e.g. Backyard
  • Detects available garlands: as single strings or in groups, e.g. Backyard Group: Patio, Pergola, Porch
  • Allows changing PIN
  • Supports scheduling the light on/off
  • Allows selecting color combinations
  • Allows selecting lighting mode, e.g. Solid, Pulse, Twinkle
  • Supports black-out of selected bulbs
  • Plays back a video tutorial

Security

The solution leverages the authorization mechanism provided by the Google Firebase platform — the user must first log into his/her account to proceed to the app. The app communicates with the lights string over a PIN-secured channel using Bluetooth.

Challenge

The hardware and firmware for the lighting were developed by a contract manufacturer in China. The team had to adapt the development schedule to the hardware and firmware components availability.

The initial idea was to store the configuration of the lights and user profiles on the lighting device’s flash memory. However, the vendor could not implement this capability entirely. The device memory allows only storing either the current lighting mode or a select color and event timer, or several lighting schedules. The team suggested using the Google Firebase platform to be able to store the user data on the server. The platform also allows synchronizing the data with the device while the Internet connection is on. If the lights string is used in the Internet free zone, the user will be able to control the lights settings thanks to the offline mode availability. When the Internet is back, the changes will be synced to the Firebase server.

Results

Further plans include ensuring compatibility and manageability of other customer’s electronic products with the updated cafe lights string version.

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