Finding private meeting space in an office — at a moment’s notice — can be a challenge. Many companies reserve rooms using Google Calendar, which works perfectly for meetings happening in the future because it’s easy to check availability online. But what about those meetings that need to happen right now? Simply ducking into an empty room is a gamble that often ends in conflict. We knew there must be a better way to grab rooms at the office both quickly and confidently.

  • Challenge

    Help employees see what meeting rooms are available and book them without a hassle.

  • Solution

    Design and fabricate internet-connected door lanterns driven by Google Calendar and a custom Rails app.

  • Results

    At a glance, employees can see the meeting status of every room, and use a custom app called Graba to easily book one.

How we did it.

  • Proof of Concept

    We built a single (and wonderfully rough) proof-of-concept to flesh out the technical details and prove value. The feedback was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Based on this prototype, we put together a plan to scale the idea up for use in all our offices.

  • Custom PCBs

    At the core is a custom-printed circuit board. This houses the Photon microcontroller, which connects to the the internet and sets the LED colors. Custom fabricating this product allowed us to keep board size to a minimum and tolerances exact. It also helped us assemble the lanterns quickly.

  • 3D Printed LED Housing

    Our Lulzbot 3D printer made it easy create a frame that could house the Neopixel array and the PCB. This made for a tidy and strong construction—not a ratsnest of wires. Manufacturing this in-house let us iterate quickly and find just the right form.

  • The lantern shell had to accomplish two things: first, it needed to mask the individual LEDs and the internals of Illumigami; second as a fixture in an office, it also needed to be aesthetic. Paper origami lanterns provided enough diffusion to make the LEDs glow as a single unit. They also offered a delicate, handmade quality that belied the technical details.

  • To produce multiple lanterns, we chose to custom fabricate the internals. Based on our material spec, we 3D printed housings that the Neopixel array wrapped around. Advances in PCB (abbr: printed circuit board) design and offshore manufacturing meant that we could get from design to finished product in about a week.

    Building a Conference Room Hero with Custom PCBs and 3D Printing
    Justin Sinichko, Hardware Developer
  • The brain behind Illumigami is Graba. This custom Ruby-on-Rails application integrates with Google Calendar to control the color of the lanterns and enable users to book rooms fast. Its loosely coupled architecture also allows for integration with other devices and services.