Once again, thanks for all of your comments in response to our last update which we always love and appreciate. We would also like to apologize for taking a little longer to share an update this time. It’s a very intense period at Bird Buddy and we were waiting on some key pieces of information regarding the supply of one of our vital components to be able to share an updated schedule with you that is as accurate as we can currently make it. In the interim, we have discussed whether we should make our updates shorter if we should cut down on the content, but having spoken with a number of our backers, it is clear that our updates have something for everyone which means we have decided to continue as before. It seems everyone has their own favorite part of our updates!
To help with the need to scan through, we have created a short summary at the start, with the option to read further below. Having said that, with this update, in particular, we feel it is worth reading it in its entirety to get the best possible understanding of the challenges and the general environment in which we’re operating, as well as to learn about some proposed solutions and strategies for mitigation that will help us improve on an otherwise challenging global situation.
Sharing a video sample from our ‘mass-production ready’ hardware streaming through the final Bird Buddy cloud infrastructure. We’re still tweaking the image to find a perfect balance but we’re incredibly excited that this is working end-to-end!
The essential bits
- We passed FCC and EMC testing on the first try!
- We finalized and approved all of the packaging and supplies, and the production of packaging is well underway.
- Over 1,000,000 images of birds have been captured with our AI test cameras used to further improve our bird recognition model.
- All of the tooling and plastics have been dimensionally validated, textured, and tested and are ready to go.
- Due to a delay in supply of one of our key components (a chip responsible for video encoding and streaming), we’re now aiming for the first half of November for the start of mass production. We’re receiving the first large batch of these chips by the end of October and the remaining balance by the end of the year.
- Earlier this month, we selected our logistics partners and have now received early estimates for shipping from ocean freight companies. The reality is that the current estimates require 70 days for transit from the port of origin in China to the port of destination and another week for final delivery. In effect, this means getting Bird Buddies to our customers through the ocean will take roughly 75 days from the start of mass production. In normal times, this used to take 28 to 35 days.
- Therefore, based on current estimates customers should start receiving their orders in the second half of March or April. (If you backed the Bird Buddy project on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, please find your respective timelines here – Bird Buddy October Update on Kickstarter / Bird Buddy October Update on Indiegogo)
What happens next
- With the uncertainty in the global shipping industry, it’s impossible to get 100% commitments on dates so we’re going to regularly update you with specific news around our shipments as we receive them.
- We’re investigating options for tracking containers while they are en route and aim to provide live tracking of Bird Buddy containers while they are traveling on the ocean.
- The final tracking numbers from the delivery companies won’t be available until units are shipped from the local distribution centers. First customers should expect the tracking numbers in the second half of March.
- We’re sharing an updated schedule for the next few months below in line with our plans listed in previous points.
We’re doing our best to deliver all Bird Buddies to you as soon as possible and we try to address all important topics in our updates but if you’re interested in talking with us directly please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We reached out to about 100 of you over the past month and loved hearing from you and getting your feedback!
The big and honest picture
With the global uncertainty in mind, please consider the above schedule to be subject to change (hopefully for the better). It’s possible the situation will improve in the next few weeks as the rush to ship products to key markets before the holidays subsides. Our instinct is to not share information that we don’t have a reasonably high degree of certainty in but the current situation leaves us no choice. You deserve to have at least a general understanding of when your Bird Buddy will arrive and the above estimates are on the conservative side according to all of the latest information currently available to us.
We know some of you have bought a Bird Buddy as a gift for the holidays, and knowing that we’ll have to disappoint you and your giftees makes us especially sad. To help out as much as we can, we’ll repeat the offer from last year where, if requested, we can send you a beautiful free paper craft gift card that you can offer as a gift IOU until the real Bird Buddy arrives early next year. If you’re interested in getting one please reach out to email@example.com and we’ll make sure you get it!
We’re now in a position where all required components to start mass production are either at the factory or on the way and will get there by the end of the month. It was a very fluid situation that changed almost daily and made it very hard for us to make accurate estimates beyond what we had shared already.
As our schedule has now shifted by a few weeks, we’re planning on undertaking the production software testing and validation while Bird Buddies are on ships and on the way to their destination. For you, this only means that once your Bird Buddy arrives, one of the first steps during the onboarding process will be to simply trigger an update. It’s not an uncommon approach for consumer electronics and will allow us to compress the schedule and reduce some of the impacts of the unusually long transit times.
Due to the increased cost of shipping (container shipping went up 600%-800% since we started planning the campaign), we’re already incurring significantly more costs for shipping than what we originally anticipated, charged, and budgeted for. To give some context for anyone that happened to miss all of the news on the current global supply chain and logistics woes, we’re sharing a few high-profile articles talking about it in the past few weeks/months.
- Understanding the global chip shortage, a big crisis involving tiny components | Popular Science
- Uber Freight boss warns US is entering shipping ‘Armageddon’ | The Independent
- Apple shares drop on iPhone 13 production fears | BBC
- Shipping disruption: Why are so many queuing to get to the US? | BBC
- Business leaders expect supply chain turmoil to last well into 2022 | CNN
- ‘A perfect storm’: supply chain crisis could blow world economy off course | The Guardian
- Semiconductor chip shortage could extend through 2022, Marvell CEO says | CNBC
We feel it’s important to emphasize that the fact we’ll be able to start manufacturing in a few weeks is still a major achievement at a time when big corporations are struggling to maintain production and are shutting down factories. A lot of the components we now have in stock are in incredibly high demand and precious. We took some risks early on making large deposits that are now paying off. While we always hoped for the best, we did prepare for the worst in many ways. It did not shield us entirely from the craziness that is 2021 but it looks like nothing really could. Bird Buddies will be in short supply at least until the end of 2022 so everyone that supported us early on will have a major head start in collecting birds at a price that will be impossible to match once we hit retail.
We are incredibly grateful to have such an amazing community of bird lovers as backers and with that in mind, every day that we are delayed is spent on making Bird Buddy as awesome as we can make it.
Tooling and production
All of the tooling and plastics have been dimensionally validated, textured, tested, and are ready to go. Also, even though we aren’t receiving the first mass production batch of the chips mentioned above until the end of the month, we did procure enough early on to enable us to keep moving through our Alpha and Beta units as well as the DVT (Design Validation Test) and PVT (Production Validation Testing) processes. Ultimately this means that when the production batch of chips does finally arrive, we will be ready to hit the ground running.
Regarding lab testing, we are proud to announce that we passed the first round of testing on our first try (which is pretty uncommon!) and are now in the next, longer phase of safety testing which will enable us to apply the CE mark to the product.
Shipping and Logistics
Unfortunately, the shipping situation shows no signs of abatement at present. The entire world is now adapting to this new situation and making adjustments in their plans for the balance of the year and particularly for the holidays. Here is a great article on how people are adapting and adjusting their expectations.
Our VP of Logistics and Supply Chains, Dan, and his team are looking at the options, discussing routes and the likely fulfillment timeline. This includes transport from the factories to the ports, from the ports to our warehouses and then on to your homes. We have now selected our logistics partners who are using truly innovative technology (like robotics to move products inside their automated fulfillment centers) for our direct to consumer fulfillment and have negotiating power for global shipping.
Because we understand how important it is for you to know when your Bird Buddy will arrive and to be able to track the delivery we are looking at various online tracking options available. As soon as we have them in place along with 100% certainty on the production/shipping timeline, we will let you know.
In the last month, we finalized and approved all of the packaging and supplies, and production is well underway on everything. We are extremely happy with the final product and can’t wait to hear your feedback on it. Below is the packaging for the accessories we haven’t shared yet!
We continue to improve our AI capabilities with bird species recognition. We have now received over 1 million photos from our AI test camera network and there’s an ongoing effort on the way to correctly label the species as well as define many other parameters which will help with many interesting features that Bird Buddy will be able to uniquely provide. While this massive effort enables us to keep improving our model as much as we can before launch, Bird Buddy will see continuous improvement to its species recognition algorithm long after you’ll receive it.
We want to share with you more detail about the process. To correctly identify a species, the algorithm must first understand where in the picture the bird is located. This is where the segmentation step comes in. If you’ve ever used a portrait mode on your phone to create that extra blur in the background on your selfies, you’ve met segmentation. It’s a process during which our AI identifies all the pixels that represent the bird in a given image. Training such a model effectively means we have to take each photo we want to use for training, and mark/color all the pixels that identify a bird. Once we have marked enough photos, we built a model that now assists this process and the manual work required going forward is to check each photo that has been “pre-marked” by the AI and make any necessary corrections. The result of this model is that the AI can correctly identify all the pixels that represent a bird on any image as well as give us a bounding box that the species recognition part can use to limit area for recognition; this greatly increases its accuracy.
With the segmentation step done, the photo goes into labeling where our experts define the species, region, gender and rough age of the bird. It’s a time and resource intensive process but this is what it takes to help Bird Buddy correctly identify as many birds as possible and we’re going to keep working on this for a long time to come.
It usually happens that the product team is a few steps ahead of the development department. Although we take agile methodologies quite seriously, it’s in the very nature of our work that new features always start with ideation which are then subject to the rigorous definition process, and must undergo a bunch of prototyping and refinements before they are ready for development.
As this means that part of our team is now already working on the second iteration of the app (there will be a regular update cycle), and given that Bird Buddy 1.0 hasn’t shipped yet, we don’t want to confuse you by talking about stuff we’re planning to add later on (not at launch), so no new shiny features in this update from our side. We would, however, be extremely grateful if you could answer this survey so we have as much insight as possible before defining the future plans for our app.
It’s not really fresh from the oven, but since it hasn’t been shared here yet … Have you guys seen the trailer for the app?
We are thankful for your patience as we continue to navigate through these global problems particularly as a start-up. We want to reassure you that you will get your Bird Buddy, you will get those notifications of joy and you will get to experience so much with your feathered friends and reconnect with nature. We are sorry that we have not been able to meet our original fulfillment dates, but we are working extremely hard to get your Bird Buddy made and sent to you as soon as we possibly can.
The Bird Buddy team
P.S.: As usual, our animation team is also sending some greetings!