The Latest From Bug


Our portfolio company Bug Labs continues to build out its family of modular open source hardware products. This is not a sexy market space like social media or mobile. But it is an important market space. Because as hardware becomes more open and more "hackable", we'll be able to do more things with web services.

A good example of what I am talking about is the La Montre Verte (green watch) service in Paris. They have networked together environmental sensors all over Paris and the data is broadcast via a mobile phone to a open platform called Citypulse which makes all the data available via a web service.

Bug is a platform to enable exactly these kind of open source projects. Not everything can be done in software and most hardware is too closed to make it useful for applications it was not intended for. That is where Bug comes in. You can snap a few sensor modules onto a Bug base and you've got a custom piece of hardware that can collect data and power a web service.

And the latest news from Bug is that the Bugbase module is now wifi enabled. This was not an easy task because Bug was committed to putting an open source wifi solution into the market and that was a hard problem to solve. But they have solved it and Bug based devices can now communicate over the wifi channel.

If you have a project like La Montre Verte that you want to get up and running, you should look at the Bug platform. It's perfect for that sort of application.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Pinsen

    Could this stuff be embedded in buoys to make low-cost storm warning systems for places that don’t already have one?

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t know how water resistant they are. But peter (founder/ceo) is a big fan of the water and boats

    2. psemme

      You could definitely place them in buoys – though they’d need to be but in a watertight enclosure. There are many applications like this in the boating/safety world.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        How about putting together a low-cost tsunami warning system for some vulnerable place that doesn’t already have one? You could save the world and get killer press for Bug Labs at the same time.

        1. psemme

          That’s a great idea. Now I need to find a tsunami expert 😉 Seriously, application ideas like that are great for BUGs.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            Some people are dying to have a tsunami warning system. Literally, unfortunately: Up to 20 dead in Samoa after tsunami.

  2. follower

    > This is not a sexy market space like social media or mobile.It’s not? Coulda fooled me. 🙂 Personally I think open hardware is a lot more exciting–but admittedly it will end up enabling social media and mobile as well.–Philip;

    1. fredwilson

      i think it is sexy too, but it is hard to get investors and bus dev partnersinterested in this area

  3. @billg

    Fred – who’s manufacturing the watch?

  4. Glenn Gutierrez

    Whoa. That is really cool. That opens up so many long tail product possibilities. I always took electronics apart as a kid and wanted to make new creations but they were always bulky and impractical knick knacks. This is really awesome.

  5. sachmo

    There is a mini-revolution happening in the open hardware space right now.As someone with a lot of interest in this area, I would actually say that the Arduino is the “hot” platform for the hard-core enthusiasts…'m kind of surprised by its incredible surge in popularity recently, because microcontrollers have been around for a while.I can’t really point to why the arduino platform is any better than a number of similar kind of platforms that came out before it (Basic Stamp, Handyboard, etc.), but arduino enthusiasts say that the coding is easier, and from what I hear it seems to be a more user-friendly environment. A number of third party vendors are building software / hardware projects on top of it.This is one of the coolest projects I’ve seen using Arduinos – it involves the use of augmented reality strips to create beautiful real-time 3-D graphs.…There is also some amazing stuff happening with LabVIEW, ARM microcontrollers and LEGO. Check this little robot out, built with entirely standardized components:…I am personally a fan of PIC microcontrollers (offered by when it comes to embedded projects like these, but truth to be told they are all very similar.

    1. psemme

      Agreed. There is definitely a growing interest in open source hardware. Feels like the early days of Unix, GNU -> people are laying the open source ground work for larger systems. Exciting stuff.

    2. ShanaC

      It was developed as a breakoff of another project Processing. Which in and of itself was meant to be a bridgepoint between coding and art. Ardunio was designed by the same community of people for essentially the same reasons. I was sent that way because getting lines out to the terminal made zilch sense to me. Passing a line through a function – that makes sense. Some people need a clear visual reference point.Further, all this stuff is built on Java and JVM, and the community is very active of both the art type and the hacker type. It is a very Friendly and open sourced community, as well as one that is trying to implement themselves as wraps across other languages, particuarly web based ones,at least with Processing. Processing is also unusual that it itself codes into Wiring (the i/o language), which codes into Arduino (and I believe it has a couple of other points of entry, but don’t quote me). If you know what you are doing, you can do a ridiculous amount through many different points of entry. Which is a lot considering that none of these are considered “mainstreamed” language by any means.Next step in life, being unafraid of the math/knitting movements of the passage of many functions into each other. Then moving on to more “average joe” languages. I sort of figured out already that theories behind OOP are all inter-related with each other, no matter the language. Once you get over the major skill sets in one language, you should be ok adapting to another.

    3. Mark Essel

      I get all excited when I see augmented reality modularization. I think to myself, this is what I want my web pages and viewgraphs to look like, through users/customers goggles/webcams. On top of that customizing the overlay to each individuals greatest interests and needs. You could show examples of the same application with X different virtual views while giving the same audio shpiel.Weird science ;)!Think about showing virtual simulated architecture options through a “window” looking outside. The connection of real and virtual objects brings a greater sense of size an realism to a infant stage design.

  6. Peter Clark

    I really envy startups that get to focus on Industrial Design.

    1. Craciun Constantin

      speaking of such, be sure to check out there are a lot of cool open hardware projects around there …

      1. psemme

        Yeah – harkopen is very cool.

  7. Vladimir Vukicevic

    This is really cool stuff. Does the fact that these tools are open source make them less likely to be used for sensitive government/security purposes – i.e. they are more susceptible to hacking? Or is the opposite potentially true?

    1. psemme

      It’s a great question. The federal government is increasingly using open source solutions to tackle important projects. Hopefully the trend will continue to gain momentum.

  8. thewalrus

    I think this is the most challenging investment in the USV portfolio – the barriers in the HW business are huge. But it also makes BUG so interesting…..few are willing to try the space that the contrarian in me says “there’s gold in them thar hills”. Looking forward to watching BUG develop…..hw components, sw layer, apps & services, ecosystem, biz models…..all greenfield.Speaking of green, congrats on the jets….maybe, just maybe….

    1. fredwilson

      Don’t jinx the jets!You are right. Bug is hard and not as capital efficient as we like. But its so tantalizing

      1. Name

        hah…..thats why i said ‘maybe’. ryan sure is a chip off the old block…they won’t lack swag 4 sure….

      2. psemme

        The word “hard” is part of hardware for a reason! But, that doesn’t mean impossible. We’re not trying to force “our way” – we’re simply trying to bring to the world of hardware what’s worked so well in software – open source IP, community development and bottoms-up innovation. Open source hardware has come a long way in just a couple years.

  9. joeagliozzo

    Free idea- develop a solar panel monitoring device based on this hardware and transmit the info for free over wired or wireless. You could instantly replace all the proprietary solutions on the market because they are not that good and they are expensive!

    1. fredwilson

      That’s good!

    2. psemme

      I love it! Thanks very much. I will do some research in this area. I wasn’t aware that a solar panel monitoring market even existed 😉 But that’s the point really – the Long Tail of Gadgets.

      1. joeagliozzo

        Most states, cities, utilities, etc. subsidize the purchase of solar systems. They require a monitoring system so they can measure the amount of solar power produced. It’s pretty simple technology, it’s just a meter that sits in-line on the panel output where it connects to the grid meter. In addition to providing to the utility, it’s also great for the property owner. Many companies with proprietary meters offer a web based “portal” where you can view production, but as I said in my original post, the hardware is expensive, they charge annual fees for providing the data and the software consoles are unimpressive. An open source hardware piece would be cool. This is not a small market, by the way – there are hundreds of thousands of solar installs that require this kind of metering and data transmission. Another cool idea would be to have these meters built into solar powered car charging stations that are starting to be planned and then “broadcast” their location to those looking for a car-recharging facility – a truly green driving solution.

        1. psemme

          Joe – thanks a ton for the insights. Sounds like a great opportunity. How do you know so much about the market? Would be great to learn more about it.

          1. joeagliozzo

            I am part of a startup company that finances solar installations and have been studying the market for the last 2 years. Fat Spaniel – – is one of the larger existing monitoring companies that provide the type of solution I originally mentioned.

          2. psemme

            Joe – thanks very much – I will check out your web site. I’d love to learn more. Could you send me your email address – mine is peter(a)buglabs dot net.

  10. S. Pandya

    I used to work and do research at the intersection of robotics, microelectronics, signal processing, and data fusion. IMHO, the main barrier to explosive growth in “hackable” electronics is the lack of an open-source, high-flexibility hardware model.In essence, we need “Java” for hardware. Most pieces of a modular hardware system tend to become overspecialized very quickly in response to competition and lower margins.What is needed is a modular hardware system that focuses on diversity and many components rather than having components with a gazillion features. To come up with another metaphor, we need a series of lego building blocks for the 21st century.We already have great starting points such as PIC, Arduinos, TI DSPs, etc. but we need an entire ecosystem of peripheral devices that are simple to customize, easy to deploy, and can interface with nearly anything.I have great hopes for Bug Labs. The key to their success will be if they can go beyond the usual wifi/sensors/sound/gps building blocks and tackle novel building blocks such as infrared/health diagnostics/hd/repeaters and do it in a scalable way.

    1. fredwilson

      This is Bug’s intention for sure

    2. psemme

      S. Pandya – thanks for the great comment. We’ve always taken a system level approach and are steadily working on what you describe – higher value “building blocks” that help our users innovate more quickly, iterate, try out new things (aka “fail fast”) and explore new directions cheaply and easily. Stay tuned for some more product announcements coming shortly.

      1. S. Pandya

        I would love to help. Let me know if you guys are taking ideas. (I don’t think I have ever heard of a startup refusing free ideas ;-))

        1. psemme

          Would love to talk more to you – please send me an email – peter (a) buglabs dot net

  11. johndodds

    Good to get an update – their blogging has been sparse. As per the arduino comment above I think this is going to become an increasingly sexy market space. Ultimately, doing is much more interesting and impactful than communicating via mobile or social networks.

    1. psemme

      Thanks for the comment – I agree re our blogging – we are going to crank up the volume again there now that our new product is out. And I also agree – hardware is the new sexy 🙂

  12. sachmo

    How to Build a Boxee Remote Control w/ Arduino : )

    1. fredwilson


  13. ShanaC

    I saw this post before running out. I immediately thought Arduino too. Now can you hack the two of them together + Processing and make a sculpture.They should talk to these people, who are working out of the Eyebeam Gallery (I’m on their mailing list): heaven.