It was only days ago that we wrote that after nearly a year of delays, the first WakeMate units were finally shipping to customers. And now there’s some more bad news — really bad. Some of the initial units are apparently bursting into flames because of any issue with the USB charger included.
Repeat: Do not use the USB charger included with the shipping WakeMate units.
The company has just sent out the following notice to customers:
Hello WakeMate Customer,
We have just been alerted to a safety issue with our product. The black USB charger bricks that have been included with the product are defective. Do not use them.
The USB chargers were sourced through a Chinese vendor. We paid to have the proper certification and safety tests performed here in the U.S. for the chargers. However, tonight we were informed by a customer of a safety incident with the black USB chargers. Therefore, effective immediately we are recalling ALL USB charger bricks and informing our customers that it is not safe to use these USB chargers to charge your WakeMate.
We will continue to look into the situation but needed to email you immediately to ensure that you stop using and unplug the included Black USB Power Bricks.
We are extremely sorry that we sent a product containing defective components. However, we also want to stress that this issue is with the chargers only, and not with the WakeMate itself. It is still safe to use the included USB cable to charge the WakeMate, and it is safe to wear the WakeMate while sleeping.
I sincerely apologize for this mishap on our part. We are doing everything we can to prevent any further incidents with the USB charger bricks.
If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me.
CEO, Perfect Third Inc.
While the notice isn’t specific about what the exact problem is, there is at least one report out there of a unit catching on fire. Jason Toff, a Googler, sent out this tweet tonight:
WARNING: my @WakeMate just burnt into flames, nearly catching my bed on fire. Do NOT use. Video of it afterward: http://twitvid.com/UBBWC
As you can see in Toff’s linked video, this looks really bad. He followed up to say he was fine, but that he was lucky he was around or his home would be on fire right now.
Obviously, this is yet more bad news for WakeMate, but they seem to have done the right thing in alerting customers as quickly as possible. It’s not yet clear if this is the only incident or if there have been others. Either way, WakeMate clearly feels this potentially won’t be an isolated problem.
Again, just to be clear, they’re saying the product itself is still safe, it’s just the black USB power adapter that is apparently defective. And if that’s the case, they shouldn’t have to do a full product recall — hopefully they’ll just have to send new USB adapters to all customers. The company says they’re still looking into the situation.
Update: There’s a bit more info in the Hacker News thread on the issue, including the company answering questions (they are Y Combinator-backed). Of note, the company says:
yes the batteries are safe. we believe that the chargers are spitting out a noisy electrical signal, which is causing the battery charger IC on the WakeMate to overheat, thus causing the problem. We have only seen any incidence when the unit is plugged into the black USB charger bricks we shipped with. To date we have logged over 20000 hours of sleep on our system, so we’re certain that sleeping with the Wakemate is safe, and that the batteries on the WakeMates are safe as well. This is in addition to the testing and certification we had done on the unit as well before we began shipping units.
We sent this email tonight within an hour of hearing about the first issue. One of our goals as a company is to increase people’s quality of life — starting with sleep. It was immediately apparent to us we had to tell our customers, especially if their safety was at all at risk.