Quirky, the New York City startup focused on crowdsourcing innovation, has also been working in partnership with GE to create a full-bodied ecosystem of connected devices and services for the smart home. Earlier this year, it spun out a whole new company, Wink, focused on building the app, hub, and control panels for the smart home. The problem is that studies show many people are still afraid to experiment with a smart home. "Most Americans still don't think the smart home is affordable," said Beth Comstock, GE's chief marketing officer. "Quirky today will turn that on its head. This morning it launched a bevy of new connected devices, along with a couple of other initiatives all aimed at driving mainstream consumer adoption of the smart home.
The first two items are bare-bones sensors. Overflow is a $35 unit that alerts you when it detects water leakage. Tripper is a $40 door and window sensor that monitors when something is opened or closed. It can be connected to your Wink app to automate certain routines, like turning off your lights when you leave in the morning, turning them on when you come home at night, or adjusting the heat when you open and close the window.
Outlink is a smart wall outlet with a pretty compelling selling point: it can monitor your energy consumption in real time to help you better understand your bill. Now you can find out if your vacuum cleaner or blender are sucking down pennies or dimes every time you run them.
Tapt is a smart wall switch that lets you program routines, control smart bulbs even when the switch is set to off, and use the app as your dimmer.
"Most Americans still don't think the smart home is affordable."
Ascend is the least exciting of the new products, it's basically a converter that makes your current garage door opener into a smart opener, which you can control and monitor through the Wink app.
Finally there was Norm, which Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman grandly introduced with the line, "Today we're announcing the death of the thermostat." It's not really clear why replacing one box with another equals the end of the thermostat, but Norm is much simpler and cheaper, at $80, than most smart thermostats. It monitors temperature in whatever room you install it, can be controlled with the Wink app, and can be easily connected to low-cost temperature sensors in any room. The Norm allows you to set and adjust temperature for an average of all your rooms or apply more finely tuned room-by-room temperatures if you have an HVAC system installed.
Where will you find a bunch of good, inexpensive sensors to work with your Norm? Quirky also announced the creation of a new micro-factory in San Francisco where it will produce custom-made sensor kits it's calling the Spotter UNIQ. The unit looks like a basic smoke detector but can be personalized to detect motion, temperature, humidity, light, sound, vibration, and several other factors. It's priced between $30 and $120 a unit, depending on how many different sensors and smart buttons you want crammed into it. The goal is to make it easy for consumers to have sensors in every room that fit their needs and to ask them only to pay for what they want.
Trying to show the world they don't actually want the Jetsons
Last but not least, Quirky announced a new nationwide marketing campaign for Wink playing off of the theme of the creepy robot butler. The joke is that we've all been waiting for that Jetson's era home, with a digital assistant at your beck and call, is already here and would be better delivered with the Wink app than a humanoid machine. It's definitely a straw man (or bot), but it's also pretty funny.
For now, the big takeaway would be that Quirky and GE are powering forward in the smart home space, fleshing out an ecosystem of connected products that was already one of the most robust and readily available. Whether this will convince more consumers to start opening their wallets remains to be seen.
Photos by Sean O'Kane