Lighting Smart Home

Brightup smart lighting adds context to lighting control

The Premise. The electric light revolutionized everything. Since then there have been several upgrades from a hardware perspective in terms of bulbs or light output, but not much in the way of operation. While several companies are allowing people to control their lights with their mobile devices, one company wants to put the mobile device in charge and make the whole process automatic.

The Product. The brightup smart lighting system avoids the smart home lighting automation equipment that has been promised for decades but has rarely seen adoption. Instead of installing a complicated network for the home’s outlets, brightup has a set of outlet caps that can be plugged in the home. Then, lamps or other lighting systems can be plugged in, and interface with the home’s central unit. The central unit detects the smartphone on which the brightup app is installed, and turns on the lights to greet users. Settings for dimmer switches that detect TVs or travel mode which gives off the illusion of someone in an empty home are also available.

The Pitch. The designers of brightup use their video to make a lot of vague statements about technology, but once the concept of brightup’s functions start, it’s easy to see the appeal. The campaign’s pictures show off the technology and the internal components, as well as feature several seemingly unrelated blocks of computer programming. To meet its goals of keeping prices low and complete the plastic tooling, brightup needs 130,000, or just over $175,000.

The Perks. The brightup starter kit costs €159 (under $220) with approximately an additional $20 shipping cost outside of the European Union. The starter kit comes with 1 central unit and 1 device (a plug or in-wall dimmer). 2 additional units come in the featured bundle for an additional €40, or the entire house can be connected at the €449 (~$615) level with 1 central unit and 10 devices. Higher tiers are meant to be shared among multiple people and come with up to five central units.

The Potential.  Having a home’s light completely set up on the brightup system seems like a great idea, but the price point is a little steep to start with. The system does little to conserve power like competitors unless residents forget to turn lights off when they leave, and the security mode would only work in rooms where brightup plugs were installed. It’s a neat idea, and certainly an innovation where one is sorely needed, but it’s questionable whether or not brightup’s unique features are worth the additional cost. Currently, the technology is not compatible with U.S. electrical systems.

Smart Home

Jalousier lets sun shine in on home automation with blinds control

The Premise. Blinds and curtains can often be difficult to maneuver and operate, and they always have to be readjusted for different lighting environments. Even expensive electric blinds still have to be operated by button or a remote control. Wouldn’t it be great is the blinds could just adjust automatically?

The Product. The Jalousier, named for the French word for blinds, looks to overcome the everyday obstacles normal blinds pose. The device is able to monitor different stimuli such as lighting conditions, room temperature, sun position, and weather. Using these variables, the Jalousier adjusts the blinds to optimize natural daylight, provide privacy, and lower artificial lighting, cooling, and heating by up to 18%. The built-in wifi makes it accessible through your smartphone, and integrable with your smart home community.

The Pitch. The Bulgarian team offers a pretty self-explanatory device, and the video shows just how simple it is to use. The project creators explain the difficulties of wrestling with blinds and always having to readjust them, and then they show how the Jalousier factors in different variables to adjust to the ideal angle. The design of the product makes it easy to install and take off with minimal effort, and the video shows just how easy that is.

The Perks. If you want to try it out at the early bird price, one Jalousier will cost $99. If you want to expand to more blinds throughout your house, the price doesn’t get lower as you purchase more—it’s a flat rate of an additional $100 for each additional device. Currently, Jalousier expects to deliver its device by October 2014.

The Potential. The Jalousier has a minimalist design that packs some interesting features that change the way we control our blinds. Electric blinds can often be too pricey, so the Jalousier is a more economic solution that also puts more control in your hands through their free app. Control of one’s blinds isn’t at the top of the home automation wish list, but after the precedent set by products such as Nest thermostat and Hue light bulbs, it seems as though another home automation task is about to be democratized.

Smart Home

EmoSPARK melds AI, cloud intelligence in a small cube

The Premise. The movie Her raises many questions about artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to human interaction. As technology grows smarter, a more capable AI becomes almost inevitable as humans continue to grow closer and closer to creating a computer program that can think and interact like a human.

The Product. The EmoSPARK is one of the first products that claims the capability to read human emotions and learn from its environment in order to improve its interactions with people. It allows people to interact with it via conversation, music and visual media through an Android-powered program that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. By reacting to human emotions and interaction, the EmoSPARK can enhance the stimuli it receives to boost that emotion and make interaction seem natural—as if with another human being. It has access to over 39 million topics and can be paired with smart devices to make integration that much easier.

The Pitch. While maybe not as advanced and alluring as Scarlett Johansson’s voice in “Her,” the video shows that the EmoSPARK can read and understand human emotions—and subsequently translate that into a response that constitutes normal interaction. It can be used by people of all ages, and it can even be used as an Internet learning tool with its wide access to information on the web. The creators have held out two stretch goals at $200,000 for home automation and a Windows Phone app and $300,000 for compatibility with crowdfunding alumni Webee and Ninja Sphere.

The Perks. The EmoSPARK cube costs $224 for early adopters, and it will be delivered by May 2014. For an extra $50, the IP camera that gives it eyes and ears at home is worth getting as well if you’re investing in the cube. If you’re willing to drop a cool $9,000, you can claim a day with CEO in EmoSPARK’s London office as well as a cube signed by the whole team.

The Potential. The idea screams potential, but unfortunately, the product doesn’t. The EmoSPARK definitely takes steps toward being a more capable AI unit capable of human interaction, but the it still hasn’t reached the natural cadence of human interaction. EmoSPARK bills itself as the firat AI home console but it’s certainly not the first cloud-based device sitting waiting for your ambient commands. The Ubi recently began shipping to backers since being funded on Kickstarter in 2012. Nonetheless, the EmoSPARK may be a stepping stone worth taking a look at as we continue to strive toward that goal.

Automotive Smart Home

WataSensor WA1 detects dirty deeds in home or car

The Premise. In 2012 alone, there were 8,975,438 property crimes in the U.S. according to the FBI. Collectively, those crimes (which include burglaries, larceny thefts, and car thefts) resulted in a loss of $15.1 billion dollars for the victims, and the rate that agencies made arrests on these crimes is 528.1 arrests for every 100,000 crimes.

The Product. WataSensor aims to improve the security market, and improve the alarming number of property thefts in the U.S. Their product, the WA1, can sense a window breaking, a door opening, or a fire burning and will then send an alert to your smartphone so you can always monitor your property safely. The WA1 is completely portable, and works in any car or house up to 2000 square meters, plus it doesn’t rely on line-of-sight or motion-sensing technology like its competitors. Simply pair it with your smartphone, and you’re protected with the WA1 — no wires or additional set up required.

The Pitch. WataSensor’s video explains just what its product is capable of, and how the company hopes their product can protect property in both the home and automotive markets. According to WataSensor, 90% of homes are unprotected and they hope to change that number for the better. By raising $100,000 the company plans to invest in manufacture tooling for the WA1 and complete their development of the smartphone app.

The Perks. Early adopters, for the price of $249, can be among the first to be protected by the WA1 when it ships in July 2014. That package will also include regular updates from the team and a special edition t-shirt as well. For those more enthusiastic about the product, $400 will include the aforementioned items plus the current generation device which will ship in February.

The Potential. The WA1 will go head-to-head with a huge crowdfunding success story, the Canary, as well as the crowdfunded iSmartAlarm. These products disrupt the security market by creating a device that allows protection without the monthly payments or costly setup procedures, although those who want a professionally monitored option will need to look at options such as the SimpliSafe2. These options also have the advantage of letting you move houses without having to start over and work in just about any setting. Indeed, if the WA1 be even used in a car as the company states, it may be poised to advance home security into apartments where penetration is even lower than in houses.

Smart Home

Webee seeks to boss around home controls

The Premise. Technology is meant to seamlessly intertwine with our lives to make every day living more efficient and productive. But with so many devices, it can be hard to keep track and manage every single one. So imagine if you could control every appliance in your house, from a simple app on your phone.

The Product.  Not to be confused with the identically named children’s educational computing system that mounted an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, the Webee is a smart home system that connects and controls your devices though an app on your phone. While there are other such systems on the market, the Webee claims that it is unique in that it learns from your patterns and makes suggestions based on your style of living. (However, the Kickstarter-hosted Ninja Sphere  makes a similar promise.)

Webee promises to upgrade your lifestyle and save a ton of money by reducing your energy bill. Simply plug in the small “Boss” box and install the app to start controlling your smart appliances vs. modules known as Bees, and turn your regular appliances into smart appliances with a smart Plug that automatically pairs with the Webee.

The Pitch. In seeking  $50,000, Webee’s campaign page why people would want a smart home. The video shows just how easy it can be to manage all of your appliances to maximize their efficiency. The system’s designers show how the user interface can make suggestions based on your patterns in order to save money and live in a smarter universe.

The Perks. For $299, one can claim the Early Webee Lifestyle package to get started on your Smart home. That package includes a smart hub (Boss),and a host of  things to control (Bees) including a smart plug, a smart lamp holder, a door closing/opening sensor, a Smart Station, and a Smart Host. If you want to test out the system to see if a smart home is for you, you can get a smart hub and smart plug for only $129.

The Potential. There are other smart home devices on the market such as the Revolv. All promise to reduce the cost and complexity of automation dramatically, but it’s really anyone’s race right now until the use case is better proven out.

Connected Objects Sensors/IoT Smart Home

Ninja Sphere keeps digital tabs on things roaming around your home

The Premise. Everyone loves the promise of a smart home that can alert us to — and ideally control — things around your home. But many of these products are expensive or complicated. Other systems require apps for different manufacturers.

The Product. Ninja Sphere is a second generation home sensor and automation platform from the Australian team who raised over $100,000 bringing you Ninja Blocks. And, boy, have they upped their industrial design game. The curved, underlit Spheramid is the heart of the system that also includes roaming waypoints and smart plugs. Ninja Sphere integrates Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee radios and takes advantage of gestures and triangulation to pinpoint where things are in your home in addition to the usual sensors.

The Pitch. The campaign, while someone jargon-heavy is beautifully done. It showcases many of the features of the Ninja Sphere. Most users will be too captivated by what’s happening on screen to listen to the narrators discuss technical details. Examples of the functionality include a pop-up on the television screen that alerts the user to an incoming call and tells her what room the phone is in. While a proof of concept, you can also turn the lights on and off with the push of a button on the “smart watch.”

The Perks. This product is obviously pushing the limits of technological advances, and the ability to control your home are growing exponentially. A system of devices, Ninja Sphere started at the sold-out $199 AUD level. However, the company also offers a $549 AUD level to address a two-level home. Other configurations are aimed at apartments, but it doesn’t seem feasible that many people living in apartments would have the need for something like Ninja Sphere. Products are expected to be delivered in June 2014.

The Potential. With some similarities to the multi-radio Revolv home automation system, Ninja Sphere is definitely a bleeding-edge product designed to keep track of multiple things going on in your home. The success of these products will depend on how many things worth controlling enter the market and how many consumers adopt them.