Crowdfunding the smart home -- for better or for worse (pictures)
There's no shortage of smart-home pitches on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Here's the best -- and worst -- of what's currently out there seeking your money.
A marketplace of ideas
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are absolutely abuzz with ideas for the smart home. Some are fresh, some are stale, and others are just plain strange.
With no guarantee of funding and a propensity for delays and other production-oriented disappointments, all of these budding ideas need to be taken with a fair dose of skepticism. Still, we've seen enough big-time breakouts to know that it's a space worth keeping an eye on. Click through to see what you can currently find, from the clever, to the creative, to the downright cringe-worthy.
The oPhone is a French-designed device that promises to bring "complex scent texting into your mobile messaging life." That's right: scent. With its "aromatic vocabulary," the oPhone claims it can create over 300,000 unique smells that you'll be able to enjoy on demand, or send to your friends using the free "oSnap" app. oReally?
We're starting to see smart gardening gadgets springing up all over the place, with a couple of interesting plant sensors already on the market. The Niwa takes things further, offering a complete smartphone-controlled system for growing fruit, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. The successful campaign is just hitting its final few days, so if you're interested in buying in, now's the time.
The Aquarius is another smart gardening gadget seeking crowdfunding dollars. With Aquarius you'll be able to water your plants automatically, and keep an eye on things online or through a smartphone app.
I guess it was only a matter of time before we started seeing smart beds. This one from Italy integrates a movable HDTV, color-changing mood lighting, and support for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. The Indiegogo campaign uses "Flexible Funding," which means that it gets your money even if it doesn't reach its goal, so take this smart bed with a grain of salt.
Here's yet another crowdfunding campaign that promises to integrate music into color-changing smart lighting. What sets The Q apart, however, is the fact that it features a component that plugs into your home audio system using a standard 1/8-inch audio jack. The Massachusetts-based startup behind the system claims that this will let you play music to it from any networked device, complete with a synchronized light show.
Season Scape is a smart lighting option that chooses to think outside the bulb. Each oddlyshaped, app-enabled luminary connects with your phone over Bluetooth, changes colors on demand, and stacks together like a pile of dishes for a unique lighting effect.
Beacon, by Wilsonville, Oregon-based startup LumaGlo, is a Bluetooth-enabled smart LED belt designed to keep runners and cyclists safe. Aside from the obvious uptick in nighttime visibility, Beacon functions as a wearable brake light, using a built-in accelerometer to glow red whenever you're coming to a stop. You can customize the color and pattern of each LED, set a visual timer, or set it to notify you if you receive an important call or email worth stopping for.
Not to be confused with the successfully crowdfunded, Android-powered touchscreen light switch of the same name, Bright Switch offers a much more subtle approach to smart lighting. Forget to turn a light off, and this automated wall plate motor will flip the switch for you.
For a more sensible take on DIY security, there's Sentri. Like Piper and Canary, Sentri uses built-in environmental sensors and an integrated HD camera to keep tabs on things at home, letting you monitor all of it from a free smartphone app. Sentri sets itself apart by adding in a glossy touchscreen display, allowing you to check important household info with a quick glance.
Lila is another DIY security option. Promising Android, iOS, and Windows Phone compatibility, its set of Bluetooth-enabled internal and external sensors will keep track of things like temperature changes and whether or not doors and windows are open or closed.
Quirky+GE released an interesting desktop data tracker called the Nimbus last year. Now, in 2013, a London-based startup called Smart Atoms is taking the idea one step further with the LaMetric, a fully customizable, full color LED smart ticker capable of displaying just about any kind of data you can think of -- complete with fun, geeky iconography and promises of IFTTT integration.
Smart Atoms is asking $129 for their ticker and estimating delivery in January 2015. If you can't wait that long or don't want to pay that much (or both), you can play around with a free virtual ticker on their website.
Glance is another smart gadget designed to keep you informed. Its Canadian makers claim that after buckling it into your wristwatch, you'll be able to read incoming emails and alerts, track your activity, and even use your hand as a motion controller for a computer or smart TV. Limited numbers are available for a pledge of $80 CAD.