Say hello to the Reemo wristband, further proof that the world of wearable tech and the smart home are blurring or even merging. This is no mere activity tracker like the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone Up24, says startup Playtabase, inventors of the Reemo. Indeed, the firm describes its gizmo as no less than a mouse for the Internet of Things, one that's always on your person and ready for action. So what does that actually mean to ordinary people who live in the real world, not some cyberpunk fantasy? Potentially quite a bit.
Imagine coming home to a dark house and being able to switch on a swath of lights, or any combination of them, with one simple hand gesture. The same goes for a wide range of appliances and household gadgets like garage doors, smart locks, TVs, alarm clocks, even coffee makers -- all commanded by an imperious sweep of your arm. Sure, the concept sounds far-fetched or even half-baked, but if the Reemo works as advertised it could completely change how we dwell at home, work, and play.
Looking at the Reemo wristband, you'd probably never guess it was anything special. A flat, rubbery bracelet, perhaps the only physical attribute giving away the Reemo's special abilities is its thickness. The gadget certainly is more chunky than other wearable tech such as the Jawbone Up24 and Fitbit Flex -- imagine a larger Nike+ FuelBand SE, minus the slick LED display. That alone is a big hurdle to its success, at least with fans of sleek fitness trackers or the elegant smartwatch set.
It's still a mystery exactly how much the Reemo weighs and what materials it's constructed from. Sadly, that's because Playtabase hasn't released detailed specifics for its planned gizmo. That omission is enough to cause concern in my mind. And hopefully like competing wearable products from Fitbit, Jawbone, and Nike, the Reemo will be water-resistant enough to survive splashes, showers, and the odd unexpected dunking. If it lacks this sort of hardiness, then the Reemo's appeal will be further limited.
Make the virtual physical
Instead of measuring how much you move daily or keeping tabs on basic activity levels, the Reemo is designed to be much more. While it apparently has the hardware to know how many steps its owner takes, thanks to a 9-axis accelerometer, the Reemo also packs a gyroscope along with a magnetometer. Together, all three sensors comprise what is called an inertial measurement unit (IMU). This along with "some other goodies inside," explained Playtabase CEO Muhammad Abdurrahman, help the Reemo bracelet know which direction it's facing.
Now throw in some little checker-size tags you stick onto appliances you'd like to interact with, which talk to a central wireless (Bluetooth BLE) Reemo hub, and the Reemo has all it needs to comprehend the landscape of your home environment. Of course, each appliance, light fixture, or device you'd like Reemo to control must either be certified to work with Dataplay's creation (presumably other iControl OpenHome products that the Reemo also supports) or be connected to a compatible intelligent power adapter.
With no screen on the Reemo unit itself, the bracelet provides feedback to its wearers through haptic vibration. So when you point to a lamp you want to command, the Reemo will buzz to let you know you've selected it. After that, users simply perform gestures such as opening their hands, rotating palms to face upwards, then raising their arms upwards to increase brightness.
Who is Reemo really for?
Reemo definitely sounds compelling to techie folks that want to boast Jedi-like powers and early adopters who fearlessly plan to dive into the brave, new, smart-home world. Playtabase's gizmo is really targeted at customers with more serious needs. According to Mr. Abdurrahman, the inspiration for Reemo came about as a way for his father, a multiple stroke victim, to gain back some degree of independence.
The Reemo, says Abdurrahman, should also be a boon to seniors looking for ways to stay in their homes longer and avoid entering assisted living until absolutely necessary.
Outlook and availability
Regardless of who will buy Reemo, however, the solution must enjoy compatibility with a sizable number of home appliances in order to be truly useful. To that end, Playtabase has announced Reemo will support iControl's OpenHome Automation standard. This includes over "2 million" dealer-installed systems already in operation and covers services offered by ADT, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable.
It's an interesting move considering that Playtabase was given a big financial leg-up through participation in Microsoft's startup support wing, Microsoft Ventures. As part of the most recent Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Seattle program, the fledgling company was one of just 10 the Redmond software giant choose to back (to the tune of $100K USD).
To be clear, Microsoft doesn't secure any intellectual property from the startups under its wing. Nor are these new firms bound to any one smart-home technology or solution in order to qualify. As Microsoft Ventures Principal Aya Zook told me, "The program is platform agnostic. Will we take advantage of these business relationships to possibly help the company? Sure, but that's not the goal."
Playtabase did explain to me that it's still working closely with Microsoft and that Reemo enjoys full support of Microsoft's Home OS smart-home research project. And while Microsoft hasn't officially announced a name for a smart home OS or solution a la Apple HomeKit and Google's Nest, Home OS sounds like as good a name as any.
Also, considering the planned December 2014 end of Accelerator Seattle along with a splashy corresponding demo day event, not to mention the strong Internet of Things bent of its participants, this winter looks ripe for a real Microsoft smart-home OS entry. Mr. Zook seems to agree, saying, "This accelerator is a signal for how Microsoft is thinking about this space."
Want to wrap a Reemo around your wrist? Sadly, you'll have to wait until the summer of 2015, since that's when Playtabase expects it to hit the market. Of course, you could also back the Reemo's Indigogo campaign and get in on the ground floor for as little as $150 USD.