Quirky and GE Unveil Products That Will Make Your Home Smarter

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By Diana Budds / Published by Dwell
Tech startup Quirky and GE, who officially announced their partnership in April of 2013, launched seven new products that seek to reinvent home security, outlets, switches, and sensors. With the fleet, the companies believe they have the potential to make smart home technology accessible. "Through partnerships, products, and our platform, we believe we'll finally connect the home," Ben Kaufman, Quirky's founder and CEO, stated at a press briefing.

The new devices are geared toward lighting, energy consumption, and security—the top three areas where smart technology has the most potential to make an impact according to research by Quirky and GE. Kaufman called the products "the seven building blocks for an affordable and accessible home." They give users the ability to see real-time information about their home—data on how much energy a particular appliance consumes (and hence, its operating costs) or its temperature and if a door or window is open, for example. The new items, which begin shipping in December 2014, are the Tripper window and door sensor ($35 per pair); the Overflow moisture detector ($35); Outlink wall outlet with integrated energy monitor ($50); Tapt programmable light switch ($60); Ascend garage door opener ($90); Norm HVAC controller ($80); and Spotter Uniq customizable sensor ($30–$120).

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Quirky and GE announced seven new smart home products that have been under development in the two years since the companies announced their partnership. The initial ideas for the products were submitted by members of Quirky's crowdsourcing platform and were brought to market by the tech startup.

Through today's announcements, Quirky and GE have addressed two barriers relating to the adoption of smart home technology: ease of use and affordability. With the exception of the Uniq sensor, none of the products retails for over $90. Each of the new Quirky and GE devices can be controlled through the Wink app, a connected home platform that allows users to operate multiple smart home products—manufactured by Quirky and dozens of partner brands—through a single interface. This means no toggling back and forth between multiple apps and program settings to accomplish a desired action.

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Michael Taylor of Canton, Georgia, submitted the idea for the Tapt light switch. It features two buttons: a traditional on/off control and one that can be programmed to do any action, say, dim a bulb or turn all the connected lights in your house on. When smart bulbs are turned off by traditional switches, connectivity is lost. Not so with Tapt. Additionally, there's no need for a separate dimmer. Ben Kaufman, Quirky's founder and CEO, says that lightbulbs make up 40 percent of the products that Wink users control through the app. "Lightbulbs are the gateway to the connected home," he says. Over 100,000 people have started to use Wink since the app launched 126 days ago.

"We wanted to make things easy for the average user, not just the tech enthusiasts," Kaufman says. "Invention without adoption isn't invention."

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Denny Fong of Toronto, Ontario, invented the Norm smart thermostat and sensor. "The largest tech challenge at Quirky to date? The thermostat," Kaufman says. He and the company began to question the very premise of the technology. "It's one of the most outdated products," he stated. "You don't need thermostats, you need sensors to keep the ideal temperature." Instead of controlling heating and cooling based on a single thermostat, Norm can pair with sensors throughout a house to detect temperature and humidity in individual rooms and allow you to set a schedule based on your budget.

Home Depot is a current retail partner for Quirky's connected-home products and Wink-controlled devices; they're also available to order on wink.com.

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The Outlink smart wall outlet and energy monitor demystifies energy bills by allowing users to see exactly what appliances and electronics are using how much energy. Michael Taylor invented this product.

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Recognizing that water damage is often one of the most costly catastophes to happen to a home, Michael Taylor (who invented three of the seven new products) sought to create a sensor that will alert you to moisture levels in your home. The Overflow retails for $35, which is far less than the ost of water damage to a home—insurance companies say the average sum is $10,000. Suggested install locations are near water heaters, toilets, and washing machines.

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In addition to revealing the product fleet, Quirky announced plans to build a factory in San Francisco that will manufacture made-to-order smart home electronics, like the Spotter Uniq, a device that can be custom configured to include sensors for temperature, humidity, sound, light, and motion, among others. Based on what's detected, the Spotter can trigger actions in other connected devices. For example, if it detects motion, a light turns on. Moreover, users can specify what colors they'd like the housing to be. "Sensors are going to be a part of our lives and they should be nonobtrusive," Kaufman said during the press conference. "We can customize electronics to the needs of consumers; you can build your own ecosystem." The entire device will be made under one roof from start to finish (components, too) and the nature of the item required a Stateside manufacturing facility.

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About the size of a USB drive, the Tripper sensor that Robert Sweeny of Winnipeg, Manitoba, invented sends alerts if a window or door is opened. As a home security device, it lets people detect if an intruder enters a house; for parents with young children, placing this on a medicine cabinet could prevent accidental ingestions.

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When installed, the Ascend controller turns most existing garage openers into connected doors so that people can make sure they're not accidentally left open.