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Why Icontrol Is Crowd-powering Its New Smart Home Product Suite

To catalyze its move from the enterprise to the consumer, Icontrol looks to Indiegogo.

Why Icontrol Is Crowd-powering Its New Smart Home Product Suite
[Still: Courtesy of Reemo]

Crowdfunding is all the rage for Internet of Things devices, but campaigns often fail as a result of team inexperience and lack of business savvy. To better shepherd the next generation of connected communication gadgets, Indiegogo is partnering with Icontrol to bootcamp promising new startups.

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Icontrol isn’t well known to consumers–instead, it’s grown to become a dominant purveyor of connected devices in enterprises. “Icontrol is the biggest IoT platform that nobody’s ever heard of,” says Jason Domangue, VP of ecosystem development. The company has 22.5 million devices in use across North America.

Of course, enterprise products are traditionally more pragmatic than sexy. Take the keypad entry security systems of yesteryear–effective but not attractive for consumers expecting slick and intuitive design. Today’s edgiest design concepts increasingly come out of small teams running crowdfunding campaigns. That’s why Icontrol turned to Indiegogo to promote its next-generation smart home integration project, OpenHomeLabs. Instead of targeting large companies, Icontrol is working with Indiegogo to chaperone young startups under one interoperability umbrella that will allow it to reach mass consumers.

Both Icontrol and Indiegogo hope OpenHomeLabs becomes a model for larger companies to lend logistics and fundraising guidance in a way that helps the whole startup ecosystem. This professional advisory role couldn’t come at a better time as as large and established companies begin launching their own crowdfunding campaigns.

“It’s a growing up of the crowdfunding ecosystem,” says Kate Drane, hardware lead at Indiegogo. And there are requirements that reflect its maturity: The device has to be scalable from the start, and should be a domestic gadget. But by growing these startups to work in Icontrol’s OpenHome environment, each new startup’s IOT device offers new interactivity with devices already in the OpenHome family.

OpenHomeLabs is launching the project with three smart home device companies:

BTTN


BTTN is, well, a single button–but a smart one. Living up to its Scandinavian roots, BTTN combines ultra-simplistic design from lauded Finnish industrial designer Harri Koskinen and efficient engineering. “It’s the ultimate smart home toggle” says BTTN founder and CEO Harri Rautio. You can set up any coordinated device-linked effect with a press of the BTTN, from turning on the house lights to alternating precise setups of security, lighting, temperature, smart locks, etc. Rather than suffer feature bloat, the BTTN team kept the device simple–but simple doesn’t mean limited.

As part of Icontrol’s setup, BTTN connects directly to the OpenHome server–meaning functionality improvements are just a server-side update away. This includes any other smart device that wants to link up to OpenHome and use BTTN’s open API. A press can connect to the servers via SMS, mobile phone data, or Wi-Fi and the BTTN lights up green, yellow, or red for appropriate feedback on how that signal went.

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Reemo

Simple is also the name of the game for Playtabase’s’ Reemo, a wristband that uses gestures to connect with the smart home. “It’s a wearable mouse for the Internet of Things,” says Playtabase COO and cofounder Al Baker. Mouse indeed: Many gesture devices have been tried through the years, but Reemo’s is far more natural–and intuitive enough for Playtabase CEO cofounder Muhammad Abdurrahman’s 100-year-old grandfather to use. Abdurrahman dreamed up Reemo after a series of strokes limited his grandfather’s mobility, but Abdurrahman thinks that everyone would want to expand their home control from afar. “I think people will want those Jedi superpowers,” Baker says.

Microsoft believes so, too–which is why Playtabase is in the inaugural round of Microsoft Ventures Accelerator. As Playtabase’s Reemo Indiegogo campaign opens today for funding, they’ll join nine other startups on Microsoft’s campus this Fall to get even more mentoring and resources on top of their OpenHomeLabs partnership with Indiegogo.

Reemo not only tracks data but can, once again, upload it to OpenHome’s servers–which lets Abdurrahman know if his grandfather made it to the medicine cabinet on time to take his medication. And if grandpa hasn’t moved all morning, it might be time to head over and check in on him. But Abdurrahman maintains that this increases his grandfather’s independence now that his visits aren’t veiled check-ins to make sure grandpa’s still up and at ‘em.

There’s an even greater dimension to Reemo’s potential: discussions with drug companies to explore how the Reemo band could measure minute body movements. Parkinsons patients, for example, could be monitored from afar, and it would be simple to automate an alarm triggered by erratic movement straight through OpenHome’s servers.

Zen Thermostat

The Zen Thermostat has already raised over $32,000 of its $50,000 goal after only a couple days on Indiegogo. Zen is more than a squared-off Nest…or rather, less. After a half-year of design refinement, the Australia-based Zen aims to be as hands-off as possible. Plus, without any knobs or whistles to finagle with on the device itself, it looks sleek on a wall.

The Zen team connects with smart home devices via Zigbee or Wi-Fi. It can also be controlled with taps on the lit casing, but you’ll mostly be twiddling with the temperature through the connected smartphone app. Zen isn’t ignoring Nest’s 800-pound gorilla in the room–Google’s purchase validates the smart thermostat concept, says Zen founder Michael Joffe. But the Google-bought gold thermostat standard hasn’t really made inroads to the Australian market. This gives Zen room to grow, but also to develop its integration possibilities with the greater OpenHomeLabs suite. Plus, as a simpler machine, you can snag a Zen for $150 Indiegogo price–easily $100 cheaper than Nest.

But Zen’s greatest advantage over Nest lies in the OpenHomeLabs partnership: Icontrol has the global B2B experience to help Zen scale into new markets. Unlike many other smart home devices, thermostats aren’t plug n’ play–they need to be engineering to work with the local utility grid. Thermostats differ from region to region, and international business experience is invaluable when working with foreign bodies.

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With the slew of devices in OpenHomeLabs’ suite, Joffe is betting that Zen’s simplicity puts it ahead of the Nest, which requires far more monitoring to attain optimal energy use. “I put one in my parents’ home,” founder Joffe said. “They didn’t touch it except for once or twice a month. They used their phone to change the temperature. The Zen minimizes time spent messing with the device.”

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