New “Internet of Things” products could make your office smarter

    By owenl | Small Business

    A new crop of “smart home” products equipped with sensor technology and Wi-Fi connectivity include several apps for making your office, or home office, a little easier to manage. In a new partnership with GE, the innovative gadgets manufacturer Quirky is releasing a suite of products this week that let you control electronics and sensors remotely from your smart phone.

    The products all run on the Quirky/GE Wink ecosystem app. Download that from the iTunes store to your iPhone and you can control your smart office devices from wherever you take your phone.

    We’ve written here before about apps small business owners use to run their offices remotely, such as Ted Steen who controls the HVAC system in his Stamford, Conn., event space from his iPhone at home in Boulder, Colo. Steen paid around $5,000 to set up his remote system. For small offices or home offices, apps for remotely turning off electronics or sensing deliveries will be far less costly.

    The Nimbus from Quirky-GE is a personal dashboard with four dials that gauge the digital data that you select. Monitor the weather, how many unanswered emails are in your inbox, how heavy the traffic on your commute route is, the number of Tweets or Facebook likes you’ve received this hour, or upcoming appointments on your calendar. The controls can be integrated with smart phone alarms and alerts. For instance, if you need to be home by 6:00 pm, an alert will let you know to leave the office early if Nimbus says the traffic is heavy. Price: $129.99.

    Spotter is a multipurpose sensor that detects motion, humidity, light, sound, and temperature. Quirky spokeswoman Tiffany Markofsky explains: “If you’re waiting for a package or delivery, you could put it outside and when something is dropped off it will sense it and notify your smart phone.” Price: $49.99.

    Pivot Power Genius is a smart-phone controlled power strip that lets users remotely control electronics plugged into two of its five outlets. You can set an alarm to turn your computer off at 7:00 pm every day, for instance, or to turn your desk lamp on to greet you on cold, dark winter mornings. Price: $79.99.

    Markofsky says those and a few other new products will be rolled out at Home Depot and Best Buy stores on November 4, and a steady stream of smart home products that can be integrated on the Wink ecosystem will follow. “Our product pipeline is endless. By next year we’ll have 30 products—you can already see a garage door opener, a security camera, and a smart coffee maker in development. People are submitting new ideas every day all day long,” she says.

    The people Markofsky is referring to are Quirky’s real-people-like-you inventors. The company’s unique crowdsourced product development model elicits, and pays for, ideas from innovators worldwide.

    Quirky’s collaboration with GE began two years ago with a small project to develop an internet-connected milk jug that notifies its owner when the milk has soured. “It was a bit of an experiment,” Markofsky says. “GE had their eye on bringing the Internet to product development and we had our eye on the smart home category. And as brands and cultures we fit, so the relationship started off and evolved.” Now Quirky inventors get access to GE patents, and the two companies co-develop the products.

    Have an idea for how your office could be made smarter with GE technology run from a smart phone? Why not explore it with Quirky?

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