The “Internet of Things” is the supposed future world where a host of ordinary appliances, fixtures, devices and electronics communicate with each over the Internet. Picture controlling the lights or air conditioning in the house from work, or checking whether your plants need watering.
But it hasn’t taken off yet, in part because it’s hard to get different gadgets in the home to communicate with Internet-connected devices like tablets or smartphones. Different appliances, for example, operate with different software and hardware, and there hasn’t been much incentive for manufacturers to standardize so that all gadgets are talking the same language.
Ed Hemphill, an inventor and entrepreneur, thinks he has an answer. He’s launched a Kickstarter campaign for a system he calls the WigWag, designed to link together various devices in the home and get them all communicating with the Internet. What’s more, a phone app lets users set up simple rules for controlling the gadgets automatically and remotely. There is no complicated programming. You simply write rules that follow a “When happens, then do .”
WigWag, which uses radio frequencies other than those of your Wi-Fi network, is a three-part system. The first are the sensor blocks, which you can deploy around your house to monitor temperature, light, motion, sound and humidity. The second part is the relay, which connects the sensor blocks to the Internet so that you can control them with a computer or phone and they can communicate in return. The third piece is WigWag’s cloud service and app that allows you to link to online services such as Twitter and Dropbox.
Let’s say you want to control your AC using WigWag. Connect a sensor block to an outlet that supplies power to the air conditioning. Use the app to program the sensor block to turn the AC on when the temperature reaches a certain level. Since the sensors connect to the Internet via the relay, they can notify your phone or tablet that the AC has been turned on.
Place a sensor near the front door and program it to alert you when there’s motion. It may mean that an expected package has arrived or that the kids are home from school.
Since WigWag uses a standard programming language, it will be easy for other software designers to create apps in addition to the one supplied with the system. It also opens avenues for developers to connect WigWag to devices of their own design. That standardization of the software, Hemphill told DNews, allows for a real “Internet of Things.”
The Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $212,000, well past the $50,000 goal. Hemphill said he has real prototypes, and the money is to set up manufacturing for the outer casings. He expects to start deliveries in November.
For his part, Hemphill said that he’s been involved in start-ups before. He worked with LifeSize, a videoconferencing company, which was eventually bought by Logitech. So he’s no strange to business, and acknowledged that many Kickstarter projects fail to note the costs of setting up real manufacturing — a mistake he says his team won’t make.