Lots has been written about what the Internet of Things will mean, with visions of smart office buildings equipped with sensors that track activity, responding by turning things on and off automatically, regulating the temperature and so on, but few of these offices actually exist. Problem is, smart offices require a significant investment in these connected systems, and most people aren’t convinced of the value of investing in them. However, this could soon change with the launch of the new SmartThings online store, which is showcasing a variety of sensor-loaded products that could soon make the smart office a reality.
SmartThings is a Washington-based startup that offers a connected home platform that allows people to control their lights, their coffee maker, their door locks etc via a mobile app. It began life on KickStarter, where it successfully raised $1.2 million to help it build a community and get feedback about its products. It sells a range of sensors for different things in the home, which can be set up anyway users want and controlled via a smartphone. SmartThings platform is open, meaning that it’s compatible with a bunch of common wireless standards, for example Bluetooth, Z-Wave and Zigbee, which means that it can work with almost all protocols and third-party devices. The company recently gave a demo of its platform’s capabilities at All Things D’s D11 conference a few months back, and has previously been profile by Wired.
SmartThings offers a nice solution to enable the Internet of Things, but it’s not the only player in this game – dozens of companies are offering similar home automation systems, and as this technology evolves the competition is only going to heat up. Even so, SmartThings has managed to carve out a niche for itself, licensing its products to manufacturers like GE and Kwikset, so these can make products using its technology.
But this isn’t enough for SmartThings, which understands that most consumers have no idea who makes compatible products, nor where to buy them. Hence, the company has decided to launch its online store to help move things along and make the smart office a reality.
The store’s still a bit small at the moment, with only a few dozen products on sale. However, SmartThings claims that its technology can be used by over 1,000 different products, and says it plans to curate its store to focus on those that are most in demand. What this means is that the store is currently focused on home automation – but it’s not difficult to see how the same products and services could bring a smart office to life.
One company has already done just that. Brow Media Relations, a PR firm based in New York that represents SmartThings, has already decked out its own offices with gizmos from SmartThings. Their setup allows anyone in the office to do things like switch on the lights at their desks, or turn off the air conditioning by remote. It goes further too – for example, if the windows are left open at the end of the day, sensors will automatically warn workers still in the office to close them before they leave. Some doors are equipped with sensors that send out an alert if they’re opened during closing hours, while motion detectors control certain lights, turning them on and off as people walk past.
We already have these kinds of systems in newer buildings, because they’re easy to install in new constructions. The difference with SmartThings’ offerings is that these can easily be installed in older buildings too, and can be done so for relatively little expense – for instance, it costs just $300 for a starter kit containing six sensors and the control hub, which can be deployed for a variety of purposes. Simply buy the sensors you need and program them how you want. Whether it’s motion detectors that switch on the lights for added convenience, or sensors attached to expensive equipment that can alert you if it’s moved, SmartThings offers all kinds of solutions.
SmartThings’s online store might be starting out small, but as we see more manufacturers jump onboard and new applications are developed, it could well be the start of something very big.