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Summary:

A single connected device is less than the sum of its parts in an open ecosystem. Here’s how Birdi is trying to make consumers see the value in a $119 smoke detector.

Birdi device - device
photo: Birdi

Increasingly consumers are unwrapping and installing connected devices but after that initial thrill of turning on their lights or opening the garage door with their phones, they’re leaving them alone, wondering why they paid so much for connectivity in the first place. And for consumers who have yet to make the leap to a connected mindset, products that cost what might be five times the cost for a “dumb” device leaves them wondering why the heck they’d part with that kind of cash for a scale or a smoke detector.

While there’s value in a single connected device (although I’d argue it had better be about more than just remotely turning something on or off from your smartphone), adding multiple connected devices should drive a lot more value. The sum should be greater than the parts. This is why Mark Belinsky, the CEO of Birdi, the company behind a connected air quality detector is busy brainstorming ways to show how his $119 product blows other smoke detectors out of the water.

His latest idea involves a teddy bear packed with an Arduino board, Hue lights and the Birdi. Since children often sleep through a smoke detector going off (mine does), he’s built out a teddy bear to connect with Birdi. When Birdi goes off, a pre-recorded message of the parents telling the child to wake up plays on the bear, and it vibrates. Meanwhile, through a connection via If This Then That (IFTTT) or just a custom API call, any Hue lights in the house will turn on glowing red. Here’s a video demo:

Clearly, this isn’t a compelling use case for everyone, but it showcases the promise of connected devices, an open ecosystem and easy tools to bring them all together. And as time goes by and I talk to more normal people about my own setup or merely the smart home, it’s use cases they want. For example, I convinced a friend of mine that Hue lights were useful, because she could set them on a timer to change colors based on if her toddler could leave his room in the morning. So now, she gets to sleep until 7 a.m. and her sons stay and play quietly until their lights turn blue. Then they can come out.

Alternatively, people in offices are using hue bulbs to indicate how long people have a conference room or to manage time during meetings. Moving beyond light bulbs, you could set up a system where you get a text when your kid unlocks the front door, or your coffee machine turns on when you step on your bathroom scale for a morning weigh-in. Selling connected devices also means selling these use cases and letting people share their own. So Birdi’s project may seem silly to you, but it recognizes that to get people to buy a fancy smoke detector (that also measures air quality) they have to see how it’s more than just a smoke detector.

  1. Great post, thanks for sharing!

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  2. really cool and cute demo, I like that they’re using different ways of interacting with users besides just beeping alone

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  3. Fascinating stuff. Thanks!

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