Blog Post

A rough road to crowdfunding the Retrofit of Things

There is more than one way to get devices traditional device categories to connect to the internet. For example, even as the native connected interfaces of HDTVs have steadily matured, they have attracted dozens of devices to retrofit their connectivity — Blu-ray players, TiVo, game consoles, internet set-tops such as Roku and Apple TV, and now a range of inexpensive HDMi add-ons such as the Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. Even power outlets themselves have been internet-enabled by products such as Belkin’s WeMo and switches and Quirky’s humbly anointed Power Pivot Genius.

But these were just warmups. Crowdfunding projects are finding creative ways to connect all manner of things to the internet. However, not all of the attempts to bring the products to market have been successful:

The DSLR

While point-and-shoot cameras have been hit hard by smartphones and Android-infused cameras such as the Galaxy Zoom have fallen flat, DSLRs continue to have strong appeal to professionals, many of whom like to keep their cameras simple and have them focused on capturing great photos. Still, for those who like a little more in the way of connectivity, Lumera adds Wi-Fi and GPS to most DSLRs as well as Bluetooth for remote control. It even adds an extra USB port for additional storage. A Kickstarter staff pick, the $179 CAD product has attracted more than half of its $90,000 CAD goal with less than two weeks left in the campaign.

The air conditioner

Many of these window fixtures come with remotes and thermostats, but you can’t activate them when you’re away from home with your smartphone unless you buy a connected model such as Quirky’s Aros or Friedrich’s Kuhl. Acting a bit like Logitech’s Harmony Smart Remote for the TV, Tado° Cooling bridges between the Wi-Fi in your house and the infrared port on your air conditioner to allow you to control it from just about anywhere. You’ll need to maintain line-of-sight between Tado° and the A/C, but the idea has also been tried by products such as Sensibo and Monolyth.

Tado° sailed past its funding goal in June, but still hasn’t shipped and hasn’t provided an update to backers since late August although the product’s Web site is still accepting pre-orders.

Tado Cooling

The watch

The best engineers in consumer electronics have struggled mightily to make a smartwatch that that isn’t too bulky, so how do you retrofit an existing timepiece? Kiwi Wearables, developers of the Glance, tried pulling it off with a device with that lived under the watch band, The Glace would provide notifications in a way that’s arguably more discreet than that of existing smartwatches. It also would allow you to save (analog) face in front of your favorite wristwear, which can keep telling time even if Glance’s battery dies.

With a product price of about C$70, the campaign attracted nearly C$70,000, but that was only half of its C$150,000 goal and so the developer pulled the plug. It is now focusing on embedded motion-sensing technology. Modillian, another attempt to add notifications to standard watches via a vibrating “smart strap,” also fell short of its campaign goal.

The light switch

Light switches have long been one of the trickiest products to retrofit for average consumers because they require consumers to deal with components behind a wall. This has led to many companies putting the radio inside the bulb itself, an approach taken by the Philips Hue. Actuswitch is a clever hack that replaces your light switch faceplate with a Bluetooth-controlled motorized alternative that can turn Decor style light switches on and off with no wiring required. Plus, the switches can still be operated manually. Slated to sell in retail for $45, Actuswitch attracted little funding and its developer Hometronx canceled its campaign in early November.

The shower

There are many devices out there to help save water during your regular cleaning, but few have the intelligence of Eva, which fits over most shower heads. It allows you to set your desired water temperature via a companion app, reminds you of when it’s time to leave the washing chamber and get on with your life, and even adjusts water pressure on the fly depending on how close one gets to the shower head. Eva is on track to meet its December 21 campaign goal of $50,000.

One Response to “A rough road to crowdfunding the Retrofit of Things”