Los Altos-based start-up Electric Imp is looking to make putting the "things" into the Internet of Things both cheaper and simpler with Imp - a Wi-Fi equipped card designed to connect appliances to the internet so that users can remotely monitor and control them.
A similar concept to the Twine system we saw back in 2011, Imp is geared towards simple installation and works with a range of appliances. The biggest novelty here is that the card combines the power of Wi-Fi with cloud computing provided by Electric Imp, so manufacturers don’t need to create specific management software. Users can link up with other users and services online as well as monitoring the device connected with the Imp through a web-browser or smartphone.
Behind the high-tech appeal of the innovation is a rather domestic story, which is just as well since it’s in the home that it will most likely be put to work. When Hugo Fiennes, a former iPhone engineering manager, decided to connect RGB lights under his bathroom cabinet to WiFi, he realized networking the house was a much bigger and complicated task than he’d anticipated. The experience inspired him to found Electric Imp, a company whose purpose is to make the networking of devices a simpler and cheaper task. To achieve that, he teamed up with Gmail designer Kevin Fox and software architect Peter Hartley to develop a ubiquitous connectivity system.
The possibilities of remote interaction with appliances are endless (washing machines, irrigators, light switches, etc.) and could help users reduce their use of energy and, consequently, their carbon footprint. It can also boost security and safety, besides opening up new possibilities in terms of product support and diagnostics, to name just a few of possible new scenarios.
“On your drive to your house, you can use your smartphone to turn on the hot tub and have it ready once you arrive," Imp's Lolo Fong told Gizmag. "The same applies for when you leave, to avoid wasting energy in the event you forget to turn off the hot tub.”
"The imp is good for any demographic: men, women, elderly, the young, the technical and the non-technical," Fong added. "Our solution offers both the hardware and software piece of the puzzle along with an intuitive user interface.”
Electric Imp has announced that it will start shipping a developer preview bundle in late June. The company says that manufacturers can add an Imp slot to their products for less than one U.S. dollar. and the device itself will retail for US$25.