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Electric Imp promises a simpler cheaper path to the Internet of Things


May 21, 2012

(From left) Imp Electric founders Peter Hartley, Hugo Fiennes and Kevin Fox show off the Imp

(From left) Imp Electric founders Peter Hartley, Hugo Fiennes and Kevin Fox show off the Imp

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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.

Source: Electric Imp via AllThingsD

About the Author
Antonio Pasolini Brazilian-Italian Antonio Pasolini graduated in journalism in Brazil before heading out to London for an MA in film and television studies. He fell in love with the city and spent 13 years there as a film reviewer before settling back in Brazil. Antonio's passion for green issues - and the outdoors - eventually got the best of him and since 2007 he's been writing about alternative energy, sustainability and new technology. All articles by Antonio Pasolini

Simpler once they can get Manufacturers on board. So to do something your looking at 2 SD Style Wifi Cards at $25 a piece, one for the device your connecting with and one for the device your connecting it to. Based on their kits it would be $7 for the basic board, $25 for the experimenter board, plus $50 for both Imp cards, plus a monthly data plan and a mini USB power option to boot. Doesn't really sound simpler, or cheaper.

A simpler approach would be to use the soon to be ubiquitous standard like Bluetooth 4 and the wildly extendable and affordable tod Smart Beacon http://kck.st/fundtod

Don Mallicoat

Interesting, it's very much like a project I started and abandoned about 3 years ago building an Ethernet connected, PoE powered I/O device with a simple web server for data access & configuration...

Chris Maresca

@Don Mallicoat, I just don't see how the tod is comparable as a solution.

Paul Anthony

@Paul, For the direction that we've decided to take, it's not entirely comparable out of the box. That doesn't mean that using our foundation platform that a solution couldn't be created that leveraged Blueooth 4 vs Proprietary WiFi to connect the things in your home to the web. That's just not where we are focusing at this point

Instead of Internet of Things, a much talked about and SciFi wet dream, we've decided to focus on Proximity and the Internet of Anything, Anywhere. While talking to my washing machine is cool, we're heading in the direction of the things consumers care about most. We are looking to connect people, places, actions and things, making it all work anywhere you are on the backbone of soon to be ubiquitous Bluetooth 4 and easy enough for a child to setup with a few simple clicks.

Our Kickstarter Project was recently 179% funded. More Information at http://todhq.com

Don Mallicoat
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