Ever since the days of Judy Jetson, robot butlers of the future have been on a short list for inventors. According to Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman, that future is here--and in a far less creepy way than you can imagine humanoid robots might be.
If that doesn’t sound familiar yet, just wait. It's the basis for Quirky’s new national ad campaign set to hit the airwaves tonight as part of the coordinated launch of seven new “smart-home” products for its Wink platform. Here's a clip:
The rest of the campaign functions on the same theme--that is, new smart-home products can do everything a robot butler can do, minus the potential awkwardness of (to spoil a few of the other new ads) getting interrupted in the shower or even ogled while doing yoga.
There’s Tripper, a finger-sized sensor for windows and doors, and Norm, a wall device for climate control intended to bring about “the death of the thermostat.” There are revamped power outlets, light switches and even smart-garage doors. Discreet water sensors and an updated version of the already-existing sound, temperature and humidity sensor called Spotter, which rounds out the list. Everything is designed to work together to create a safer, more efficient, and as Kaufman insists, budget-sensitive home. The Wink hub is free to use and the hardware ranges from $30 to $120 per device.
It’s a big step forward for Quirky: The results of a year and a half partnership with the multinational giant GE and a massive push for national relevance. (Speaking of, if you missed Quirky's "least important CEO" commercial, catch it here.) As for the company's latest unveiling and the company overall, here are three takeaways that people are bound to be talking about:
Quirky is for real. “Over the past two years and through our partnership with GE, we’ve really needed to level up our expertise,” Kaufman told a packed audience at the product launch on Tuesday. And the company has indeed grown. Quirky now has 314 employees, up from 121 employees two years ago. That includes 79 engineers, 75 customer service representatives, up from a respective six and three employees in these roles just two years ago. Quirky also boasted of a brand-new customer support center near GE’s Global Research facility in Schenectady, New York. The New York based company has also recently set up shop in San Francisco. In short, it looks like Quirky will be around for a while.
Smart-homes are for real, too. There’s an easy way to put it: This stuff is pretty cool. The sensors can function individually--you can get an alert on your phone if a door is open when it shouldn't be--or as part of the larger Wink interface. For example, you can set lights to turn on when a door opens. Quirky’s focus on budget-awareness is pretty cool, too. Each Outlink power outlet delivers real-time energy usage statistics to your smartphone, meaning you can track the cents that go into your power bill. Similarly, the Norm thermostat-like device encourages customizable schedules that keep your heating and air conditioning under budget. “I don’t know about you, but I was promised a certain future,” Kaufman exclaimed. “It’s 2014!”
Small businesses should pay attention. Right now, Quirky is only marketing toward consumer homes. But that’s not to say that small businesses can’t use these devices for the office--or that the smart-home system won’t be marketed toward office management and security in the near future. But the team has to be its own guinea pig first; the new San Francisco office was built with these products for exactly that purpose. “Ultimately, we do think that Wink has applications outside of the home and in small businesses,” Kaufman said.