The “Internet of Things” promises to bring a world where, at some point, all electronic devices will be intelligent and connected. Your refrigerator will know what’s inside and inform you if you are running low on milk, for example, you could turn on the heating in your house before returning from work, and your sprinklers might sense when your plants need water rather than just running on a timer.
Although some of this is already possible in one way or another with current home automation systems, the problem is that most systems are expensive and rely on proprietary platforms. This means Internet-connected devices don’t always play well with others and are a pain to replace or upgrade.
A startup in Los Altos, California called Electric Imp is hoping to change that with a cloud-based approach to monitoring and managing everything you own. To enable this the company will be releasing a line of “Imp” cards that appear almost identical to standard SD cards, but with an embedded processor and Wi-Fi, which can be installed on almost any electronic device and programmed to control or measure a number of things.
They still need to persuade appliance makers to adopt the platform and get Imp slots pre-installed on a range of products, which is a massive task but the pitch is that in many cases this will cost them less than a dollar. Imp cards will cost about $25 a piece, but can be put in or taken out of compatible devices at any time.
For existing devices, end users will also be able to get a small circuit board for about $10 or $20 and retro-fit the functionality into their own appliances — though certainly this is not a task for everyone.
Once connected you’ll be able to use a browser of mobile app to do things like controlling lights remotely, or set energy-hogging devices like washing machines to run at times when the cost of power is lowest, set up motion sensors to trigger actions, and so on. The possibilities very vast, really.
Interactions will be possible on three levels: Imp to Imp, Imp to people, and Imp to services. Commands can be programmed from the web using a drag and drop graphical interface and other tools for advanced users.
Electric Imp was founded by CEO Hugo Fiennes, who was engineering manager on the first four iPhones, along with former Gmail designer Kevin Fox and software architect Peter Hartley. They just closed a series A round of funding from Redpoint Ventures and Lowercase Capital to the tune of $7.9 million, and will be shipping a developer preview bundle in late June to help manufacturers prototype and test out applications.