LittleBits' New Kit Connects Old Appliances to the Internet

LittleBits, which makes brightly colored modules that snap together to create electronic circuits, is now selling a $249 DIY kit for those who want to turn their analog abodes into WiFi-enabled smart homes. The set extends the use of the recently launched cloudBit, giving users a menu of projects that include a remote pet feeder, a smart air-conditioner, and a garage door monitor. It essentially allows people to build their own IoT hardware without having to wait for companies like Nest, GE, or Apple to roll out another product.

“The electronics industry pretty much remains a very top-down industry that is very much controlled by large companies, by experts, by engineers,” says LittleBits CEO Ayah Bdeir. “Very few people are able to gain access and innovate in it.” Her three-year-old startup makes it as easy to customize hardware as it is to assemble Ikea furniture.
The Smart Home Kit comes with 14 bits, including the cloudBit as well as five new ones: an MP3 player, a temperature sensor, a number counter (which, for instance, can be attached to the temperature sensor to display Fahrenheit or Celsius values), a threshold (which can turn a sensor into a trigger module), and an infrared transmitter (which can be paired with an AC switch to turn appliances on or off). The company includes an infographic poster cataloging a host of potential projects, from a device that adds toilet paper to your digital grocery list when someone takes the last roll to an alarm that sounds when your fridge is left open too long. Makers can control the devices through the LittleBits-hosted Web app; their own API, or IFTTT (If This Then That), a service that connects to a channel like Twitter or Facebook to trigger an action such as a tweet or Facebook status update.

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