Not to be left out of the nascent Internet of Things, do-it-yourself enthusiasts now have a platform to connect their homemade devices to the Internet. A New York City start-up just launched a module known as cloudBit, which consists of a small Wi-Fi chip and USB power source. Although not a device itself, cloudBit connects to other devices in order to make them Internet-enabled.
The start-up, littleBits, says the module allows customers to "snap the Internet to anything." In addition to letting people create their own devices using cloudBit and other elements from the littleBits library, they can also attach a cloudBit to existing devices such as a coffee-maker, allowing it to be accessed from the Internet.
Democratizing the Internet of Things
The company had previewed the technology at the TED 2014 conference. It announced the launch of its cloudBit on Wednesday. The littleBits product line consists of a variety of modular electronics components that snap together using magnets, requiring no soldering or programming to use. LittleBits also lists a variety of project designs on its Web site, showing users which pieces to buy in order to build items such as a Wi-Fi doorbell that sends SMS messages to a pet feeder that can be controlled from the Internet. Users are also encouraged to upload their own designs for littleBit projects to the company's Web site.
"Until now, building for the Internet of Things has been reserved for large companies and experts, limiting the power of what's possible and the rate of innovation," said Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of littleBits. "With the cloudBit, we're doing for connected devices what Android did for mobile -- making an open, accessible and instantaneous platform. People can now re-create the most popular connected devices, prototype the next billion-dollar idea, or solve their own unique problem."
LittleBits also announced that it has partnered with the popular IFTT Web app, which allows users to create automation scripts and protocols for a variety of Web services. Users can integrate their devices with Facebook, Gmail, or Twitter, among other services, according to the company.
Coming to a Radio Shack Near You
The company also announced it was partnering with RadioShack to launch into retail. LittleBits products will be available in certain markets by August 2014 with plans to continue growing. The cloudBit is retailing for $59, while the Cloud Starter Bundle (which includes six additional modules and designs for five beginner projects) is being sold for $99.
According to Bdeir, in addition to being used by hobbyists, the company hopes the technology will catch on with entrepreneurs looking for a way to quickly prototype new devices. The littleBits technology could allow users to recreate other IoT devices such as Nest, Sonos or DropCam, she told Engadget in an interview.
In November 2013, the company announced an $11.1 million Series B financing round led by True Ventures and Foundry Group.