Alex Hawkinson likes to say that his company SmartThings began with a flood in the basement. While away from his house in Colorado, the power went out. The pipes froze then burst, turning the site into a hazard zone before the family was aware of any problem. Reflecting afterward, he felt there should be sensors that alert home owners when something goes wrong, but he couldn’t find any to his liking.
You probably don’t need me to tell you what happened next. Like so many other entrepreneurs who have encountered a problem and couldn’t find an existing, satisfactory solution, he set out to build his own. Hawkinson’s results, however, were anything but formulaic. It’s also worth inserting the disclaimer that household catastrophe is no guarantee of startup inspiration – fifteen years worth of executive experience in cloud-based tech companies helped prepare Hawkinson for his latest project.
Communicating with the Things Around You
Out of personal misfortune emerged SmartThings, an open platform that makes everyday objects more intelligent by connecting them to the Internet. Using a smartphone for a remote control, home owners can monitor, control, and automate household systems and appliances. Through applications connected in the cloud via SmartThings hub, people can control their house in as many ways as they might imagine – manage the thermostat, receive a notice from Fido’s dog collar when he’s left the yard, start the coffee brewing the moment some one wakes in the morning…
The first attempt to introduce SmartThings to a wider audience proved a huge success. A Kickstarter campaign aimed at bringing in $250,000 raised $1,209,423. The company’s good fortunes have since continued. A Series A round of funding in 2013, led by Greylock Partners and Highland Capital Partners, brought total venture funding to $15.5 million.
Smarter, Safer, More Energy Efficient Homes
Such an enthusiastic reception can partly be explained by SmartThings’s approach, which sees the forest rather than the trees. Money and creative energy have been flooding mobile development. We’ve seen apps galore tackling energy efficiency, automating products, and other home concerns. Nothing against the victors who invent a single solution, but SmartThings establishes a system that may incorporate virtually unlimited solutions. (Hawkinson admits that his house now has hundreds of automated devices.)
In addition to the system that connects things to the Internet and the SmartApps that give owners the freedom to control their house as they see fit, the platform invites inventors and developers to build smart things. As the Internet of Things grows, and more and more products turn smart, SmartThings is positioned to benefit form any and all advances.
This should come as great news to the home owners who’d like to be greeted by music when walking through the door, have the air conditioning turn up while returning from work, or be notified when a circuit shorts. Bad news for the teenager trying to sneak back inside undetected. The house, however it might be imagined, is the limit.