The Simplest “Internet Of Things” Product Yet

The Spotter, a consumer-friendly product from Quirky and GE, gets us one step closer to the connected home.

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The Internet of Things is an exciting frontier, with few actual pioneers. Products like the Nest Thermostat have helped evangelize users, but for the general population, the connected home is aspirational technology, hanging out with the likes of Google Glass.

The Spotter is amongst the first consumer-friendly products for the Internet of Things. It’s one of the fruits of a partnership between GE, who’s throwing their corporate weight into making the connected home attainable, and Quirky, the New York-based outfit that crowdsources inventions. The collaboration has issued five products so far (like the Egg Finder, a dumb but brilliant take on the Internet of Things).

Spotter is a white disc packed with sensors that measure temperature, humidity, light, sound, and motion (motion isn’t detected, but rather has to be felt physically through an accelerometer). Install it permanently anywhere, or use magnets or stickies to transfer it around the home at whim. Once Spotter is set up, the app companion lets users dial between actions and create actions and alarms. Want to know when the back door opens, when the temperature gets below 65 degrees, or when the washing machine has stopped churning? Spotter will send you a push notification.

“This whole market of sensing things is very new,” says Jeff Bartenbach, who designed the app. “There are other products out there, but they’re very much DIY or tech-y. This is the first product that brings it into the regular consumer realm.”

More specifically, that other product is Twine, an earlier promise of what would come for the connected home. Twine–which looks like a piece of soap–falls into that DIY category. Its users need to have elementary hacking skills–something products like the Nest don’t require. Spotter doesn’t either: it takes about one minute to sync with available WiFi, and from there all the action happens in the all-white app, through one circular dial–a familiar interface clicks immediately with anyone who knows his or her way around an iPod.

The gadget syncs with Quirky’s Pivot Power Strip, which is WiFi enabled, adding a smart layer to some of the Spotter actions (imagine remotely controlling a humidifier that’s plugged into the Internet-enabled power strip).


Soon, the designers will add extensions so that Spotter can work as a meat thermometer, or test soil to alert homeowners to water their plants. And down the line, Quirky wants to open up the API for its savvier users.

Essentially, Spotter is a handful of smart home objects, wrapped up in one simple, button free, package. “There’s no UI on the product,” Bartenbach says. “We don’t want to scare anyone away.”

Spotter costs $50. Get connected here.


About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.