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Quirky jumps into home automation with a Linux hub

Jun 23, 2014 — by Eric Brown 3,976 views

Quirky unveiled an open, Linux-based “Wink” home automation hub and mobile app that control devices available at GE, The Home Depot, and elsewhere.

New York City based Quirky announced its new Wink subsidiary, home automation hub, and smartphone app in The New York Times, and released a brief announcement in preparation for next week’s full launch. A Quirky rep confirmed our suspicions that the Wink Hub runs embedded Linux, but offered no further hardware details.

Wink Hub
(click image to enlarge)

Wink is launching as “the preferred platform” for GE’s “brilliant” products, as well as for “numerous connected home products available at The Home Depot,” says the company. Amazon is also listed as a partner, but would appear to primarily serve as a retailer along with The Home Depot. The retailers will sell Wink-enabled products in nearly 2,000 of its U.S. locations and on its website starting on July 7, and the Wink app will be available for Android and iOS sometime this summer.

According to the New York Times story, the Wink Hub will sell for $79, and will include WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Z-Wave radios. In addition to supporting products from GE, The Home Depot, and Quirky’s own home automation products, Wink will soon support many more devices. In July, some 15 companies spanning 60 products will announce Wink compatibility, says the story. Other partners reportedly will include Honeywell, Philips, Rachio, and Rheem.

Wink app
(click image to enlarge)

The Wink teaser page shows screenshots of the app’s dashboard interface for a wide variety of connected smart products, including door locks, lighting, smart shades, and heating and cooling systems. Other features are said to include shortcut buttons, scheduling tools, and automated scripts.

Wink app screenshots
(click images to enlarge)

Most connected devices will require the Linux-based Wink Hub device for control, although it appears some devices can be controlled directly via WiFi from the mobile app and a standard WiFi router.


Quirky’s unique brand of crowdsourcing

The Times story also profiles Quirky, a fast-growing company founded in 2009 that has flipped the crowdfunding paradigm. With Quirky, the crowd consists of mostly hobbyist product designers, who send the company up to 4,000 new product ideas a week. Quirky is “the decider” (as W would say), each week selecting three winners.

The company then “takes over all aspects of production, from making blueprints to marketing the goods through big-box retailers like Home Depot and retail websites, including Amazon,” says the Times. Quirky, which also sells the devices on its site, shares revenue with the inventors. In some cases, it pays multiple inventors who have contributed similar product ideas.

Quirky execs noticed that almost a quarter of its submissions were home automation devices, and they sensed a hot trend. The company wanted to address what it felt was the problem with the emerging home automation market: there are numerous different protocols, hubs, companies, and ecosystems, most of which don’t cover all home automation devices, and often just one aspect such as lighting, security, or temperature. Wink emerged from a collaboration with GE on developing apps that controlled a smart air-conditioner to self-adjust based on usage, says the Times.

As the Times notes, however, Wink is just one of many efforts that hope to provide a lingua franca to multiple smart device brands from multiple companies. Other device-independent hubs and applications have resulted from the efforts of Revolv, SmartThings, and Insteon, as well as from standards groups like the AllSeen Alliance and its AllJoyn platform.

Quirky is on track to achieve $100 million in revenues this year, says the Times. The company has raised $175 million from GE, Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and other investors.

Chaz Flexman, previously a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, will be Wink’s general manager, while Brett Worthington, formerly of Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, working on its Nexia Home Intelligence product line, will be vice president. Nathan Smith will be Wink’s head of engineering.

“The Home Depot and GE have embraced Wink’s openness and committed to its technology as their preferred connected home platform,” stated Ben Kaufman, CEO of Quirky. “Our goal is to partner with all home device manufacturers and retailers moving forward.”

Further information

The Wink Hub will go on sale at The Home Depot and on July 7 for $79. A bit more information may be found at the Wink website.

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One response to “Quirky jumps into home automation with a Linux hub”

  1. jezra says:

    “Quirky unveiled an open, Linux-based “Wink” home automation hub and mobile app that control devices available at GE, The Home Depot, and elsewhere.”

    How is this device “open”?

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