Quirky: use cases for the Internet of Things

Posted on 03/03/2015


A few weeks back, I wrote about why the Internet of Things (IoT) is a phenomenon still waiting to happen. Admittedly I was feeling a bit disillusioned and struggling to see how the grand idea would actually work for people, including myself.

Having lamented the lack of inspirational use cases, I’m feeling a bit more upbeat, all thanks to Quirky.

Quirky have set up Wink.com, a platform and ecosystem of smart objects with GE. So far so unoriginal. But where they’re unique is the philosophy and capability of the platform.

Object sets: grouping complementary use cases


Instead of thinking on a product by product basis (like Phillips with their lights, or British Gas with their heating technology) and building a platform for isolated systems, quirky is looking at devices as a group.

Logical categories aren’t always the way to go. For example, this use case blurs the boundary between household lighting and wearables:

Control of household lighting using activity tracker
Household lighting is automatically illuminated / turned off, based on whether the user’s wearable activity tracker indicates that the user is awake / asleep.

With the IoT, utilities can be friends with just about anyone.

Inter-operability: building your ecosystem, not theirs

Like IF (formerly, If This Then That), Quirky have realized that the power lies combining their competitor’s software and objects with their own. So you don’t have to download 5x apps from five different companies, just to mange five simple tasks. Hardly genius, but with every other tech company trying to emulate Apple’s proprietary ecosystem, it’s refreshing.

Build with, not for, customers

This week a colleague pointed out that the wanky marketing term “co-creation” essentially means getting someone else to do the work, and then taking the credit for it. Which is largely true.

But whatever you call the collaboration with customers, it is possible for both groups to benefit. If you’re transparent about what you’re after and what you’re offering in exchange, then I don’t see how it can do any harm.

This is what Quirky are do well, sharing the success of their ventures between their founders and community. As you’d expect for any “socially developed product company founded with the vision of making invention accessible”. At least they practice what they preach.

IoT is great in principle; what it has lacked is a vision that businesses and consumers are willing to invest in. It’s reassuring to see where Quirky have positioned themselves: at the intersection of systems, users and sets of everyday tasks. “There be gold in this ‘ere intersection”, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

For more on Quirky, check out this a16z podcast. (NB: Andreesson Horowitz are investors in Quirky. Figures)