1. NEST (GOOGLE)
For solving yet another pain point in building the smart home. Following its game-changing “learning thermostat,” Nest released the Protect smoke detector, again infusing a previously design-neglected home appliance with modern detail and functionality. From the Protect’s hands-free silencer and voice controls to its smartphone notifications and battery monitor, Nest has produced the first nonannoying smoke detector–and picked up $3.2 billion in cash from Google along the way.
For having the bright idea to make smartphone-tethered bulbs. It’s safe to say Philips’s 50 years of LED research has paid off. With a long-coming federal ban on cheap incandescent lightbulbs providing wind at the company’s back, Philips’s Hue lighting system–which is programmable by smartphone to help save on energy bills and produce a multitude of mood-setting shades–will help fuel nearly $2 billion in LED sales for the company by next year. Read more >>
For unleashing simple connected products for the cautious consumer. When his invention-crowdsourcing startup decided to make a play for the smart-gadget market, CEO Ben Kaufman realized, Who wants to buy a garage door or a lock from a company called Quirky? So he partnered with GE, which not only invested $30 million but shares Quirky’s vision for a simpler connected home that won’t intimidate customers. The first five gadgets hit the market last fall.
Monitor your home. The Spotter disc comes packed with sensors for temperature, humidity, light, sound, and motion, so it can deliver alerts to your phone when, say, the washing machine is done, or someone walks through the door.Keep things fresh. An Internet-powered tray called the Egg Minder contains sensors that tell users the exact number of eggs left in the refrigerator and for how long each one has been sitting there.Display your data addiction with pride. The clocklike Nimbus dashboard has four dials that translate metrics of digital life–such as Twitter activity, emails, and calories burned on fitness trackers–all in real time.
For upping the activity-tracking game with a next-gen, supercharged wristband. Unlike competing wearables, Jawbone’s UP24 motivates your lifestyle–not just your steps. The wristband was released last fall and received positive critical reviews. Thanks to its Bluetooth Smart technology, it constantly tracks activity, provides feedback, and wirelessly syncs with computers (meaning no annoying slip-on, slip-off interactions to plug the band into a computer). The UP24 can also connect with other apps on your phone to brew your coffee or secure your front door’s smart lock.
For opening a platform of Internet-wise devices to let users customize their connected homes. Amid a dizzying array of automated gadgets, SmartThings offers accessibility. First launched on Kickstarter, its open-software platform allows users to connect a kit of devices, including moisture detectors and motion sensors, and control them with an easy-to-use smartphone app. The company is also extending that accessibility to an army of creators: It recently opened an online store to sell its wares alongside brands like GE and Kwikset, and at the Consumer Electronics Show, it launched SmartThings Labs, where its 5,000-strong developer community can publish (and sell) connected-home apps directly to consumers.
For strengthening its products to stand out among the quantified-self crowd. Following an infusion of $30 million from investors last year, Withings has evolved its line of wellness-oriented products, including its flagship smart scale, the Pulse–the nonwearable activity and heart-rate tracker you can slip into your pocket–and its latest and most advanced offering yet: the Aura, an alarm clock that not only tracks your sleep but can also hack your circadian rhythm to help you sleep better in the future. An LED light on the Aura diffuses warm, orange-toned light at night, to mimic a sunset, and cooler blue light in the morning, to wake you up.
For giving users control of whatever’s plugged in. As an early player in the field, Belkin first transformed the electrical outlet with the WeMo, which gives users dead-simple on-and-off control of the devices plugged into it. After building on the WeMo’s success with apps for the popular productivity service IFTTT (and the above-mentioned SmartThings), Belkin is making a play for the home chef’s peace of mind with an Internet-connected Crock-Pot. It sounds laughable, but it’s highly practical and only the first in a new partnership Belkin has signed with Jarden, which also owns Mr. Coffee, Holmes space heathers, and Coleman coolers. Future applications are sure to come.
For jumping into the IoT fray as only it could–with a superpowered chip. As is its legacy, Intel supplies the brains behind the tech. But the company’s announcement of Quark–its smallest chip yet–wasn’t just business as usual: It will connect mobile devices, including wearables and smartphones, to other electronic devices using only a tenth of the power. Perhaps Quark will make its debut on the runway: Intel recently partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to better connect fashion designers and smart hardware developers, so that tracking our lives can get prettier.
For building out a cloud platform to help make smart machines smart. The IoT movement isn’t purely consumer-based, which is why LogMeIn–the company that IPO’d by helping professionals operate devices remotely–has the enterprise in its crosshairs. With Xively, LogMeIn has shifted its cloud capabilities to help businesses in, say, the restaurant industry use wireless sensors to monitor food storage in order to improve safety compliance. Its partnership with giant U.K.-based chipmaker ARM–which powers 95% of the world’s smartphones–has helped it scoop up customers in the health care and automotive industries.
For racing to establish an Internet of Things accelerator. Drawing on its lauded work for the Nike+ FuelBand, digital agency R/GA partnered with Techstars last year to create the Connected Devices Accelerator program, in which a crop of eager upstarts–including makers of a wireless air vent and a device to monitor a baby’s vitals via smartphone–will receive $120,000 and mentorship to help break into the fledgling (but rapidly growing) field.