How Will the Small Sensor Business Grow Big?
At the Launch festival last week, Ales Spetic presented an interesting hardware play: The CubeSensor. It’s a small, wireless air quality sensor that Spetic proposed could be used by homeowners to monitor the comfort and health levels of their houses, or for business owners who want to make sure their offices are keeping workers comfortable and productive.
The batteries in the sensors last two months, so the idea is that you can place the cubes in rooms you want to measure, and then mostly forget about them until they send you either an air-quality or a low-battery alert. (The sensors communicate via Zigbee to a network bridge that has to be plugged in.)
It’s one of those products you want to love, since it provides access to a data stream you otherwise can’t get. But as with other cool sensor platforms (like the Node), the business may have to catch up to the product.
Part of that is due to the nature of launching a hardware company: For the CubeSensors, like many first-generation hardware products, the price of the first units is too high, which will kill the product as a consumer play: The cubes are $125 each. Over time, Spetic says, he thinks he can slice the price down to under $50.
Until then, he’s wisely targeting the business market. CubeSensors measure temperate, humidity, barometric pressure variation, and the presence of volatile organic compounds — the chemicals out-gassed from new furniture and carpets. Spetic says that poor air quality, or bad temperature control, or too much (or too little) humidity can drag down workers.
At Launch, he also got feedback from other potential customers. The guys from Space Monkey, for example, thought about placing sensors in their boxes of hard disks that are sitting at manufacturing centers in China awaiting assembly into their enclosures, to verify that their raw materials are kept in the right conditions through the manufacturing process.
Spetic himself said that more than one person approached him about using the sensors in a wine cellar. Someone else said they’d be great in greenhouses.
When you launch a new kind of hardware product, like the CubeSensor or the Node, you might think you know how people will use it. You might well be wrong. And if you focus on how you think people should use it, you might well be dead.
I think Spetic gets this. I know George Yu, the guy behind the Node, does. When I asked him what the product was really for, he just spread his arms and said, “inventing.”
When the first personal computers came out, no one knew what they’d be used for, either.
CubeSensors wins Best Hardware award at Launch Conference (The Next Web)
What Does the Node Guy Know? (Opportunity Notes)
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