Where’s the Money in Home Sensors? (comparison chart)


Sensors are cheap and plentiful, relatively easy to get hooked to an Arduino and provide interesting data to stream, log, graph and alert with.  It’s not hard to imagine a world where sensors fill the home and (to quote Alex Hawkinson of SmartThings) provide “monitoring, automation, control and fun.”

Many companies have sprung up in the last year or two to make it easier for DIYer and ordinary consumers to deploy sensors in the home and provide useful alerts and automation.  We put together a chart comparing many of these companies here.  Included in the comparison are: Canary, Knut, NODE, Smart Citizen Kit, SmartThings, Twine, WigWag and Wimoto


So where’s the money at in home sensors?  It’s hard to draw a strong conclusion by looking at these early entrants, but interesting to note that the two top-funded projects (SmartThings at $1.2m and Canary at $405K with 35 days to go*) both have the strongest emphasis on real-world end user scenarios and usability. The others are focused more on the hobbyist audience.

In terms of raw sensor capability, SmartThings is actually one of the weakest, however they’ve clearly made up for that by emphasizing easy of use, hackability and compatibility with existing home automation systems and other sensor devices.

What Canary lacks in hackability and compatibility, they make up for in industrial design, user experience and a focus on mainstream use cases.

WigWag is a strong #3 with $198,000 raised and 25 days to go, and puts their emphasis on having a strong multi-sensor device and flexible rules engine.

*we put Canary at #2 instead of Twine since they’ll most certainly pass Twine’s $556K by the end of their campaign.

Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, please share it!

I've been playing with a few of these devices and have backed many of the others. 

What I find disconcerting is how much reliance there is on sending device events to the cloud, even though they could be processing the data locally (those that have hubs or decent on-board processors). 

I don't necessarily want someone else seeing every single event datapoint inside my house. What makes a lot more sense is to process and store primary events inside the house, then send important events that need, say, push notifications to mobile devices out there. A Raspberry Pi or BeagleBoard with 32G of storage can be set up as a processing hub for < $50. I bet they could make an integrated one with BT, Z-Wave, or Zigbee for a little more than that and sell it for three times as much.

If they want to enable access to the event or content stream from the outside world there are methods to poke holes through the router. I understand that those who insist on putting these services on the cloud are also doing it so they can upsell subscription services downstream, but I think they're being short-sighted when it comes to user security and privacy.


@raminf great points.  I think this is early days and we'll see a lot of experimentation down the road. One reason to put it all in the cloud might be because it's easier in the sense of one fewer updatable device to have to worry about (vs. just update the server and all users benefit at once).  When you start to think about privacy or corporate use cases, then the demands on having some of it off-premise will be there.  Or at least encrypted! I can't recall any of these guys talking about basic encryption.