Fashion PR specialist takes a punt on the Internet of Things

Paul Blomfield, better-known for his work in public relations with the fashion industry, has teamed up with an IT specialist in start-up Jucebox, a company they hope will become a lynch-pin in the fast-growing Internet of Things (IoT).

Blomfield has two partners in the business: business analyst Chad Carter, and South African-born Ulrich Frerk, who developed the product.

They are calling Jucebox a “universal device connector” – basically a product which allows various internet-connected devices in a home (from lights and baby-monitors, to garage doors and security systems) to connect with each other.

The idea is that once connected, all the devices can then be remotely controlled through the Cloud via a mobile phone or tablet.

Hey presto, you can put your blinds down, turn the heating off, and edge the fridge up a notch at home if the midday weather report announces a sunny afternoon – all from your CBD office.

Jucebox launched recently on crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter, looking for $250,000 to develop a production prototype and final user interface, and market the product overseas.

True, the early stages of the campaign haven’t been flash. Almost a week after the crowdfunding started, the company has raised less than $2000.

But Blomfield says the late-Friday-afternoon timing of the launch means the campaign didn’t get much exposure until Monday morning US-time. He’s on an international PR push this week hoping to increase exposure and start bringing funding in.

Blomfield says Jucebox had been approached by larger funders interested in getting involved, but the founders went the crowdsourcing route to avoid diluting their stake in the business.

Frerk says although there are other Internet of Things integration products in the market, Jucebox is the first that can connect to any device no matter what the version or operating language.

There are three billion internet-enabled devices in operation around the globe, he says, but there are multiple operating languages.

“We [launched Jucebox]because we were frustrated by what our devices would and would not do. When we looked hard at the problem we realised it was just a problem of communication – they cannot speak directly to each other.”

Blomfield says Jucebox was originally developed for the commercial building market (remote control of heating systems, lighting, lifts etc), but now the company wants to develop a product for the home market, aimed mainly at the luxury end. The product is set for launch in 2016.

So do I really want my internet-enabled fridge talking to me – or to my other household devices?

Blomfield says there is plenty of cynicism about the Internet of Things out there – but also plenty of potential.

“You drive up the driveway and your house senses your car approaching, and because all your devices are connected, it unlocks the door, turns your lights on, opens the garage door, and disarms the alarms.”

Or if you are approaching a romantic mood with your new date, it could switch the colour of your light bulbs to match the colour of the sunset, snapped on your mobile.

Now there’s a useful thing.

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