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New Radio Shack Kits Provide DIY Brains for Smart Houses

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New Radio Shack Kits Provide DIY Brains for Smart Houses


July 23, 2014

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

While the idea of having a smart house sounds thrilling to many, getting brains inside the smart houses isn't always as easy a process as we might like. But a new development from, of all places, Radio Shack may be set to make that change with some new inventions, including a breed of do-it-yourself (DIY) kit for homeowners who want to smarten up the house a bit, and want to do so simply with a new breed of machine to machine (M2M) connectivity.

Radio Shack itself has seen better days. After a great Super Bowl ad showed up followed by plans to close nearly 500 stores, the company dropped word that it was going to attempt to revitalize its operations by paying particular attention to—like as in offering up some shelf space for—the works of inventors that really can't be found in too many other places. An interesting idea, if not necessarily a big splash, but one of the first such crafty inventions is about to find its way into the Shack next month, and it's a kind of invention geared toward inventors from a company known as LittleBits, a kit that allows users to tap into the Internet of Things (IoT) simply at home.

The LittleBits kit basically allows for a simple way to do things like connect sound detectors to LED lights, thus allowing a light to shine on a particular spot when noise is detected, or to connect home electronics to the Internet for access away from the home. Yet it wants to do that in a fashion that makes it as simple as building with Lego building blocks, a simple proposition that can turn really complex if need be. A LittleBits starter kit goes for $99, and can be used almost immediately out of the box. But more advanced users will likewise find possibility here, as APIs are on hand for those whose skill level allows for custom code to be put to work. Some functions can be automated; reports note a way to set up code such that a balloon inflates every time something in particular is mentioned on Twitter (News - Alert).

The reports suggest that there's not a whole lot that can be done with the starter kit, but—much in the same way that it works with Legos—the more and different kinds of kits are picked up, the more that can be done overall. It's an exciting idea, and one that's already seen something of a parallel in Apple (News - Alert)'s recent move into the M2M arena known as Homekit. It wasn't about new hardware with Apple's idea, but it was more about making the hardware easier to work with. It's hard to forget the story of Andrew Schmitt, who had to use an iPad and an iPhone (News - Alert) together just to keep all the devices running in his smart home. Being able to turn most any device into a smart device, which seems to be what Littlebits' kits are able to do to at least some degree, is a good idea by most any stretch. Why wait for a smart device to come out when many devices can be artificially smartened up, so to speak?

This could be a very good move both for Radio Shack and for Littlebits, and though only time will tell just how well it all works out in the end, Littlebits' idea of bringing a smarter touch to most any home should be recognized as a powerful idea in the end.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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