Tag Archives: TechCrunch

Mimo is making the baby nursery smarter

IoT: Internet of Todders 

If you are currently or have been the parent of a newborn, you know how hard it can be. Infants aren’t able to provide the kind of feedback you might desperately wish for after countless hours of coddling and sleepless nights. Unfortunately, babies can’t tell you exactly how they feel, what they want or why they are upset — other than crying, of course. Thankfully, the convergence of the Internet of Things and wearable tech is ushering in a new age of parenting.

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Fortunately, a Boston-based startup Rest Devices has developed a smart baby onesie for parents. Founded by a group of former MIT students, Mimo monitors the respiration, skin temperature, body position, sleeping and activity levels of infants. Meaning, those with newborns will soon no longer have to worry about getting up and frequently checking on the baby throughout the night, instead only when necessary.

With comfort and safety in mind, the Mimo onesie is comprised of soft cotton with respiration sensors pressed to the top of the kimono, keeping anything from touching your baby’s skin. Data, such as breathing, skin temp and body position, is collected by the embedded “Turtle” sensor and immediately sent to a nearby station base, aptly dubbed “Lilypad.” This information and audio is relayed to the cloud in real-time, where it can be viewed on any mobile device and shared between parents and caregivers. The companion app is available for both Android and iOS.

App - Live Monitor - Wake

By analyzing the data, Rest Devices is able to track and analyze the sleep schedule of an infant, as well as establish predictions on when a baby will fall asleep and more importantly, when it will wake up. This enables parents to be notified ahead of time so that they can already be prepared with milk or whatever else the child may need.

The company’s latest feature, a sleep training system, is currently in beta testing. As a parent, you know all to well that an infant’s slumber schedule can be rather fragmented and inconsistent. Company co-founder Dulcie Madden tells TechCrunch that they are in the process of developing a social component that will provide parents and nannies insights to other caregivers about their sleep strategies. What’s more, the Mimo is also capable of monitoring whether babies are sleeping properly, preventing the rare and tragic situation known as SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.


Why stop at a onesie? Rest Devices is on a mission to revolutionize the nursery and bring it into the Internet of Things era. In doing so, the startup is working on launching a smart bottle warmer, which will connect with the sleep prediction feature and automatically heat up milk as soon as a baby shows that it is getting restless.

“If babies are the future evolution of humanity, then Rest Devices may just be the next phase of the Internet of Things fever. Not just about flicking the lights on at predetermined intervals, this new generation of products has the opportunity to reshape how we think about family relationships, and through its convenience, ultimately improve what we most care about: our children,” TechCrunch’s Danny Crichton concludes.

Those parents wishing to learn more can head over to the startup’s official page here.

Sigfox looks to become the go-to IoT platform

Writing for TechCrunchRomain Dillet notes that Sigfox is developing a low cost, alternative cellular network that will enable connected objects to interact with the French startup’s server with just a tiny battery and basic hardware. There will also be a very simple API for developers of all levels to use.


While Wi-Fi or Bluetooth are reasonable substitutes for smart home devices, a different solution is required for a company trying to gather small amounts of information on a regular basis. Subsequently, Sigfox has already built nationwide networks that can be found in not only France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, but now being rolled out across the U.K. and California.

“It sounds too good to be true, but the company’s network already works in a few countries and has many interesting potential use cases,” Dillet writes.

For instance, Sigfox’s networks in France are currently being used to connect electronic billboards, water meters and tracking devices that monitor elderly people who live alone.

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Sigfox-ready devices can connect to the Internet without any geographically dependent connectivity costs or location-specific network configuration. The worldwide connectivity solution is managed through the Sigfox Network Operator partnership program, effectively linking local ecosystems to the global network.

“Sigfox is perfect for connected objects that need to send a bit of information while using very little power,” Cédric Giorgi, Head of Startup Relations at Sigfox, tells TechCrunch“From a more technical point of view, you just need a standard radio antenna that can send data on Sigfox’s low frequency.”

The company’s network listens to objects, captures the signal and then sends the data back to the given developer’s servers. Given the fact it utilizes a very low frequency that is currently unused and does not require an expensive license fee, the network is able to operate at a cheaper cost that its alternatives. Simply stated, the lower the frequency, the less towers required to build a thorough network.

“The connection solutions we have today weren’t built for the Internet of Things,” says Nicholls. “They were built for smartphones.”

“A few American companies like Salesforce, Twilio and Stripe have become major platforms for other companies. That’s exactly what we want to do, turn our network for connected objects into a platform,” Giorgi explained.

As Dillet reveals, several large companies are already using the company’s network, such as Securitas in Spain who plans on connecting one million objects to Sigfox. While the alarm systems are the only devices using the network in Spain at the moment, Thomas Nicholls, Head of Marketing at Sigfox, says the company should soon have other clients connecting. “The network is there so anyone can use it.”

For smaller developers, Sigfox is quite cheap as pricing varies with the number of connected objects that take advantage of the network. “If you have the right component, we want you to run on the Sigfox network in three clicks,” Giorgi concluded.

Mega Makerspace opens in Columbus, Ohio

The Columbus Idea Foundry has officially opened its doors in a brand new location – a 65,000 square ft. Makerspace in a downtown district known as Franklinton. 

According to COO Casey McCarty and Shop/Production Manger Matt Hatcher, the Idea Foundry is “the largest community Makerspace on the planet.”


Image Credit: TechCrunch

As Jay Donovan of TechCrunch reports, the newly minted Makerspace, housed in a 100-year-old former shoe factory, is kind of like a gymnasium for people who want to make things.

“You pay a monthly membership fee of $35 and then an hourly fee to use a multitude of different tools to make that thing you need,” Donovan explains. 

”[It could be] a 3D printed prototype, a piece of jewelry, a CNC metal cut, laser cut template, fired pottery or other needful object for your startup, business or art studio. There are different hourly rates ranging from $5-$35 depending on the toolset. Additionally, you can also pay a fee to have the facility just make your prototype for you.”

Indeed, the massive Makerspace is well stocked with a wide range of tools and rooms, including laster cutters, an IC3D three-dimensional printer, a large space dedicated to development boards like the Atmel-powered Arduino family, three kilns, as well as complete wood and metal shops.

“What a lot of people don’t know about Columbus is that there is a fierce entrepreneurial spirit in the capital of the 7th most populous state in the nation. There are many startups in Columbus, and in nearby Cincinnati too,” Donovan adds.


Image Credit: TechCrunch

“I can see how a facility like this could lower the barriers for many hardware startups — for which the beginning capital investment can be a bit more intense — to get their concepts going. I think relatively low rates like they are offering will boost the activity in the area even more. The facility is opening now and looking for the next big thing from Makers in the area.”

Interested in learning more? You can visit the online home of the Columbus Idea Foundry here.

Engadget and TechCrunch talk LittleBits Arduino

Yesterday, LittleBits debuted a programmable ATmega32u4-powered Arduino at Heart Module – allowing Makers to easily incorporate sketches into their littleBits circuits. The stand-alone Arduino module can be snapped up for $36, although LittleBits is currently offering an $89 starter bundle that includes a total of 8 prototyping modules.

The LittleBits Arduino module launch has been covered by a number of prominent publications, including TechCrunch, Engadget, Ars Technica, PC World, LifeHacker, TheNextWeb and Geeky Gadgets.

Jon Fingas, Engadget 

“Getting your feet wet with programmable hardware can be tricky; even if you’re comfortable with coding, you may not want to break out the soldering iron just to build a usable device. LittleBits is aware of just how intimidating these make-it-yourself gadgets can be, so it has just launched its first software-programmable module, the Arduino at Heart.

“As the name implies, it’s an Arduino core (the same as the Leonardo) designed to fit into LittleBits’ simple, building block approach to circuit boards. If you want to attach a light, motor or sensor to the Arduino board, you just snap it on — you can spend more of your time coding rather than dealing with wiring and other hardware hassles.”

Greg Kumparak, TechCrunch 

“There’s a reason why one of Google’s top suggestions for ‘littleBits’ is ‘littleBits Arduino.’ The littleBits idea is great — but once a particularly enthusiastic user hit the limits of what their kit could do, the next step (learning to use a standalone Arduino board, which meant also learning proper circuitry, soldering, etc.) was suddenly a pretty big one.

“[That is why] littleBits is introducing an Arduino module into the mix. It’ll snap right into place — no soldering required — just like the other littleBits modules, with one big difference: it’s programmable. You get the programmability of an Arduino, without having to learn the myriad other prerequisite skills. You jack into it via the onboard microUSB port, upload your programming via the standard Arduino IDE, and all of your littleBits modules fall in line.”

Agam Shah, PCWorld  

“Modules for sound and light can be plugged or swapped out in Arduino at Heart for interactive digital art. The board can also be used for input when playing Pong or to show numbers on a simple LED display. Beyond basic electronics, Arduino at Heart can also be used to prototype robots. The servo motor can help build a moving robot and LittleBits is making a robot with an animatronic hand that can play the rock, paper, scissors game.

“Another goal of the kit is to teach hardware basics, including the operation of ports, polarity of LEDs, input-output and other concepts, which are important when writing software to control electronics. The Arduino at Heart board is based on an ATMega328 microcontroller.”

Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica

“The new LittleBits Arduino At Heart module, available on its own or as part of an Arduino Starter Bundle, is a simplified version of the Arduino Leonardo… Using the same ATmega32u4 microcontroller processor as the Leonardo, it pares down the number of inputs and outputs in exchange for the snap-together connections.

“Once you’ve outgrown the snap-on inputs and outputs and want to connect non-LittleBits sensors or outputs, the Arduino At Heart board also has additional breakout ‘pins’ on the board itself. The board also includes a USB connector for programming and connection to a PC as a Human Interface Device (HID) keyboard or mouse.”

Roberto Baldwin, TheNextWeb

“The Arduino has become the darling of the electronics platforming world, with its easy to use software and hardware. The littleBits magnetically connected electronics modules have made a splash of their own in the world of electronic tinkerers. So it was just a matter of time before these two came together.


“[Yesterday], littleBits introduced the Arduino at Heart module. The new programmable module connects to the entire line of littleBits magnetic modules that include lights, speakers, motors, switches, sensors and more. Like the standalone Arduino, hardware and software developers can write tiny programs for the device with the Arduino programming language. The programs are then loaded onto the module via a USB connection.”

Interested in learning more? You can find additional information about the new LittleBits module here.

The golden age of hardware is here

Writing for the LA Times, Chris O’Brien says consumer electronic start-ups have entered a “golden age” characterized by the removal of costly barriers traditionally responsible for blocking market entry.

As O’Brien notes, start-up hardware companies were a prominent part of CES 2014, with TechCrunch holding its first ever “Hardware Battlefield” at the show. Meanwhile, Eureka Park, the traditional start-up corner of CES, hosted approximately 200 companies prominently displaying their wares.

“After years of focusing on Web-based start-ups, which seemed cheap and easy to launch, there is a long list of factors that are making it easier for entrepreneurs to shift to making physical electronic things,” writes O’Brien. 

”The cost of many components such as sensors has fallen dramatically. In addition, boutique manufacturing operations have sprouted across the U.S. and Asia that offer low-cost options for building small batches of new products.”

In addition, notes O’Brien, the rise of powerful, inexpensive 3D printers like the Atmel-powered Makerbot and RepRap facilitate the rapid prototyping of products for both engineers and DIY Makers.

“If you had an idea and wanted to get it out into the world, you used have to be a tycoon in an industry,” says MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis. “Now you just need an idea and the willingness to fail until it works.”

It should be noted that Brady Forest, who runs the Highway1 (highway1.io) incubator in San Francisco, recently expressed similar sentiments in a San Diego Daily Transcript article authored by Phil Baker.

“New, open platforms such as the [Atmel-based] Arduino make it easier for anyone to make something,” explains Forest, who runs the Highway1 (highway1.io) incubator in San Francisco.

“However, a startup needs to learn how to create something that can be made — when they aren’t in the factory and do it tens of thousands of times. Mistakes in manufacturing can be costly and the wrong misstep can kill a company before it even gets to market.”

Baker, who also penned “From Concept to Consumer” for the Financial Times Press, notes that one of the major challenges faced by young hardware companies is bringing their invention to market.

“As [difficult] as it is to invent, engineer and manufacture a product, finding a way for it to be seen and purchased can be many times harder. And new solutions need to be found,” Baker concludes. “But there’s reason to be optimistic for our country. With so many new products being developed by so many innovators new channels will be found. As I told the class at Highway 1, there’s never been a better time to develop hardware products.”

Iron Man Mark III project goes live

The Iron Man Factory recently debuted a (prototype) 3D-printed Iron Man suit. As Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch reports, the suit weighs in at only 3kg (6.6 lbs) and features metal joints with a carbon fiber/polymer body, along with a number of light-up aesthetic features, powered by AAA batteries.

According to Etherington, the creators of the Iron Man project are a team with an injection moulding factory out of Shenzen including engineers with over 15 years experience in die casting manufacturing.

“They’ve been working with designers in Beijing on the Iron Man project and began producing small runs of the Iron Man helmet alone via 3D printing. To get costs down and volumes up, they’re looking to cover the costs of initial setup for a full-scale, injection moulding production run,” Etherington explained.

“Backers can lay down pledges for either the full injection moulded suit ($1,999), a helmet alone ($1,800) or the full, 3D-printed suit ($35,000). The company also tells me that it’s working on a space-grade aluminum version of the suit, too, which it plans to put into mass production provided the initial campaign is successful.”

Of course, this isn’t the first Iron Man suit we’ve covered on Bits & Pieces. Back in November, a Maker by the name of Ryan Brooks – aka “the real Tony Stark” – created a slick 3D-printed, nod-receptive Iron Man helmet using an Atmel-powered Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega168) and an Adafruit accelerometer.

And in September, a Maker by the name of Thomas Lemieux turned numerous heads when he showcased his rather impressive Iron Man suit at the 2013 World Maker Faire in NYC.

“Everything is Arduino powered. There are four Arduino UNOs (ATmega328) in the suit; one for each bionic repulsor, one for the sound board, and one for the arc reactor. All of the components are powered by ten 2600 mAh batteries that had to be ordered from Hong Kong,” Lemieux told Electronic Design.

“The sound components for each repulsor and the sound board are wave shields from Adafruit. The SD cards with all of the sound files are located there.”

According to Lemieux, the project actually began with the arc reactor.

“I wanted one to sit on my desk at home and thought it would be cool to build one myself. So I walked the aisles at Home Depot and found any part that would seem to work,” he explained.

“The fins are cut from a solid sheet of metal and I used copper coils to bend around them. I used a sink tap as the center piece. And the rest is washers, rubber tubing and erector set pieces all J-B welded together. I got all of the electronics and LEDs from Radio Shack.”

Lemieux also told Electronic Design that the biggest challenge in designing the suit was fitting all the electronics into such a constrained space.

“It was very much trial and error… I started building on May 2nd, spending about four hours a day plus many all-nighters.”

Lemieux says his next suit will be more streamlined and easier to assemble.

“I also want to make Ultron. I have some great ideas on lighting his face up,” he concluded.