Leeo on Tuesday introduced the Smart Alert Nightlight, a US$99 gadget that can detect when the alarm sounds from a smoke or carbon monoxide detector and send alerts to an iPhone
About the size and shape of a coaster, the Smart Alert Nightlight plugs into a wall outlet where it does double duty as illuminator and listener for alarms
. When it hears an alarm, it uses its WiFi connection to send a push notification to a free app running on an iPhone 4S or later. If there's no response to the notification or a subsequent call to the phone, the device will start working its way through a call tree of contacts you create for the unit to make sure someone knows your house may be on fire or filling with poisonous CO
For the same money, a consumer could buy a smart device for detecting smoke and carbon monoxide and cut out the nightlight middle man. However, Leeo CEO Adam Gettings believes the Smart Alert Nightlight offers an attractive value proposition to some homeowners
"I think for a lot of people, anything that requires tools for installation is just extra work," he told TechNewsWorld
"The nightlight is something you can plug into an outlet, and it takes advantage of what you already have," he said. "You've already got smoke detectors that you've trusted for years -- brands that have been around, in some cases, 20 or 30 years -- and there's no reason to replace those if they work just fine."
Although the Smart Alert Nightlight fits in the growing category of Net-connected devices called the "Internet of Things," Leeo wanted its product to be more than just another high-tech object invading a home, which is why it chose the nightlight as its entry vehicle
"The nightlight is a common, old-fashioned object that could not only fit the necessary technology, but could also have permission to live in and be useful to any home," said Robert Brunner, Leeo's chief designer and founder of the Ammunition design studio.
"The nightlight is a familiar object that provides a commonsense way of delivering comfort and safety, while at the same time it's something that deserves a place in the home in its own right," he told TechNewsWorld
Nightlights may be old-fashioned, but Leeo's offering does push the concept up a notch. For example, the Smart Alert Nightlight supports 16 million colors -- all selectable from a color wheel inside the unit's iOS app.
"We set out to reinvent the nightlight," Gettings said. "There are lots of novelty nightlights out there, but we thought making ours fun, interactive and customizable with the colors was a really nice design feature."
Although priced competitively with other smart home products in the market, the Smart Alert Nightlight could meet with some resistance
"I get what they're trying to do," said Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group
However, "I'm not sure a smartphone utility for a fire is going to provide you with enough additional protection to make it worthwhile," he told TechNewsWorld
Smart thermostats, smoke detectors, nightlights and other products yet to be introduced will be building blocks for the smart home. As they proliferate, however, consumers will be looking for a way to tie them together
"You're going to need a hub to do something with all the information from the devices with sensors in your home. You're going to need a digital butler," said Roger L. Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates
"You don't want all these signals coming to you. Once the Internet of Things starts chatting away, you can have this cacophony of little voices talking to you all the time," he told TechNewsWorld
"Rather than have that, you have them talk to your butler," Kay suggested, "and the butler decides what's important and how to deal with it."