The electronics kit manufacturer littleBits is taking its next steps to make everyone into an engineer and designer — now with the Internet of Things. The company has begun selling its cloudBit and Cloud Starter Bundle for making any littleBits device web-enabled and is announcing a partnership with RadioShack, which becomes the company’s first brick-and-mortar retailer.
littleBits will be available in select markets by August 2014 and in 2,000 retail locations beginning in Fall 2014, according to a spokeswoman. The retail deal is the first launch from the collaboration between PCH, the Irish product development, sourcing and distribution company, and RadioShack Labs.
Using the cloudBit kit, users can turn any object into an internet connected device — and like all of the company’s kits, there’s no soldering, wiring or programming required for basic projects.
“GE, Cisco, Apple, are building these closed devices and imparting them onto society,” says littleBits chief executive Ayah Bdeir. “We believe in turning that around. We look at the spectrum and on the one side they’re developing these devices that are closed and complex and on the other side we have the makers who are alone in their garages with soldering irons coming up with one-off devices.”
The cloudBit connects to a littleBits dashboard, through which makers can remote control their circuits and get a performance readout in real time. The company partnered with IFTTT, a service that enables basic programming with simple “if this, then that” commands to open up hardware integration with web services like Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Twitter, Google Drive and many others.
Using IFTTT, tinkerers young and old can make things like remote crib communicators or an SMS enabled doorbell, or an automatic door lock — a la Lockitron.
In addition to the cloudBit, which is available for $59, littleBits is selling a cloud starter bundle, which comes with six prototyping modules, an insert card with five tutorials, and two accessories to connect everyday objects to the internet.
“What we want to do is turn the hardware industry on its head from something that is top down and controlled to something that is inviting to everyone,” Bdeir says.
And Bdeir says that mission extends even beyond hobbyists. “Our mission is to make hardware limitless and put technology in the hands of everyone,” she says — including prototyping and designing for startups like Havas Worldwide.