OORT, Bluetooth, and the Open Source Future of IoT

While at CES 2015, I had the pleasure to sit down and have a wide-ranging talk with Radek Tadajewski, CEO of OORT. His company has been working mostly behind the scenes in the burgeoning Internet of Things market. They are making fast advances in directions that deserve attention.

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So What Exactly Does OORT Do?

OORT is a manufacturer of wireless devices that can be directly controlled through Bluetooth Smart using a free app that is available for both smartphones and tablets. By themselves, without any hub or extra hardware, these devices can be grouped into virtual networks so that any number of them can be controlled by a single tap of a button.

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However, if they are part of a network controlled by OORT’s hub, these same devices can also be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world via the internet. The hub is not available yet but it should be soon. OORT is expecting to receive their EU certification in early February and, having already secured three distributors in Europe, hope to ship shortly thereafter.

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What Makes OORT Different?

This lack of needing a hub is at the core of OORT’s philosophy.  Buy any single one of their components, download the free app, and you can start using it immediately. It makes the entry cost of getting your first SmartHome IOT device much more affordable.

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Not only are the OORT components less expensive because they don’t require a hub, they are typically less expensive as a single component. For example, currently their SmartLED BLE Enabled Smart Bulb costs $39.90 vs. the Philips Hue Bulb which starts at $60. The price for the OORT should fall even lower as they start manufacturing in higher volumes. They expect the price for their bulbs will eventually drop to below $30.

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The app will also control and track data from other devices that OORT has in the pipeline, including beacons, pet trackers, thermostats, light switches, air quality sensors, and more. These devices can be organized into groups so that a single press of a button on a touchscreen will change the settings of all the devices assigned to each group. You can have as many groups as you want, and in as many locations as you want. That means you can set up multiple preferences by group for work, home, or anywhere you are using your OORT Bluetooth-enabled devices.

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It is worth repeating: not only will it do this without a hub but it will also do this without the internet! Many, if not all, of their competitors require internet connectivity and rely on cloud services to make their magic. Not OORT! They allow a tremendous amount of functionality right from the start, with a single device and a free app from either Apple iTunes or Google Play. No registration, no creating an account, no surrendering of personal data… unless you want to. Currently there is a lot of concern among the general public about privacy and security issues. So, when it comes to starting your own SmartHome or Internet of Things network, QTOOTH feels like OORT’s approach will lower the resistance barrier to the point of a non-issue.

The hub can control 1000s of devices, allowing a variety of complex networks to be configured and to respond to the needs of many users. Hubs can also control things based upon proximity to connected devices using things such as wearables or embedded beacons.

We here at QTOOTH love most things open source, so we think it is a very smart move that OORT is the first to offer a truly open ecosystem of devices. Just about any Bluetooth device can be incorporated into the network. They have an open API and SDK (Application Program Interface and Software Development Kit, respectively) and supply development kits for anyone who wants to try their hand at adding their own Bluetooth controlled devices into the ecosystem.

OORT Developer Kit

Originally, OORT thought that they would be a consumer-facing company, selling their devices directly to the public. However, there has been a tremendously positive response to their approach from some pretty major players in the SmartHome market. Although selling their product to consumer is still very much a part of the plan, they have done a bit of a pivot to address the needs of the their business-to-business clientele. Even this has further segmented itself into more tightly focused opportunities:

First, OORT offers startup companies and independent developers an excellent end-to-end solution to make their products “smart”. By leveraging the hardware and embedded software technology that OORT already has in place, products can join the Internet of Things in 6-9 months.

Second, OORT is already already working with several major brands including an appliance manufacturer that will be coming out with a line of smart kitchen appliances by the end of 2015.

And finally, in a move that could have significant impact on many industries, OORT is currently helping to develop SmartHome-enabled set top boxes with several partners using OORT’s technology. This means that the same box that provide major utilities in the home, including power, internet, telephone, and cable, will also be acting as your hub for your connected devices. This will give these big players the opportunity to sell services that are targeted specifically to the end customer based on their known use habits. There may come a time when it will make more sense for these providers to give the hardware away for free but charge for cloud-based services. Another opportunity for OORT is that the information that each device collects is sent to OORT’s cloud for processing before being forwarded to the provider’s cloud.

The good news is that all of these business-to-business endeavors should not only help to increase the rate of adoption of OORT’s technology among developers, but to also hasten the availability of one of the more open-ended systems for consumers.

OORT is a member of the Bluetooth SIG’s SmartHome Market, the consortium of Bluetooth manufacturers that set the standards which all Bluetooth products must follow. It’s for these types of innovative approaches that OORT has been nominated for a 2015 Bluetooth SIG Breakthrough Award for Breakthrough Prototypes. Of course by the time the award winners are announced in March at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, OORT should be making some waves as their presence starts to be felt within the industry. OORT CEO Radek Tadajewski will also be a featured speaker at Bluetooth World in April.

On a final note, we were curious to know how it was to start a forward thinking company in a country like Poland. Was it an issue being so far away from some of the traditional centers for technology and funding, like Silicon Valley or New York City? No, according to Radek Tadajewski. Starting any company any where presents its challenges but it can also make for some unique opportunities. There are a lot of beacon companies already in Poland and, due to its centralized location in Europe, a lot of big companies have setup R&D (research and development) facilities there. And from a venture capitalist’s perspective the “rate of burn”, or how quickly a startup company burns through its investors’ money, is significantly slower. This gives the company more time to develop its product and market before needing another round of investment or just simply going out of business. This is due in no small way because the average pay for qualified employees is about 1/3 of what can be in more mature markets. Poland also enjoys a large base of highly trained engineers and other talent that are hungry for the jobs and the challenges that startups and hi-tech companies typically offer.

We are looking forward to seeing where things go for OORT over the course of the next year. Big things seem to be on the horizon for them and it seems like we all stand to benefit from their efforts and forward-thinking vision.

In the meantime, check out our review of a few of their currently available individual devices.