The Smart Home Crowdfunding Watch: The Swidget (Kickstarter) Review

Are you tired of seeing new products on Kickstarter that are reinventing the wheel, yet advertising themselves as revolutionary? Did something grab your attention, but you want to be certain that if you back the project you’d actually receive a finished product? You’ve come to the right place! In our new series, which we’ll try to do weekly or at least bi-weekly, we’ll take a look at prominent Kickstarter projects and get down to the nitty gritty by reviewing the project, the advertised product and giving our verdict on whether or not you should back it up. We are not here to judge, but we want to know if a product is worth backing. We’ll start up with the Swidget!

What is The Swidget?

Swidget is advertised on Kickstarter as a smart home outlet with interchangeable modules that allow you to achieve different functionality. Aiming at aesthetically pleasing design and removing the cluster from your home, Swidget is designed to take the form of a normal outlet, with the added benefit of the smart modules. In addition, those who want to develop for the platform can order a special kit that includes a development board, allowing for anyone to build their own Swidget module. The advertised modules include aromatherapy sensor, Bluetooth speaker, USB charger, Wi-Fi adapter, motion sensor and many more. Sounds great, right? The video itself shows all the modules and presents you with a concept video of how the product would work. Nevertheless, scrolling down their Kickstarter page, you’d see that all of the modules are only design prototypes and that even if you want to back up the project, you can only receive a Wi-Fi module.

Essentially a Smart Plug with Potential?

The Swidget is marketed as a simple to use smart home product with easily interchangeable modules.

On the surface, Swidget does have some potential. Having easy to install outlet modules that can be snapped at place is a good thing, right? Well, all of this already exists.

Similar Products on the Market (at a fraction of the cost)

To start off, the Wi-Fi module itself, according to the Swidget Kickstarter page, does nothing more than tracking the power consumption and act as an On/Off switch for the outlet itself. What if you could get two of them for the price of an early bird Swidget right away? Well, you can with the YiFeng smart plugs. Tp-Link and other manufacturers also present different affordable options.

The aforementioned plugs are not that aesthetically pleasing and add to the cluster in your home, as they are put on top of your existing sockets. But, as you’ve probably guessed by now, there are existing sockets, that have connectivity that are also available at a fraction of the cost, e.g. this Z-Wave enabled socket from GE.

The GE Z-Wave enabled smart socket works with Amazon Alexa.

In addition, you will easily be able to find sockets with USB ports, motion light plugs and more. Nevertheless, the Swidget is innovative due to the fact that in theory it allows you to easily change modules in the socket to allow for different functionality. What’s more, the development kit lets everyone, who is a DIY enthusiast to develop their own module. Both RazPi and Arduino have amazing development communities. But what about all other smaller home automation development platforms and the communities around them? There is a saturation of development platforms on the market that Swidget will not fit into that easily. Nevertheless, having a DIY option is always great for a smart home product.

The only real issue that might harm the success of the Swidget is that it doesn’t really solve a problem. In their promotional video, the team behind the project did state that they want to remove the cluster, make everything aesthetically pleasing and serve as a platform for smart home functionality, much like your smartphone is for the apps. And while in theory this is a possibility, the fact of the matter is that the biggest issue with the smart home is the huge range of different home automation ecosystems available. With this in mind, making Swidget work with existing ecosystems is a must for the success of the actual product.

Outside of Kickstarter

Outside of Kickstarter there’s nothing else you’d be able to learn about the Swidget product. They do have a website, but it features the same information as the crowdfunding campaign with some additional promotional materials. Nevertheless, you can learn a lot about the team.

The Swidget Team

The Swidget Team itself consists of two individuals, according to their website, D. Lowell Misener and Chris Adamson. Both seem to be relatively credible in each of their respective fields.

The Swidget Team as presented in their official website. //Image from: Swidget.com

D. Lowell Misener is an engineer that prides himself for developing hardware for the international space station. As this quickly got our attention, we decided to do a quick Google search. The first thing we found is that D. Misener has founded a company in 2006, called Calm Technologies.

The website itself is slightly outdated and doesn’t feature much information about the specific nature of the activities of the company. Nevertheless, it does also include a link to Calm Fabrications, a company found at the same location. Calm Fabrications is a contract fabrication and machine shop that is equipped with the latest in CNC milling and turning capabilities, which speaks volumes about the Swidget Kickstarter project. By having access to such machinery right outside his office, D. Lowell Misener is undoubtedly able to create, try out and play around with different prototypes and designs for the smart outlet. 

The Calm Technologies website does look outdated, but it is updated regularly. //Image from: Calm Technologies, Inc.

Working with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency?

One of the most astounding statements on the Swidget website is the fact that D. Lowell Misener has supposedly worked with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. Skeptical about the plausibility of the statements, we continued our online search, but we were far more surprised than what we eventually found.

D. Lowell Misener not only has worked with both agencies, but he did so on an experiment that explores bone loss that astronauts experience in outer space. Called OSTEO, the experiment ran on multiple missions, most notably with the Foton-M3 mission in recent years.

Both Calm Technologies and Calm Fabrications, as well as the OSTEO project he’s been working on, do give D. Lowell Misener immense credibility when it comes to his background. You should be aware that most project managers on crowdfunding platforms exaggerate their past to an extent, which is the reason why we are so skeptical. Yet, it can be argued that Misener is even slightly shy about his actual accomplishments.

Before joining Calm Technologies and D. Lowell Misener in 2007, Chris Adamson has supposedly worked at a biomedical company in a field related to skeletal disease and trauma, thus making his transition to Calm Technologies completely natural.

Innovation Factor? 

The Swidget team did receive patents from the Canadian Patent Office, but unfortunately the only design patent they are currently awarded is the light detector one. Whether or not the interchangeable socket module patent has not yet been granted is currently unknown.

The patented product does look exactly like the advertised product with the few expected design tweaks. //Image from: Canada IP Office

The team apparently has been in development of the idea since 2010 or even earlier. And even though the configurable outlet has changed its name from CALMPORT to Swidget, which we believe was the right call, the idea is still the same. Being so many years in development goes to show this is not your average Kickstarter by an entrepreneur who has just thought up of a crazy new idea. Instead, the Swidget team has been working on making their product a possibility for more than 10 years.

Delivery Dates and Production

One of the most important factors that make-or-break a crowdfunded product is the manufacturing of that product. Usually, teams have a hard time contracting a manufacturing firm after their project has been funded, primarily due to the fact that the open nature of the funds makes price negotiations with the manufacturing company quite difficult. This is a thing Swidget addresses in their campaign, stating that they’ve already discussed pricing and timelines with multiple manufacturers.

Having this in mind, the delivery dates of June 2018 and the actual final product do have a chance to be similar to the advertised product.

Final Verdict – Amazing Project, but what about the product?

The final verdict that we have about the Swidget Kickstarter project is that it is one of the best crowdfunding projects that we’ve seen. The team is backed up by credibility and expertise, they have worked long years on making their ideas possible and they address all the possible production issues with their final product. Furthermore, even though they explain in detail the idea and the potential future of their device, they only provide with rewards they are certain they can deliver.

The real problem of the Swidget is not the average crowdfunding campaign issue. In fact, chances are, the backers of the project will receive exactly what’s advertised. Nevertheless, in order for the platform to work, the team does need to step up their game with the development and delivery of the additional modules. In addition, the DIY home automation scene being clustered with more than a few different development platforms, doesn’t really allow for the flourish of a development community around a new product.

Nevertheless, we give the Swidget Kickstarter Project a grade of “A”, and wish the Swidget team future success of their product!

 

 

About Author

With a degree in programming, Ivan loves anything that can engage his thinking. He explores topics ranging from particle physics to religious debates. In his free time, he likes to think about what tech will be in the future.

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