The average car has more than 400 embedded sensors, the average smartphone has about eight, while homes only have about four.  That’s where WunderBar comes in.    The WunderBar, which resembles a Willy Wonka chocolate bar and looks almost good enough to eat, has sensors that snap off like a chocolate bar square and can attach to pretty much anything, enabling app developers to turn things into smart things.

The Wunderbar, which launches on crowd funding site Dragon Innovations today, was developed by German/American startup Relayr, part of Startup Bootcamp Amsterdam (conveniently located near Texas Instruments and Philips).  The company looked closely at why the “Internet of Things” was having trouble taking off and realized that there was a gap between app developers and hardware developers.

The company says that while device manufacturers are coming out with their own devices, like Nest and Philips Hue, they aren’t opening up their API’s fully, leaving out the people that really create innovative ways to connect these devices: app developers.  WunderBar bridges the gap between software and hardware because it allows app developers to do what they do best: create cool and interesting apps.

“The app developers don’t care about hardware, they just want to develop like they do on their smartphones,” said Jackson Bond, co-founder of Relayr.  “That’s where Wunderbar comes in–this is hardware that you really don’t have to think about, you just place somewhere and its programmable immediately out of the box.”

WunderBar comes with a Relayr base, or”mother module,” along with a set of six detachable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connected sensors that can be monitored and controlled from your iPhone, Android smartphone and web apps.

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The six pre-set sensors that come on the WunderBar are:

  • light/color/proximity
  • gyroscope/accelerator
  • thermometer/humidity
  • ground moisture
  • motion
  • “public” sensor (do what you want)

Out of the box, WunderBar gives you a couple of demo apps to play with so that app developers can get familiar with connecting their smartphone to the sensors and creating mashups.  The company’s video shows some creative examples including a poop sensor, which tells you when your baby’s diaper needs to be changed.   Overall, the possibilities seems endless.

Relayr is also utilizing the cloud to add a level of security to the WunderBar.  The company said that its cloud platform gathers sensor data so that it can be accessed and programmed even while your app is unavailable.

“When data comes into the cloud, we perform some authentication on it to make sure that the information is coming from a device which we trust; that all gets stored into a big data bank and is then accessible to the app developer through an API,” said Paul Hopton, Chief Engineer.  “They can also register for notifications and configure the device–the whole idea is that if things only connect to your phone and your phone’s off, or you’re no where near the sensor, that it won’t work – so this is why we route everything through to the internet.”

So far the response from app developers has been positive.  The company said it’s already getting feedback from developers that want even more sensors, so Relayr is considering possibly offering an “add-on” pack of sensors down the road.  Relayr has also received interest from a number of companies, including Chinese Telecom maker Huawei.  In the future, the company also plans to integrate other device’s API’s to allow app developers to work with those as well.

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“At the moment if you’re an app developer and you want to make something that works with a Philips Hue or Nest, there’s another API.  You have all these different interfaces to work with and it becomes complicated so we want to harmonize that in a single environment platform, and so the Wunderbar is an introduction to that platform as well,” Bond said.

Sounds like this is just the beginning and definitely a company to watch in 2014.

  • What are you talking about? In the article it says “The company says that while device manufacturers are coming out with their own devices, like Nest and Philips Hue, they aren’t opening up their API’s fully” yet those two companies publicly committed to public API. My app (Lightbow) controls both Philips Hue (and Iris/Aura/Bloom/LightStrips, etc) as well as Belkin WeMo using their publicly-available frameworks. Yes, there are others such as LIFX that are not ready yet, but they plan on releasing an API in the next six months.

    • Hi Lightbow,

      Thank you for your comment! You are absolutely right. Belkin and Philips have great APIs. Nest promised to deliver one at end of last year, but I suspect that we will have to wait a little following the google purchase. Sadly, Belkin also publicly announced they may be withdrawing their Open API following a security breach. The Philips API is great but currently only works for devices shared within the same network. I would like that same functionality to be available remotely (without compromising security).

      I would like to grab a quick opinion from you if I may. How much effort is it to continually integrate new APIs into your apps? How will your development process be when you want to connect to say 50 devices from different manufacturers? Would value your opinion

      Many thanks

      Paul Hopton

      • I have my code very compartmentalized, so that when I want to add a new hardware vendor, it’s actually pretty easy. All my Philips code is contained in a specific Philips controller object. There’s a separate WeMo object that contains all the Belkin code. Both objects have the exact same interface (reporting their hardware capabilities, getting and setting light states, etc) so when I add LIFX (for example, it’s just a matter of mapping my existing calls to whatever they name their calls. Obviously it’s not always that simple. Even within the Philips universe I have code to make sure color conversions happen between various bulb types, but overall, it’s very manageable. I’d happily do five, but not fifty, you know? (Hurry up, LIFX & ilumi!) The hard part will be finding a way to provide the user with consistent user interface while still exposing the latest unique features of each bulb and not dumbing down to some lowest common denominator.

        Maybe in a few years we’ll have a standard idea (or API) of what a connected light bulb should do, but right now they have some major differences in how they treat colors, groups, schedules, etc. As a developer it sure would be easier to have one standard universal API, but it’s way too early for that. It’s the Wild West!

          • Thanks Paul! I live for demos. Great work. Shoot me an email privately if you want to brainstorm what’s going on with Philips color calibration or latency. I’ve been working in that area for a few months and may be able to help. It’s clear that the Philips hue spectrum is different from Philips Bloom/Iris/Aura/LightStrips/etc and Lightbow 1.4 has some calibration features to prevent the insane case where a hue command for 80° gives you green on your Philips Bloom but orange on your Philips Hue. (Screenshot attached)

            Good luck on your WunderBar project as well!

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