GE, a century-old industrial giant started by Thomas Edison, and Quirky, the newfangled design shop turning crowdsourced ideas into viable consumer products, may seem like an odd couple. Deep down, however, they channel the same innovative spirit. “We’ve always classified Quirky as an invention machine,” Quirky founder and CEO Ben Kaufman recently told Gizmodo.
Last spring, GE opened its patent vault to the Quirky community of designers with the goal to develop a co-branded line of consumer products connected to smartphones and the Internet. That line, called Wink: Instantly Connected, has now hatched.
Starting today, shoppers at The Home Depot, Best Buy, and specialty retailers ThinkGeek, Fab, and Grand St. will be able to purchase the first four app-enabled Wink products. They include the Egg Minder, which tracks the freshness of eggs in the fridge; Pivot Power Genius, a clever power chord that twists and bends to accommodate bulky adapters; Nimbus, a desktop dashboard that keeps track of emails, tweets, and online traffic; and Spotter, a multi-purpose home sensor that listens for everything from crying babies and opening doors to motion, humidity and temperature.
The partnership works because GE complements Quirky designers’ nimbleness and speed to market with scale and commercial expertise. “At GE we are passionate about innovation at market speed, working with entrepreneurs and finding new models for business,” said Beth Comstock, GE’s chief marketing officer. “This partnership is just another way we can help inspire invention and help scale it.”