From startups to big box stores, retailers rethink tools for Internet of Things

Smart air monitors? Smart diapers? If you thought connected devices and wearables were limited to smart watches, you're only on the cusp of the Internet of Things.

SAN FRANCISCO---It's not just familiar big tech names like Cisco and Intel investing early in the Internet of Things movement.

Retailers from large to small are tapping into the connected world to get to know their customers better beyond the thresholds of their stores. 

Some of the budding businesses on display at the Re:Make 2014 conference on Friday demonstrate that the Internet of Things is much more than just smart wrist bands and thermostats, but rather a revolution for facets all over one's life and home possibly overlooked at the moment.

Examples include Drop, a connected digital kitchen scale transforming tablets and computers into digital sous chefs, and Indiegogo-darling Birdi, a smart air monitor touted as more than just a smoke detector, tracking air quality for health and safety reasons such as asthma and carbon monoxide.

"It will be interesting to see how these devices connect to smartphones and watches, alerting us to tell us when it's time to turn off the oven," observed Jeremiah Owyang, chief catalyst officer and founder of social enterprise purveyor Crowd Companies.

Meagher stressed, "We're not talking rocket science here. We're talking about little things you can take home, plug in, and they just work."

Brit + Co. CEO Brit Morin, founder of the creative brand behind the event, admitted many opportunties for both the Internet of Things and the Maker Movement aren't always obvious until you find yourself in a relevant situation. 

Morin, who is expecting her first child in October, spoke to the potential for these advancements with new parents, referencing products such as a Fitbit-like device for babies tracking breathing patterns to "smart diapers," sending a text message to parents when a change might be required.

Kevin Meagher, vice president and general manager for the smart home unit at big box home improvement store Lowe's, promised even big businesses can innovate and reinvent homes around the Internet of Things.

"It's the connectivity that's making things talk to each other bring real value in the future. As you sit here, you can be in complete control of your home," Meagher told the audience of more than 500 attendees.

Acknowledging that everyone has different priorities and needs from household to household, Meagher stressed that new connected devices just need to be simple and customizable to maximize value.

Meagher stressed, "We're not talking rocket science here. We're talking about little things you can take home, plug in, and they just work."

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