With its new partnership with Quirky, GE is backing the surge in the Internet of Things, working towards standardization and using crowdsourcing as a channel for product development.

GE and Quirky collaborating to standardize the Internet of Things

Having set out its paradigm for the Industrial Internet several months ago, GE is now driving ahead in this field with an innovative, strategic partnership. The engineering conglomerate has signed a partnership with New York-based crowdsourcing company Quirky, which runs a platform for developing connected home devices. The two have already teamed up to develop a number of products together. In addition to injecting close to $30 million into the venture, GE has agreed to share its specialized patent portfolio in order to encourage the community of developers and inventors linked to the Quirky site to come up with new products. The startup functions as a kind of accelerator, supporting entrepreneurs and inventors with their projects under the general banner of the Internet of Things and is now, with GE’s backing, looking to harmonize the sector through its single platform.

A single development interface

In a relatively new sector where the territory has not yet really been marked out and no leaders have yet emerged, GE and Quirky are looking to provide the first-ever platform unifying and standardizing the development of appliances and accessories for the ‘smart’ home. The partners aim to make the WINK platform, which is available on iOS and Android, the software technology standard that defines and enables Internet connectivity for consumer devices. Explains Quirky founder and CEO Ben Kaufman: “Our vision is to make the WINK platform the consumer standard adopted by all manufacturers of connected home products.” A number of US home store chains, including Home Depot and Best Buy, are already selling WINK-compatible GE-Quirky products. One such invention is Egg Minder, a smart egg tray that assesses the freshness of your eggs and connects directly to your iPhone. Another innovative product from the partnership, the Pivot Power Genius, is a type of multi-plug that can be remotely activated and controlled.

Open management of patents to foster crowdsourcing

Quirky works on the basis of a flexible mix of online collaboration, crowdsourcing and internal development. It has set a scorching pace for production, with new products on offer every week. In order to speed up the pace even further and widen the markets for these innovative products, GE has committed to making its entire patent portfolio available to all 600,000 Quirky inventors and developers, a move which runs counter to current practice for partnerships of this kind. GE’s novel idea is to use the crowdsourcing approach in order to enable the development of new marketable products based on its own R&D. The products emanating from the partnership will be made and marketed by Quirky.


By Thomas Meyer
Journalist, Business Analyst