A microchip design company in Andover is making the leap into consumer electronics, with an $800,000 boost from the Internet crowdfunding service Kickstarter.
Immedia Semiconductor Inc. designs chips that capture and process high-resolution video for use in dashboard cameras and wearable computing devices. Now the company will invest Kickstarter money to create a wireless home security device called Blink. The device will combine a video camera with night vision, a motion detector, temperature sensor, and microphone. It will be powered for up to a year by a single interchangeable battery. And it will be inexpensive: Immedia plans to sell the device for $69 for a single unit, $169 for three of them.
“You can take this camera and basically put it anywhere,” said Immedia cofounder Don Shulsinger. It comes with a separate “sync module” that plugs into an electrical outlet and uses a wireless data link to communicate with the Blink device. The system can transmit audio and video via the Internet to the user’s smartphone. By launching a Blink app, a user can see inside his house and monitor room temperature at any time. Also, a user can program Blink to transmit a video clip whenever it detects movement in a room.
Immedia launched its Kickstarter campaign in July, hoping to raise $200,000 to begin manufacturing Blink devices. But interest in the project far outstripped the company’s expectations.
As of Thursday, more than 5,500 people had invested more than $816,000 in Blink.
“With the crowdfunding campaign, we’ve been able to prove out that this is very interesting to consumers,” Shulsinger said.
With the extra money it has raised, Immedia has committed to developing a battery-powered alarm unit that will work in conjunction with the Blink camera.
Shulsinger said that Immedia considered working with one of its existing customers to develop a security camera, but decided it would take too long.
“You could end up waiting two years to introduce something revolutionary,” he said. By opting to crowdfund the project, Immedia could bring it to market quickly.
Immedia already has raised $11.9 million in venture capital from Flybridge Capital Partners, Comcast Ventures, and Akamai Technologies Inc. But Flybridge partner David Aronoff said that a Kickstarter campaign was the ideal way to launch Blink.
“It’s less about the funding,” Aronoff said. “It’s a great way to begin creation of a community of early adopters.”
These investors are also Blink’s first customers, and they’ve provided lots of design suggestions to Immedia engineers.
“It is great early feedback . . . in terms of product requirements,” Aronoff said.
If Blink is a hit with consumers, Shulsinger hopes to license the underlying technology to larger and better-known consumer electronics companies. That way, Shulsinger said, “we could get a much, much broader reach than we could with the Blink brand itself.”
Kickstarter investors will begin receiving their Blink units in December. Beta-test units will begin shipping in March 2015, and Immedia hopes to begin full production by next May.