It started with a pet collar and tiny cameras – or a Wi-Fi connected cat collar that would allow Mike Kruk to see what his cat was doing at home from his office. This quirky, fun idea – and experimenting with a few cameras at nights, on the weekends and at a local bar in Rochester – quickly evolved into Crowsnest, a system that acts as a “layer that allows you to quickly build your application without having to worry about the device infrastructure,” according to their site.
But you’re probably wondering how the Crowsnest Co-Founders – Kruk, Ian Wilson and Josh Sorenson – made the transition from using only cameras to creating an easy-to-use and inexpensive infrastructure that connects our everyday devices.
“We started thinking we’ve got connected cameras that you can interact with, and how can we take that and make it useful for all kinds of things,” says Kruk, 28, from the Syracuse, NY area.
According to examples their site, Crowsnest allows you to turn on a light, read the temperature of a thermostat and capture a photo automatically with webhooks. It’s an inexpensive investment for companies – the first 2 devices are free, and each device cost $5 after that.
How Crowsnest Works:
Crowsnest,which is an ecosystem, a hub and an API, helps manage your devices in a creative way. Here are a few things you should know about how it works:
- It will allow your devices to communicate with each other instead of user input: “If you had a car that was low on gas, it would tell your coffee maker and your alarm clock to wake you up five minutes earlier so that you can still get to work on time,” says Kruk.
- Developers can just code: “We are creating a platform that is flexible enough that would allow a developer to build whatever they want around devices. They can write a couple lines of code and control things in the real world,” says Kruk.
- Potential to impact the retail industry: Wilson says cameras could also use motion detection:“In a retail setting you could say do I see a Nike logo on this person’s hat? Do they want to buy more Nike products?”
- Companies have options: Companies don’t have to worry about maintaining the code – they can pay a fee per month and use or license all the code from Crowsnest.
- Additional features: According to their site, Crowsnest uses device integrations that is handled by their open source plugin system, “ a hub software runs on your local network and is the bridge between your devices and the cloud”, and everything is in a common language.
Kruk and Wilson, who are currently working out of the Tech Garden in Syracuse, NY say their team only creates the infrastructure, and it will be up to each developer to determine what’s right and wrong in terms of privacy.
Becoming Trailblazers in the Industry
The internet of things (IoT) is a very hot topic right now. Everyday there seems to be articles about how IoT will impact our daily lives in the future. According to Forbes, the IoT business will generate about $6.2 Trillion in revenue by 2025. While other companies have also recognized this hole in the market, the Crowsnest team is taking a different approach.
For example, a number of companies in the space are using devices that connect to a number of wires. Users are required to soder those wires to a chip, and chip allows you to communicate across the internet, but there are some challenges associated with this method:
“If you want to work with this kind of device as a developer you have to buy the kit… but with us you can do what you do best and sit down and write code,” says Kruk.
Additionally, a distinctive part of Crowsnest’s competitive advantage is who they are targeting. They’re targeting newer companies that need an inexpensive way to grow their business.
“There’s a lot of companies coming off kickstarter now….and all of these companies are strapped for cash,” said Kruk. “But they have a really great prototype.”
More about the Crowsnest Team
In 2013, Crowsnest was one of three finalists that competed for funding in Startup Labs Syracuse .
As entrepreneurs, all members of the team wear various hats, but each has a defined role. Kruk, a Binghamton University graduate who has some experience with venture capital, is mostly responsible business development. Wilson studied music at the University of Rochester, but has extensive experience with coding and engineering and was previously the lead engineer for another startup.