Ninja Blocks Shutting Down - Open Sourcing


Looks like Ninja Blocks funding ran out and they are shutting down:

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #2

Thanks for sharing the news… I had high hopes for this company, even if partially because I wanted to see more tech coming out of Australia. The original NinjaBlock was a nice little design… The Sphere may have been too ambitious.

I’m impressed with their forthright communication… I think. I don’t know if they perhaps dragged this out too long. Perhaps I cling too stubbornly to the ideal that Kickstarter funding should be 100% sufficient to launch the enterprise and deliver all promised “rewards”. Instead of a discount, rewards should be more expensive than projected retail in order to cover unexpected costs. Actually, I think product should never be offered as a reward… “Kickstarter is not a store”, right? :confused:

(Geko) #3

Sad, but not surprising. There’s no money to be made in IoT or home automation. It’s always been a side show and it still is. Maybe Apple will prove it otherwise, but I’m still skeptical.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #4

Given the several hypothetical discussions I’ve participated in regarding what SmartThings’s long term revenue stream should be given their slim to negative margins on one-time sale of hardware with ongoing operations costs, I can’t completely disagree.

But why can’t “whole home automation” be profitable? Lots of home product categories are (Sonos, TVs, appliances, fixtures, …). Is the problem the operations cost in terms of both processing infrastructure and technical support?

As a “side show”, how will the mainstream business units (ie, the rest of Samsung, Google, Apple and GE, … ) justify the non-positive earnings impact of the HA business unit? Is this unit a loss-leader for what purposes?

(Geko) #5

I cannot see it any other way. Not until our homes are designed and engineered to be automated from the get-go. Right now all the home-automation “solutions” on the market are more trouble than it’s worth for an average person. It’s pretty much like selling personal computers in the seventies. Yes, the visionaries were right that eventually personal computers will be in every home, but it took 30 years and the invention of iPhone to get there.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #6

Perhaps we’re in an era of much faster adoption / consumer education of new stuff. Of course, HA has been around for decades too…

One reason is quickly falling prices (I never thought connected light bulbs would become sub-$20) so soon… And the second reason is innovation (with the same example… such bulbs are “screw plug and play”).

I think Kickstarter and IndieGogo is a possible impediment, as many enthusiastic consumers will be burnt by failed projects or flaky enterprises after delivery. But HA products are very popular (not as popular as smart watches…).

Samsung’s approach (to vastly oversimplify it) may be to use SmartThings to help justify the higher margin of fridges, washers, and TVs that integrate ST hubs and control in one. It’s a Trojan Horse or chicken and egg? If truly a Trojan Horse, then I worry about what will be inside.

The PC was a platform with no recurring revenue stream except the upgrade cycle. Android, Amazon Echo, Apple, all have multiple recurring revenue through App Sales & advertising (and user data sales). I guess the latter set is more likely for SmartThings…?

I’ve had personal exposure to a few recent hardware launches which, every single one, do not expect gross margins to be their business model. They are all Trojans for marketing / demographic data collection.

Perhaps that’s how Ninja Blocks could revive their business.

(Geko) #7

Even smart watches are far from mainstream. It’s more of a novelty and speaking of Apple Watch is rather a fashion statement than utility. Most people will buy it because it’s cool and trendy, not because it’s useful. I’ve been “using” Pebble for almost 6 month and although I can control Hues and SmartThings with it, I hardly ever do. Too much hassle.

Smart thermostats and smart lights are perhaps the only home automation products that got some traction in the marketplace, but they too suffer from interoperability issues and are still too confusing for many people. Competition is good, but until there’s a single common standard for smart lights, it will not become mainstream. Light bulbs are a commodity as they should be. It’s totally unreasonable to expect consumer to buy only brands compatible with their hub.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #8

Yup… But I’ve been impressed this has given ZigBee Light Link at little bit of traction. I think Philips Hue, Lux, GE Link, and Cree are all compatible with the Hue Bridge (and SmartThings ought to tweak their frequencies or whatever to ensure equivalent cross-brand compatibility). Sure, there are still too many other light-bulb protocols (Z-Wave, Bluetooth, IP … TCP bulbs) … But 3 brands of ZigBee LL is a promising start.

What some or all of these vendors need to release is a simple wall switch / dimmer that is fully compatible as well. I guess the Wink Relay is a first attempt, but too costly, of course; and the Philips Hue Tap doesn’t even have dimming control, just 4 Scenes.

(Geko) #9

Agree, ZLL has a chance of becoming de-facto standard, and I hope it will, but the other part of equation - the hub - is the bigger problem. Hue is the best of the breed, no doubt, but even Hue is not reliable enough. The light switch must be absolutely 100% reliable. Even 99.99% won’t cut it.

(Keith Croshaw) #10

Their presence via our interference of radio waves sounded awesome/ too good to be true. Fair well hacker property, hope the staff get good jobs.