LittleBits has a fascinating and unique approach to home automation: Supply customers with a smart kit that holds the parts they need, and help them build their own smart devices. It’s a module-based approach that works amazingly well, especially if you like to tinker or want to adapt smart options to your own situation.
What makes LittleBits’ home automation strategy so unique is the way that it makes customization approachable for even the amateur homeowner. Plenty of system and open-ended software and coding projects exist for you to build smart devices, but they are primarily designed for those who already have some experience in the area and preferably an engineering background.
But even if you don’t tinker, you can still find a lot of fun in the LittleBits’ kit, which is designed to be useful for all levels of experience, especially if you are willing to explore the system a little bit and explore what can be done. Sure, some engineering experience will still be helpful, but you don’t need to be an expert to build your own system.
The Basics of the LittleBits Smart Kit
First, let’s take a look at what the kit has. LittleBits technically offers dozens of little modules, which look like (and essentially are) basic software cards. But the Smart Home Kit comes with only 14 modules, so if you want any extra you will have to buy your own. However, the kit also adds 11 additional accessories that will help you set up a whole-house system more easily.
The modules vary considerably, but they include light sensors, LEDs, sound triggers, a synth speaker, a temperature sensor, and an IR transmitter. There are also a collection of more basic building blocks, such as a USB power module, a servo card, a threshold card, and so on.
On the accessory side, you get a USB power adapter and an accompanying cable, servo accessories, an AC switch, a mounting board to help you plan out your devices, a customized screwdriver, and similar handy accompaniments.
If this all sounds overwhelming, there are several bits of good news you should know. First, everything connects to the Internet and works via the LittleBits app with several different types of interfaces available to control various devices, so you don’t need any complex programming experience, the set-up process is very simple. Second, LittleBits offers a number of ideas to help you get started planning and creating your smart home devices, including detailed instructions on how to build the device. Using these, you can both get some practice in and develop some great ideas of your own.
Make Your Own Smart World
All right, so what can you actually build with all those modules? That’s up to you – but the showcased ideas are pretty impressive. You can combine sensors to create a refrigerator monitor that will tell you if your refrigerator door has been left open too long by sensing the temperature. If you want to control a particular light, you can use the AC switch and a combination of sensors to build your own smart light controller. Tired of forgetting about laundry? Make a sensor that sends a signal directly to your phone when your laundry is done.
There are many other options too, from a bark alert for your dog (yes, that’s a real device), a garage door monitor, a hidden security device, and a lot of other ideas posted by users of LittleBits. Sure, you can be creative, but take a look at these guides and what they require before setting out on your own project. A single Smart Home Kit will only have enough modules for three or four complex smart devices at the most, depending on how you use them.
The Trade Off
Of course, the open-ended LittleBits kit does come with a few downsides. First, the interface and setup procedures are not as smooth as with more commercial products that are sold ready to go. Your system may be tailored to your exact needs, but it will also lack some polish. Second, there’s no way getting around it: You will need some experiencing in wiring to pull these projects off.
Pick Your Kit
The LittleBits Smart Home Kit costs $250 but comes with free shipping. However, there are some other options, including a smaller Deluxe Kit that you can get for $200 (1 modules, 3 accessories). There’s also a coding kit, a synth kit, a workshop kit and more for specific projects or classrooms.
Photo Credit: Ultra-Lab