The Imps get down to business the moment you wake up: Your blinds automatically open, and your coffee maker starts brewing your favorite dark roast.
But the mischief doesn’t end there. Throughout the day, the Imps assume control over other household technology. Your garage door sends you a text message confirming that it’s closed. Your fridge sends you a shopping list reminding you to buy milk. Your ambient room lighting changes color at dusk for a more moody vibe.
And when 9 p.m. rolls around, your dishwasher turns on to take advantage of cheaper utility rates.
This is the connected world envisioned by the team at Electric Imp, a six-employee startup that’s created the Imp card, a small wafer of plastic that houses a Cortex-M3 processor and Wi-Fi antenna, and taps into an accompanying cloud service. Imp cards can conceivably be installed in any electronic device, making it possible to connect conventional appliances to the internet.
The product’s name is derived from Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novel series Discworld, where imps are small, demonical creatures that power the world’s gadgets. But Imp also harkens back to the early days of the ARPANET, where a mainframe couldn’t access the network directly, so it would use an Interface Message Processor — or IMP — to connect online.
“This is pretty much the same job we do for devices,” Hugo Fiennes, the founder and CEO of Electric Imp, told Wired. “We just made it really, really flexible, and easy for vendors and customers to use. There are a lot of things that can be made better by making sure they’re connected. A lot of times it’s not a big grand plan of anything.”
No grand plan? Actually, everything about Electric Imp’s product reeks of a platform for controlling the “Internet of Things,” that theoretical construct in which all of the world’s personal devices and information systems seamlessly work together.