Peanuts with a purpose: Sen.se unveils new smart sensors at IFA

Sen.se hopes application-specific packaging will help it sell more smart sensors

Expecting people to figure out what its Cookie multipurpose smart sensors could be used for didn't work out so well for Sen.se. It's trying a different approach with its new Peanut sensors: application-specific packaging that sells the purpose, not the product.

The first Peanut, launched Thursday, is a thermometer presented as a way to get alerts if a child's room gets too cold or a refrigerator too hot.

Future Peanuts, all in the same 7.5-gram, 45 x 25 x 5 millimeter case, will contain different sensors and be packaged as an alarm clock/sleep monitor (SleepPeanut), a medication reminder (MedPeanut), or a remote control (PeanutButton). Sen.se plans to release a new reason to connect things to the internet every six weeks.

All the Peanuts can connect to a smartphone using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Once a Peanut is paired with one phone or tablet, it can automatically report to others logged in to the same Peanut family account without the need for further pairing, according to Sen.se's Anthony Zwiebel. This makes setup simple, and allows monitoring from afar, as long as at least one family device is within the range of a Peanut.

In contrast, Sen.se sold the Cookie as a way to "smartify everything" with its "endless uses." Each Cookie contained an accelerometer and a thermometer in a 50 x 22 x 4 mm case weighing 6 g, and could be attached to a variety of objects and materials with the included mounting clips. They logged readings continuously, uploading them to a base station called a Mother whenever they were within range. The Mother, in turn, had an internet connection to relay the data to a smartphone app.

Smartifying stuff in this way wasn't cheap: A Mother and four Cookies cost €290 (US$325), with extra Cookies costing €39 each.

Peanuts don't exactly cost peanuts, but they're cheaper at €29 each, with no base station needed.

The task-specific approach allows Peanuts to do their job even when they are out of radio range, Zwiebel said.

Using the Peanut app, the MedPeanut, for example, can be taught the schedule for which someone must take their medication. It will then automatically beep a reminder if the bottle or box to which it is attached has not been opened within the specified period, he said.

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