A traditional outlet distributes electricity to the device connected to it evenly and constantly, however leaving customers unaware of how much electricity various devices consume. But what if the outlet was smart? It could be a gateway to all the devices connected to it by providing accurate and up-to-date information on electricity consumption. Connected devices could be individually and smartly controlled, which would lead to energy savings. This is what Miska Karvinen envisioned a few years ago. After honing the idea, he founded Riot Innovations, which develops smart outlets for homes, offices, and industrial needs.
The idea for the smart outlet got a spark during Miska’s previous job in wood design and product development. He solved various problems of customer companies and learned a lot of design and usability. Through one of the projects Miska was linked to IoT, and he needed to learn some programming.
“I saw the opportunities of combining physical products with software because through software you can improve the product further while it’s in use. I got a whole new perspective at my own industry, and a little by chance I came up with the initial idea for a new kind of extension cord. It’s a simple appliance that has been unchanged for decades, usually quite an ugly object that everybody tries to hide from sight. I started to explore how to improve the design and utilize smart technology.”
Now, two years later, Riot Innovations is ready to pilot its first product series. The product concept has evolved from the first extension cord idea to a modular outlet system that allows both the use of a stand-alone product, like a smart extension cord, and combining one or several smart outlets into an integrated solution – according to different needs. The solution can be applied to houses, holiday homes, offices, and industry.
Building a better tomorrow
Miska founded Riot Innovations in 2018 alongside his day job and soon after started running it full-time. Currently, the team includes Creative Director Lennart Schmitz, who takes care of app design and user experience, and CTO Jani Kiiski, who is responsible for technology.
Sustainability and reducing electricity consumption play a very important role for the team. “Riot as a name has IoT in it but it also stands for Reimagining Innovations of Tomorrow. We have sustainability as the guiding principle in everything we do and want to build a better tomorrow. We are re-thinking familiar everyday appliances and turning them into something new, smart, and useful,” describes Miska.
“Our solution is driven by sustainability, user experience, and design. The starting point for our design thinking is to achieve energy savings without the user having to change their behaviour,” he continues.
Smart, green and safe
Riot Innovations' smart outlet measures the electricity consumption of the device connected to it, and the user can monitor it on a mobile application. Data is stored in a cloud service, providing opportunities for historical comparisons and further analysis.
Each smart socket in the system can be turned on and off individually via an app – for instance, to turn off the coffee machine after leaving home or to check and change the status of devices at the summer house. The user can also use her/his mobile phone to pre-program the outlet to turn on or off at certain times – for example, to schedule when the lighting is on or to close the office outlets when needed.
The app also tells the user how much electricity devices like a TV or a stereo set consume on standby mode. The smart outlet can detect these unused devices and turn them off. This saves electricity and can also extend the life cycle of the devices.
The smart outlet also increases safety. You can turn off the outlets through the app if you have, for instance, forgotten that the coffee machine is on. Similarly, the outlets can be programmed to prevent children from using electrical appliances by selecting a mode that only allows control through an app.
Riot Innovations has put emphasis on product design and material choices. For example, a wooden top sheet makes the product stand out and reminds the user of its positive environmental impact. They have also put a lot of effort into the user-friendliness and educative aspects of the mobile application.
Looking for partners from different fields
Miska Karvinen emphasizes that modularity is one of the great strengths of their concept. The same technology can be used in many different end products and applied in various uses. This will also expand the range of potential partners.
“We especially want to collaborate with partners who value sustainability. Outlets and extension cords are needed everywhere. With the right partners we can help change the way electricity is used and build better solutions,” says Miska.
The first product series is about to be piloted in 2020, followed by testing and certification of electronics. The creation of a product family is also underway. The actual sales are scheduled to begin in 2021.
Valuable support from IoT Forge
Already at the beginning of Riot Innovations, the team contacted the IoT Forge Foundation. The feedback from the foundation’s experts was that their idea was at a very early stage but really interesting. A series of mentoring meetings followed, in which the Riot team received important help, for example, in evaluating the offers of development partners.
“We probably could not have productized our concept without the advice and support we received from the experienced IoT Forge staff in the beginning. We shared our ideas and plans with them and discussed how to move forward. Each time we left IoT Forge, we were much wiser than at the start of the meeting. We also gained confidence in our own ideas as the IoT Forge team kindly noted if and when we had made progress,” describes Miska.
In addition to human capital, the IoT Forge Foundation offered Riot Innovations funding for some outsourced development work, assistance with 3D printing of prototypes, as well as a possibility to use facilities and equipment for assembling and measuring electronics. More recently, Riot Innovations have received precise and concrete guidance on finishing product development. The state-of-the-art measuring equipment at IoT Forge has been invaluable for enhancing product quality.
“IoT Forge provides really valuable advice and concrete help with productization,” concludes Miska.