Jan 8th, 2010

This has to be one of my favorite Android stories from CES. An Android Washer and Dryer. An Android Microwave that runs Pandora Radio. An Android Printer/Copier/Scanner. An Android Desk Phone. And much, much more to come.

Almost exactly one year ago we told you about a company called Touch Revolution as they announced their Android-based NIMble Desk Phone. Mark Hamblin – CEO of Touch Revoluion – foresaw a movement where appliances and other office/home/mobile electronics could greatly benefit from the use of a touchscreen with integrated capabilities. Android was a vehicle to bring that vision to life and at CES they displayed their ability to do just that:

In terms of Android hardware, “outside the box” seems restricted to manufacturing tablets, netbooks and eReaders with Android slapped on. But home appliances integrated with a custom version of Android designed to meet the goals of that particular device? Very cool.

Touch Revolution doesn’t manufacture appliances themselves and do not sell finished products directly to consumers through retail channels. Instead, OEMs (Original Equiment Manufacturers) will come to them with an existing product (washer/dryer, microwave, coffee pot, etc…) and say hey, we like our product but would love it if it had a touchscreen and some added capabilities.

Added capabilities could be simple as you saw with the Printer and Washer/Dryer in the video – you wouldn’t even know those were Android-based because you’re restricted to using functions focused ONLY on the main directive of printing or washing/drying. This is interesting in and of itself that the free and open nature of Android allows Touch Revolution to bring an amazing touchscreen experience to its customers without having to rebuild the wheel. But looking up maps or coupons ON your printer and resizing and getting print previews using your fingers on the printer’s touchscreen itself? I’d say that’s a step forward.

WebMicrowaveThen there is the microwave which actually runs a FULL version of Android directly on the touchscreen panel. It probably isn’t necessary as the CEO admits, but it goes to show the company can take any existing product and integrate a wide range of experiences through Android – it just depends what type of experience you want to accomplish.

Right now EVERY product Touch Revolution works with utilizes the same solution – the NIM1000 NIMble Module – a 7-inch capacitive LCD touchscreen with Wi-Fi, USB 2.0, Bluetooth and more. nim1000introThey take this one “board” and integrate it as they see fit. While I’m guessing they’ll produce other sizes/combinations in the future, the 7-inch solution provides enough capabilities and has enough flexibility to serve a wide range of purposes.

One unexploited opportunity I see with Android is the use of Bluetooth APIs. I asked Mr. Hamblin if certain devices/appliances might have an Android Application component so you could control said device with your Android-based smartphone. He noted the possibility but this clearly wasn’t a focus. What IS the focus? Accomplishing whatever goals his partner’s have outlined.

I can tell you right now if I was a forward-thinking company who produced any type of appliances, home electronics, etc… I would be calling Touch Revolution to get the ball rolling. If I was a Venture Capitalist or had more money than I knew what to do with I would start dreaming up unique and interesting ways to integrate Android with existing, traditional electronics in non-traditional and more exciting ways.

The interesting thing about all of this to me is that while Touch Revolution is operating outside of the box they’re doing it in such a way that it seems logical and inside the box. It just makes sense. Hamblin says the company is already working with microwave and washer/dryer manufacturers to bring their solutions to the masses and I couldn’t be more excited to see how they fare and watch Touch Revolution continue to churn out Android-based solutions.

Hamblin suggested that medical devices could be a HUGE industry to benefit from Android integration and they note remote controls, portable kiosks and other appliances as up-and-comers as well. Where would YOU most like to see the companies solutions embedded in your everyday life? Or are you scared some enterprising serial entrepreneur is reading these comments waiting to hop on the opportunity of a lifetime?