Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

GE Puts (Your) Imagination to Work, With Quirky-Crowdsourced Gadgets

General Electric brings good things to life — provided that you come up with the idea, submit it through a hip New York tech startup site, and rely on its patents.


That might well be the new/old slogan for GE, which today announced a partnership with Quirky, a young company that develops gadgets conceived by an online community and refined by users and in-house experts, as Liz Gannes explains here. (Unlike other crowdsourced projects, which sometimes amount to little more than vaporware, Quirky gets things done: It has produced more than 200 products over the past few years — things that actually get pushed through big retail stores. The startup recently got a little funding boost of $68 million to continue on this path.)

Here’s how this partnership is supposed to work: GE is opening up a bunch of patents — “thousands” — to people in the Quirky community, who can then come up with product line ideas that build upon those patents and submit them to GE and Quirky will review them, and will choose products that will be developed by Quirky and sold at retail. They’ll be co-branded “Wink: Instantly Connected.” The creator then gets a share of the revenue. The cut depends on how many “influencers” there are involved in the project.

Some of the patents GE is making available include those for optical tech, like holographic and lens technologies, “thin-film encapsulation” tech that coats and protects electronic devices like smartphones and TVs, and telematics used in vehicle-navigation systems. The initiative is meant to foster ideas for consumer-facing products and app-friendly connected devices, like home appliances.

For those who consider themselves true inventors — say, someone with a game-changing gadget they’ve been building in the basement while they apply for patents — playing with GE patents might not appeal. And Quirky owns the product ideas developed through its site and pays royalties to inventors.

But for people who don’t want to deal with the patent-application process and are looking for a little product-creation support, that’s where this project — or P&G’s similar Connect + Develop program — comes in. And the seasoned industrials and consumer goods companies will gladly take some fresh ideas.

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