General Electric is releasing an interface board that will let you program and control their smart appliances, and they’re giving away a batch of ovens and refrigerators to makerspaces to help launch the project.
The program comes through the FirstBuild program, a new endeavor by GE and Local Motors to interface with independent designers to find, make, and license new product ideas much more rapidly than normal for the manufacturing giant. The interface board, called the Green Bean, is their first product, released to help makers generate new appliance-based projects.
The open-source “maker module” allows you to connect a Raspberry Pi or other computing device directly into the brain of certain GE appliances to reprogram them to control temperature, tweet status updates, offer remote control, or more. Its SDK, using Node.js, is on github, and a variety of projects are already being posted on their site, ranging from refrigerator light controllers to a smartphone alert for your dryer that allows you to keep the cycle spinning if you’re not able to remove the clothes before they wrinkle.
The FirstBuild program, based in Louisville, KY, includes a microfactory and makerspace that will bring community members in to work on their creations through hackathons and other events. It’s a major departure from the typical in-house, highly guarded process that major companies use for product development, indicating how the innovation coming from the maker community is changing the way large companies are thinking about business. And while the GE appliance division was just sold to Electrolux last week, GE indicates to us that they will continue to run the program during the 6-12 month transition process, and may implement it into their other divisions.
We caught up with FirstBuild Product Evangelist Taylor Dawson at MakerCon to hear more details about the program and their makerspace appliance giveaway. (Interested spaces should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to apply.)