React Sidekick is hardware designed to differentiate software

Ethan Lowry
September 09, 2014

The React Sidekick is a sort of portable panic button, currently available for pre-order on Kickstarter. It’s a simple concept — tap the nondescript, coin-sized button and it activates your smartphone and calls out for help. The device uses a Bluetooth LE radio, so it weighs practically nothing, can be clipped to your clothes or your keys, and the battery lasts a year. All the brains of the product live in the React app running on your smartphone.

The React personal security app has actually been in the App Store for over a year and has been downloaded by some fifteen thousand people. But it faces stiff competition. A quick search on the app store for “personal security” reveals dozens of apps. React realized the potential of a companion device to help it stand out from the pack.

Also, where app pricing is under enormous downward pressure towards free, people are still willing to spend money on a physical good. Fans of the free app may choose to pay for the extra functionality of the device, and the physical product can be promoted through retail and other channels unavailable to an app.

Seattle entrepreneur Robb Monkman initially approached a top product design firm to help bring the React Sidekick from idea to production. But the price tag came to almost a million dollars. Instead, he partnered up with manufacturing expert Rob Bangerter. Together they’ve bootstrapped the design and engineering with a tiny fraction of that money.

It’s common for device manufacturers to use software to differentiate their products, but relatively novel for it to work the other way around. As hardware manufacturing gets easier we should see more examples like this one, where a single-purpose device is used to provide differentiation for what is still fundamentally a software product.

Check out React Sidekick on Kickstarter — the campaign ends in less than 48 hours.

Ready for more?

Check out other posts from this blog.

View all »