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Knock, knock: Meet the smart home device that's blowing up Kickstarter

Knocki is a wall- or table-mounted, battery-operated device that allows users to do things like turn on a light by tapping anywhere on a wall rather than searching for the switch, or start the coffee machine in the morning by slamming the nightstand.
Source: Knocki
Knocki is a wall- or table-mounted, battery-operated device that allows users to do things like turn on a light by tapping anywhere on a wall rather than searching for the switch, or start the coffee machine in the morning by slamming the nightstand.

What if you could unlock your front door — just by knocking it?

That's just one potential use of Knocki, among the latest devices drawing dollars on Kickstarter.

Knocki is a wall- or table-mounted, battery-operated device that allows users to do things like turn on a light by tapping anywhere on a wall rather than searching for the switch, or start the coffee machine in the morning by slamming the nightstand. After launching a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter on Tuesday, Knocki met its $35,000 funding goal within an hour and almost tripled it by the end of the day. Now, it's over $300,000.

Here's how it works: Knocki contains a specialized accelerometer that is trained to look for patterns of sounds that are evenly spaced and similar in magnitude. When it senses one of up to 10 "knock" patterns it's been programmed for, it connects with your smartphone or smart home device.

Knocki's specialized sensors mean it won't get distracted by the hustle and bustle of, say, a busy restaurant. But it would sense a customer knocking three times to request a waiter, for example.

It's the kind of device that could be a game changer for families with young children, the elderly or disabled, said co-founder Jake Boshernitzan.

"What we're finding in our use is that it's almost like language," Boshernitzan said. "It becomes second nature because they are tasks you would be doing anyway."

While some compare the device to light "clappers" that have been around for years, Boshernitzan said the advent of mobile phones and ubiquity of Wi-Fi have advanced hardware and software beyond just "shave and a haircut."

For example, Knocki can send an alert when a washing machine stops or a mailbox is opened and closed, helping you plan your day, or even help you find a lost phone by triggering a sound alert. It comes as companies like Google and Amazon are investing heavily in hands-free assistants, powered by voice.

Despite hefty potential internet-of-things competitors like Alexa and Google Home, Boshernitzan posits that Knocki still has a place in the market, since tapping a surface is less awkward than interrupting a conversation to talk to Siri. Indeed, Knocki has caught the eye of two accelerators in the industry.

Added funds from Kickstarter will help Knocki manufacture in the U.S., and meet plans to ship by the end of 2016.

"I'd love to say I can take a breath and unwind, but the work has just started," Boshernitzan said.

Correction: This story has been revised to correct that Knocki senses taps through a specialized accelerometer.