New for the Atari Arcade: Smart House Tycoon

The Atari brand name is not one that needs introduction. Almost everyone in the tech industry has at least heard of the gaming company, if not laid hands on the original Atari game console. Unfortunately, after Nintendo exploded into American markets with the Original Gameboy in 1989, the Atari company sort of imploded. Though it’s managed to stay afloat through the years as a division of Hasbro, it’s never quite recovered, and even went so far as to declare bankruptcy back in 2013.

On May 31st, Atari announced that they’ll be partnering with a company called Sigfox to start producing smart home, pet, lifestyle, and safety products. This may seem like an odd choice for the company known for the Rollercoaster Tycoon game series, and some may consider it a last minute attempt to rejoin the big boys of technology, but after Nest’s April upset, this may be a good opportunity for them.

The Atari 2600 game console
Imagine being able to control your smart house with one of these bad boys.

A lot of the people interested and investing in the Internet of Things are the very same people who are most likely to have grown up with an original Atari gaming console or computer in their home. Even better, the Atari-Sigfox collaboration is said to be aiming at mass-market consumers; that’s the average shopper who doesn’t have the kind of money to slap down for a $500 dollar hub in addition to whatever products are released.

But wait, there’s more!

The line of Atari-Sigfox smart products won’t require the purchase of a hub. It won’t even require internet access. As soon as a device powers on for the first time, it’s automatically added to the global network. You see, Sigfox is a French communication company that has created a virtual ecosystem specifically for the Internet of Things. Right now, it’s really only available in Western Europe, but there are a number of countries due to be added to the network, including America, Brazil, and Australia.

Although the network is currently designed to handle small chunks of information being sent out infrequently, like for things like electricity meters, they’re aiming high. Sigfox CEO Ludovic Le Moan has said of their ambitions,

“Our network bridges the virtual and physical worlds simply, reliably, and inexpensively, and this collaboration will launch a new dimension to gaming, while supporting features that are limited only by the imagination.”

For those who are interested in the smart home revolution, investing in Sigfox sounds like a pretty safe bet. The company has already had sizeable success in its European market and, because it’s dedicated solely to IoT technology, it effectively nullifies one of the main concerns with Google’s decision to discontinue servicing the Revolv hub: the fear of having a company reach into people’s homes and disabling their devices with little to no warning.

It also offers a form of security that current Internet of Things companies lack. Right now, the IoT industry represents a very risky investment, since many smart devices are currently crowd-funded projects produced by startups, which could lose funding for their support services at any moment. Sigfox is already firmly established, and for all it’s been through, the Atari brand name isn’t likely to die anytime soon.

It’s not going to be an easy win for Atari, however. Just two weeks later, on June 13th, Apple announced a major update to their Smart Home technology, HomeKit. HomeKit originally launched in 2014, but this year, Apple will be consolidating control of all their HomeKit devices into one app, simply called Home. This app will not only act as a central hub for all of Apple IoT devices, but it will be capable of executing multiple actions, such as switching off lights, turning down the thermostat, and triggering the security system, all with one simple command.

If that sounds a lot like Atari-Sigfox’s plans, that’s because, well, it is. Centralizing devices to one app is not a new concept, although it’s not one that’s been successfully implemented yet. So far, almost all smart home technology requires the purchase of an expensive hub, like Amazon’s Alexa or Samsung’s SmartThings, which poses a severe limitation on just who is capable of purchasing smart devices.

A pie chart dedicated to the impact of security concerns of IoT users from
Approximately 42% of potential Internet of Things consumers won’t be buying smart products due to security concerns. Image courtesy of

Right now, people simply aren’t buying into the Internet of Things, whether that’s due to high costs making it inaccessible or because of security concerns, as being connected to the internet makes devices susceptible to hacking. Apple’s centralized Home app is a step in the right direction towards making smart homes accessible, but Atari-Sigfox has its own separate network dedicated purely towards smart device use, making it inherently more secure. Apple’s Home may be more likely to hit the market first, but that doesn’t push Atari out of the race to be the king of the Internet of Things.

Right now, it’s anybody’s game.

2017-01-29T18:06:21-04:00June 23rd, 2016|Current Technology, Legacy Systems, Popular Culture|

About the Author:

Andrew is a technical writer for Deep Core Data. He has been writing creatively for 10 years, and has a strong background in graphic design. He enjoys reading blogs about the quirks and foibles of technology, gadgetry, and writing tips.

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