Nortek unveils technology think tank

Incubation team led by former Numera CEO Tim Smokoff
 - 
Wednesday, June 15, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—In conjunction with the recent acquisition of Nuiku, a natural language processing platform for use with home automation and other applications, Nortek has launched a technology incubation think tank—the Nortek Innovations & Incubation Foundry.

The team, led by former Numera CEO Tim Smokoff, will closely monitor trends in the marketplace, seeking opportunities to acquire or internally develop emerging technologies that can be adopted quickly and deployed efficiently across multiple Nortek businesses.

“Nortek has good products, but we would like to improve on the pace of innovation,” Smokoff, group VP of the Nortek Innovations & Incubation Foundry told Security Systems News. “Part of what we are trying to accomplish with the Foundry is to be able to identify those areas that we can innovate more rapidly, those areas where we can drive cross-group collaboration and shared resources.”

Smokoff said the Foundry is also a place “where we can bring in new technologies, whether we bring them in ourselves or pull in external companies, like Nuiku, or the recent investment that we made with MiOS around the home control hub, as a way to drive that from a more centralized perspective.”

Nortek’s president and CEO Michael J. Clarke told SSN that the idea with the technology incubation team is to have “a central point for all of Nortek, a hub that will put the technology together for the next generation of products and services, especially products that we know that our customers want, while we leverage our new Nuiku natural language platform that we acquired.”

In addition to Smokoff, the initial team is comprised of both internal and acquired engineering talent, including Bill Baker, who joined Nortek from Nuiku, where he was co-founder and chief technology officer, and from Microsoft, where he served as a distinguished engineer; James Poder, director of engineering product management, from Comcast, where he served as IoT chief strategist; and David Goss-Grubbs, principal engineer, who also joined Nortek from Nuiku, where he served as a senior developer.

Smokoff said that he is excited to work with this initial team, and in terms of new team members, the Foundry will be bringing on about six more people this year. “Our intention is to staff those positions with high-potential folks across Nortek as much as we can, and use it as a means for cross-pollination and building our own talent base,” he said. “If we find areas where we don’t have good competences internally, we will look to bring the same caliber of people in from outside.”

Although home base for the Foundry will be in Seattle, “This will be a virtual team to some extent, where we are looking to bring folks in from the business units and have them participate as part of the innovations group [that] different groups want to sponsor,” noted Smokoff. “And then we can have those folks rejoin their teams and bring back what they learned and some of the innovations back into those business units.”

Smokoff said that the Foundry’s home offices in Seattle will provide some good demo facilities “where we bring in the real breadth of Nortek’s offerings to showcase those,” he said. “There really isn’t any place within Nortek today where we can show what the complete intelligent home will look like, so we will stand that up in Seattle as well, and probably somewhere else more central in the country that everyone can get to.”

Smokoff’s team will focus first on technologies for the connected home and personal safety markets, leveraging Nortek brands including 2GIG, NuTone and Elan, as well as its channel relationships that serve security dealers.

“Over the longer term, it really is about pulling together the concept around the Nortek connected home and the suite of services, and how that provides a differentiated experience, through one, voice, and two, analytics,” said Smokoff.