Innovation Spotlight

Secure your home with your phone

By
From the May 2014 issue of Columbus CEO
  • Photo by Tim Johnson

Frustration initially sparked the idea for Garageio, a new mobile app that gives homeowners control of their garage door opener from anywhere in the world.

Zak Dziczkowski, an engineer, needed a spare remote for his standard garage door opener, but thought twice when he saw the price tag at the hardware store.

“I’m thinking it’ll be $25, $30,” Dziczkowski says. It was closer to $50. “The engineer side of me was like, ‘Oh, I’ll make one.’ ”

He envisioned a simple app that would open and close his garage door with the swipe of a finger, and called to enlist the help of friend and computer whiz Dave Reif.

“After about a 30-minute drive home, Dave and I had hatched this plan and, amazingly, it’s pretty close to the inception,” Dziczkowski says. “We started to think, why isn’t there something out there like this?”

Today, there is: The technology that Dziczkowski and Reif began crafting in late 2012 has developed into Garageio, the first product launched by their new startup company, Alottazs Labs, LLC. Dziczkowski serves as CEO; Reif is the chief technology officer.

Garageio works with most modern garage door openers and has two main components: a hardware device that users install in their garage and a mobile app for both iPhone and Android.

The WiFi-based product was designed to supplement existing garage door controls, Dziczkowski says.

“A standard remote opener and keypad are great for the purpose they were designed to serve,” he says. “However, these components do no good if you have already left home, or if you forget to close the door after getting home for the night. Garageio aims to make your dumb garage as smart as the rest of your world.” 

After installing Garageio, an account owner can open and close their garage door using their smartphone (or desktop computer via an account dashboard) or check to see if it’s open or closed. Garageio also sends an alert when the door is left open too long, and monitors who accessed it and when.

Access can be shared with up to 10 people, but only the account owner can add and remove users, Dziczkowski says.

He notes that the company uses bank-level security to protect customer data and communications, and to keep access safe and secure. “Hacking is not possible,” Dziczkowski says. “It is a closed-loop system.”

Dziczkowski and Reif together built Garageio’s hardware and software from scratch.

Creating an easy-to-use product was one of the main goals throughout the research and development process, says Reif, who also juggles a full-time job as a solution architect at Dynamit, a digital design and marketing agency.

“We knew to really get this right, we had to do two things,” Reif says. “It had to be really, really simple—we’ve definitely made it more simple as the prototype evolved—and the user experience had to be great.”

Production of the locally-made product has ramped up following a recent crowdfunding campaign. Garageio attracted more than 200 backers and raised $30,448—exceeding a goal of $25,000—through Fundable, a fundraising platform for small businesses.

Raising that amount was no small feat, says Laura Moller, Fundable’s media relations coordinator.

“It requires a lot of work, and it really comes back to the great prep work that Zak did,” Moller says. “He really did his research. He understood that a crowdfund was a great way to market what he was doing, rather than just try to bring an invention to the public.”

Another key to Garageio’s successful fundraising campaign was Dziczkowski’s presentation of the product, Moller adds. “He really boiled it down to an attractive and simple concept.”

Fundable sees many home-automation companies launch new ideas on its platform, though not every project is successful, Moller says.

“What’s great about crowdfunding, and what’s fantastic about Garageio, (is) it shows there’s really a demand for this kind of automation,” she says. “Everyone’s looking to simplify their life.”

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.