Categories: Fresh Thinking

How a deadly tornado gave rise to a smarter alarm

Damage in Joplin, Mo, on May 26, 2011

Located in Pineville, North Carolina, less than an hour’s drive from Lowe’s corporate office, Halo Smart Labs is a startup company with one mission in mind: to build technology that will help save lives. This singular focus led its founders to create a smart smoke alarm that not only detects fire and carbon monoxide, but also broadcasts weather alerts and projects an LED ring of light on the ceiling to give homeowners more advanced warning when an incident occurs. By providing notifications earlier, the alarm improves communication of hazards within and around the home, and has the potential to save lives.

Lowe’s seeks innovative partnerships that bring the best and brightest smart home products to customers, which is why Lowe’s Iris smart home team collaborated early on with Halo Smart Labs. Co-founder Ben Stagg opened up to Open House about what sparked the idea for a smart smoke alarm and how his team worked with Lowe’s to bring it to market.

Q and A

  • What gave you the notion to build the “world’s smartest” smoke detector?
    The genesis of Halo started back in 2011 when we had a close call with one of my parents. My father was living and working on his farm near Joplin, Missouri, when a severe tornado tore through the countryside, resulting in some pretty devastating impacts, including the loss of many lives and property destruction. My parents were lucky. They happened to hear a weather alert and were barely able to seek shelter in time. This event inspired us to create an alarm that would prevent a tragedy like this from happening again. We realized a need, firsthand: that people need to be alerted to the weather conditions around them, as soon as possible, so they would have more time to react. That idea motivated us to create a technology that would send weather alerts when and where you need them, including to your phone and throughout your home. We started with tornado warnings and then expanded into other emergency notifications.
  • How does the Halo smoke alarm work?
    Halo and Halo+ are easy-to-install hardwired detectors that are durable and reliable. In fact, the backup battery lasts for 10 years. The Halo alarm combines advanced smoke detection sensors with a carbon monoxide identification in one unit; while Halo+ is equipped with the same features of Halo plus a user-customizable NOAA weather radio that enables users to receive tornado, flood and hurricane alerts from the National Weather Service directly in their homes and on their phones. With a Halo+ alarm installed in their homes, families will have a head start when a weather event occurs because their device will be able to communicate to them quickly.
  • What did you learn from prototypes or earlier versions of your technologies?
    We’ve learned everything. Since we set out to build something from the ground up, we’ve been through every step of the design process. We sought feedback early on from Lowe’s and the Iris team to better understand customers’ needs. We also reached out to customers for input on the early design iterations, debated among our team the best vent curvature angles for quick detection and trialed different materials to use for the light halo. We didn’t take any decision lightly, so we truly learned it all.
  • How has the partnership with Iris and Lowe’s benefited your business?
    From serving as a sounding board to stocking units in over 1,500 stores, our collaboration with Iris and Lowe’s has tremendously helped propel our product to market. The Iris team has been a huge supporter from the very beginning: They helped us improve our customer experience by sharing best practices and learnings from their own app experience; they assisted us with great insight as we developed a smart device from scratch; and they helped increase our brand awareness by introducing the Halo name to Lowe’s large customer base. As a small technology startup, we encounter unique challenges but are able to overcome them with the help of smart home experts on Iris within Lowe’s.
  • What is next for Halo Smart Labs?
    We see additional and incredible opportunities to keep building technology that can potentially save lives. By leveraging the latest and greatest sensors and connectivity, we can expand across different marketing ranges and explore other features. We’re not done just yet – for us, there are a few more evolutions – and we look forward to working further with Iris and Lowe’s to help bring them to market soon.