CINCINNATI - Pop-up shops — they’re the fairy sprites of the retail world, appearing inside of other shops, at festivals, and disappearing after a day or three. Most pop-up shops sell portable items like jewelry or ceramics.
The software company Structure is adding a dimension to the pop-up experience, holding a three-day Christmas pop-up that offers not only some of the Over the Rhine company’s products, but an opportunity to learn about “the internet of things,” or IOT, the mechanisms for which is the company’s stock in trade.
With the pop-up, said company vice president Todd Henderson, “We’re trying to raise awareness of what’s possible with connected devices and IOT solutions.”
And just what is IOT?
Basically, Henderson explained, it’s software that enables smart devices to talk to each other via the internet.
For example, if the temperature of your home drops five degrees, the thermostat and garage door may "talk" to one another and resolve the issue — shutting the garage door, possibly — without any legwork from the homeowner.
This applies to anything from a phone to a car to industrial automation systems.
In other words, Structure makes apps that tell other apps what to do.
Henderson explained: “The problem that we’re solving is there are a lot of connected devices,” such as a Nest thermostat or smoke-detection system, “that you can control with your phone and is connected to the internet. There are a lot of those devices out on the market today but there’s not a lot of compatibility and inter-operability, where those devices are talking to each other, and that’s the area we are playing in.”
The company was founded this October 19 by Charlie Key and Brandon Cannaday, who recently sold a different software firm, Modulus, which they began in the Brandery, a start-up incubator in Over the Rhine.
This week’s pop-up is Structure’s first public event, and the company has set out to make it fun and kid-friendly, with inter-active builder kits — comprising a circuit board and sensors — the young ones can try. One of the kits makes a robotic mouse chase a light. Another randomly rolls a pair of LED dice. Henderson said they’ll have about 20 products for sale, with prices starting at $20.
The equipment for making these things will be for sale, as will kits that come with instructions. Other items for sale will be the company’s own smart-home devices, and what Henderson calls smart gadgets, such as drones.
The three-day shop is located in Brick OTR, a storefront dedicated to pop-ups, through Mortar, an entrepreneurial hub that focuses on improving Cincinnati neighborhoods.
And what do the Griswolds have to do with all this? To make things funny as well as informative, Structure draws on the comedy Christmas Vacation to illustrate its work, devising solutions that would enable their customers to avoid the holiday woes that befell the Griswold family in the 1989 movie, which starred Chevy Chase. No squirrel in the Christmas tree crises or city-wide power outages for Structure’s clients. Said Henderson, “you can avoid all that with a connected solution.”
If you go
What: Structure's pop-up shop
When: Dec. 18-20; Friday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 12 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 12 to 6 p.m.