West Hartford resident Christopher Allen said he has always been full of ideas.
One of them – the iGrill – led him him leaving his job at Allstate in Bristol in 2010 and founding iDevices, an “app-enabling” company, in Canton. He reopened in Riverdale Farms in Avon last Friday.
He patented the iGrill in 2008, according to Ryan Cane's The Hartford Courant ConneCT technology blog. The device has a built-in thermometer and a probe that the consumers can stick into meat they are grilling. It can transmit the meat's temperature to an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad using a Bluetooth connection, according to the iGrill website. Within hours of asking Apple for help designing it in early 2010, Allen got word that Apple was in.
The iGrill launched in December 2010; it's now sold in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Asian Pacific and Europe.
“Wireless monitors have been around, really forever,” Allen said. “And with the advent of the iPhone … iPhone users carry their iPhones more than anything else, so why not connect to that and eliminate the need for a second device to put in your pocket?”
As CEO, he is the idea man and the “key contact” for Apple, working alongside his trusty Rottweiler, Bella, in the office. He does whatever is needed, primarily sales. iDevice products are manufactured in Brookfield and Shenhzen, China.
In the beginning, it was just Allen and Jon Conelias, of Massachusetts, at iDevices; now the company has 11 employees. By the end of the year, Allen expects his staff to be up to about 25.
There are also some job openings for programmers and engineers, as well as three or four paid internship opportunities in engineering and marketing. Housing is available for interns if needed.
“It offers more than sitting in a cubicle doing what you’re told,” Allen said. “You’re seeing a company being built. We’re pretty open. We don’t have a lot of secrets here.”
While the company is new, it garnered media attention on The Today Show, Good Morning America and The Early Show last year after Allen’s iGrill debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is visiting iDevices in May for a grilling party open to the public that will showcase the iGrill and some of the company’s other inventions. iDevice has applied for a state grant from the Small Business Express Matching Grant Program, as well as a state loan.
The company is constantly developing the iGrill and “how to make it interactive,” Allen said. The product will incorporate Facebook and Twitter within the next couple weeks to give users platforms for sharing grilling tips, recipes and photos in “live, real time.” A “geo-location” feature will also be added to show where people are using iGrill worldwide.
“That’s a big thing missing in that community,” Allen said. "There aren’t a lot of social networks that bring people together like that.”
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, iDevice showcased its iShower, which is set to launch in May. The iShower speaker mounts in showers and can stream audio from up to five Bluetooth-enabled devices, like iPhones, iPads, personal computers or Mac laptops. It has a clock built in and is waterproof.
“You, your husband or boyfriend, and your kids, you can all use your own playlist,” Allen said. “You choose which user you are. It goes up to five users and you start streaming what you’re listening to – Pandora, YouTube, movies, iTunes, whatever.”
Allen views his role at iDevices as using technology to solve problems. The idea came after many iPhone customers were bringing their phones to Apple after dropping them in the toilet, said Allen. In some cases that was because consumers were trying to play music in the bathroom.
After the expo, company began incorporating consulting services to clients looking to design app-enabled apparatuses, which could mean anything from household items to pool thermometers. The company can also develop stand-alone apps.
“That’s where the future’s headed,” Allen said.
iDevices will release another invention in late June called the iNotebook, which has already been sold to Targus – a company that makes laptop bags and app accessories. The “Bluetooth-enabled writing recognition” product comes with an infrared scanner that mounts to a portfolio containing a notebook. As you write, the sensor detects the movements of your pen and transfers it to an iPad. You can email the file as a PDF or organize notes into folders.
“It’s going to be really good for college,” Allen said. "It’s hard to take notes on the iPad. A lot of people try, but not too successfully. People still like pen and paper, so it gives them the luxury of having pen and paper, but the real advantage is that their notes are stored in a way that’s effective and organized.”
iDevices' slogan is “innovations and inventions for the future.”
“The goal is, over the next three years, to be a $100 million company,” Allen said.
More information on the company is available at www.iDevicesinc.com. It is located in Building 12 in Riverdale Farms, 124 Simsbury Road, Avon.