How BREAKFAST turned social media into an Internet of Things industry

September 28, 2016
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Cate Blanchett hangs out with BREAKFAST’s Luster at an Armani event in London. Credit: BREAKFAST 

Last month we wrote about the rise of manufacturing agencies in New York City. Rather than mass-produce on the assembly line, companies like SITU Studio create custom products for specific clients. It’s part of a larger zero-inventory movement that includes 3D-printing manufacturers like Voodoo and 3D Hubs. Creative-service clients and on-demand production gives NYC entrepreneurs tremendous flexibility in how to build revenue and where to set up shop. Down the street from SITU’s Dumbo HQ, we visited another manufacturing agency: the award-winning rapid product and prototype company BREAKFAST.

breakfastny-futureworks-nycPrecious the bicycle tweeted throughout its cross-country tour after BREAKFAST equipped her with sensors, auto-texts and a poetic custom AI. Credit: Janeen McCrae

BREAKFAST launched when a trio of young digital agency friends decided to take the leap from computers and graphic design to hardware and IoT. Their first project? Giving the gift of speech to a bicycle named Precious. Janeen McCrae’s bike had its own Website and Twitter account, and Precious narrated her cross-country trip in 140-character zingers. (“I am being PUSHED through Portland streets. How degrading!”). BREAKFAST’s weatherproof bikepack collected speed, weather and terrain data that automatically texted out into the cloud. There, a custom bit of AI turned the data into verbal expressions that brought national awareness to McCrae and Precious raised more than $10,000 for charity.

When TBS caught wind of the project, Conan O’Brien’s team hired BREAKFAST to equip the comedian’s blimp with similar technology. Fans got to see real-time views through the blimp’s window, which was also casually checking in on Foursquare across America.

breakfastny-futureworks-nycBREAKFAST invented the hashtag printer, building Instaprnt – now Luster – to prepare for Instagram’s API. The event-photography product is everywhere as a way for brands and party hosts look to engage guests in a meaningful way. Credit: BREAKFAST 

BREAKFAST followed up its social media successes by inventing a hashtag printer that enables event guests to print photos from their phone. Instaprint, recently rebranded Luster, immediately became a staple at parties, product launches and award shows throughout the country and beyond. BREAKFAST now franchises the event-photography product in Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Dubai and Ireland.

Through Luster, the Brooklyn-based startup built a client list that includes BMW, McDonald’s, Sprint, Airbnb and Spotify. BREAKFAST – a team of four – expanded its Brooklyn-based Luster staff to 30 globally with 16 based in Brooklyn. The hashtag printer also got BREAKFAST thinking about displaying photos through other mediums. #F21Threadscreen for Forever 21 uses hashtags to set in motion an 11-foot screen made up of 6,400 spools of thread. When fans upload their picture, the spools cycle through colored ribbons to mirror an image back to viewers. Check it out.

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Points is BREAKFAST’s smart street sign that lets businesses upload scheduled or real-time info. The arms swivel and the screens update to give passersby a glimpse into the fabric of the neighborhood. Credit: BREAKFAST

#F21Threadscreen earned Forever 21 300 million impressions and BREAKFAST a spot on the 2016 Cannes-Lions innovation shortlist. Despite the global success and multinational-company clientele, BREAKFAST is equally focused on local. Points, their smart street sign, lets businesses upload info and invites passersby to request neighborhood guidance. Almost everything BREAKFAST makes is done in-house, and their shop includes a CNC, pick and place machine (for PCB components), laser cutter and a mill. Join them on instagram, twitter or at home.