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The WallyHome sensors detect changes in moisture, temperature and humidity in the home.

Sears Holdings Corp. has acquired the WallyHome sensor technology from Seattle startup SNUPI Technologies. With the deal, Sears is also establishing its second new Seattle technology office in less than a year, this one on the University of Washington campus.

Parag Garg will lead the second Sears office in Seattle.
Parag Garg will lead the second Sears office in Seattle.

The deal gives Sears technology that can sense changes in moisture, temperature and humidity — alerting property owners to water leaks and other potential problems. The technology promises to bolster the company’s lineup of Connected Solutions smart home devices.

As part of the acquisition, Sears will also assume a 10,000-square-foot lease on the University of Washington campus, where the retail and home services giant will operate a new tech development center.

“This acquisition reinforces our commitment to the Connected Solutions business and the technology that we think can help fuel our company’s transformation,” said Ryan Ciovacco, Sears Holdings’ president of Consumer Electronics and Connected Solutions, in a statement released by the company.

Sears is also licensing related technology from SNUPI, and the companies say the startup will provide consulting services to Sears for future Connected Solutions products. As part of the acquisition, Sears will be adding four new employees. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

SNUPI co-founder Jeremy Jaech
SNUPI co-founder Jeremy Jaech

Seattle technology veteran Parag Garg, Sears Holdings’ CTO of Connected Solutions, will run the new Sears office. He the said the new location will bolster the company’s recruiting efforts. The team already numbers about 12 people at the location currently. The space can accommodate up to 50 people.

Garg said via email that he wasn’t yet able to share Sears’ specific plans for the WallyHome technology, but he noted that it “fits very strategically within our ‘Simply Automated’ Connected Solutions offering.”

“Also, as the authority in millions of American homes for decades and products across all categories, including appliances, fitness, auto, electronics and home, Sears is uniquely positioned to lead the Connected Home market,” he said.

Sears separately opened an engineering office this year at Seattle’s Columbia Center to overhaul the technology that powers its Sears Home Services business, the nation’s largest provider of residential services including appliance installation and home improvement and repair.

SNUPI, led by veteran entrepreneur Jeremy Jaech and UW computer science professor Shwetak Patel, laid off a significant portion of its staff and shelved the Wally sensors earlier this year after it was unable to raise additional venture funding.

UW professor Shwetak Patel. (Photo via John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)
SNUPI co-founder and UW professor Shwetak Patel. (Photo via MacArthur Foundation)

Jaech tells GeekWire via email that SNUPI “is turning into an IP licensing and reference design company in the near term. If that generates sufficient revenue we will look at developing some new IP which we may or may not use in new products we create. It’s too early to see how this will play out.”

He added, “If Sears is successful with Wally and other device manufacturers want to use the underlying SNUPI wireless radio as a result then we will license it to them too.”

Patel, who sold a previous startup to Belkin, said in a statement that the deal with Sears “further amplifies the University of Washington’s leadership in the research and commercialization of IoT solutions.”

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