Why spend $250 on a Nest Wi-Fi thermostat when you can build your own with the littleBits Cloud Module, a building block for Internet-connected gadgets announced at this week's TED conference

Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of littleBits - a modern-day LEGO set that lets anyone build electronic devices - had her first experience with the Internet of Things (physical devices that connect to the Internet and each other, like the aforementioned Nest thermostat) about ten years ago, when she encountered Internet 0, a protocol that allows users to control physical objects remotely.

"I went from being impressed to inspired to feeling incredibly empowered," she said in her TED Fellows talk. Yet when she founded littleBits in 2008, she didn't anticipate adding on an Internet-connected module. The first few years were about building the library of bits modules including magnetic sensors, motors, and more.

Littlebits already sells some cool and powerful tools. The Synth Kit, an analog modular synthesizer kit, is another example of the what company is doing in its self-described power phase. Check it out below:

The Cloud module is easy to set up - just snap it onto other magnetic modules and hook it up to a WiFi network. The module can connect to other bits, and to the web. "You can make your own Jawbone, or make your own new thing that doesn't exist yet at all," she says.

In her TED talk, Bdeir gave examples of Cloud module projects built in-house and by alpha testers, including an automated fish feeder and and a system that lets users send an email to a thermostat to crank up the heat.

The Cloud module is currently in limited beta and launches to the public early in the third quarter of 2014.