5 Select Connected A/C Controllers for the Smart Home

5 Select Connected A/C Controllers for the Smart Home

Smart thermostats have been a hot topic in the smart home, for they bring practical benefits like energy saving while increasing home comfort. While thermostats are popular in regions like North America and Europe, in some other regions where home cooling is the primary concern for households, air conditioners (A/C) may be all that is needed. So why not make A/C smart as well?

Companies have come up with add-ons featuring easy installation to connect existing air conditioners to mobile apps for remote control. These add-ons will be referred to as connected A/C controller hereafter. Early pioneers include IntesisHome, tado°, Sensibo, and Ambi Labs: IntesisHome launched a remote A/C control solution that works with Panasonic Aquarea and Etherea air conditioning products in February 2012; tado° launched its Smart AC Control on Kickstarter in May 2014; Sensibo launched its smart A/C control kits on Indiegogo also in May 2014; and Ambi Labs launched Ambi Climate on Kickstarter in 2014 October.

Many of the connected A/C controllers today are standalone devices, with some exceptions like Sensibo’s kits, which are hub-based systems. These controllers are placed near the A/C—they can be attached to either the exterior or interior of the A/C unit, on any surface in the room, or plugged into the wall. Besides IR control, many devices support Wi-Fi for wireless installation.

Similar to the Nest Thermostat, some connected A/C controllers feature intelligence through learning to bring tailored user experience. They can learn user preferences based on user settings over time, so that they can operate based on the preferences automatically. 

With embedded sensors for temperature, humidity, light, motion and so on, they can also learn about the home environment to provide increased comfort. For example, the controllers can turn on/off the A/C or adjust its settings when the temperature or humidity is too high or too low. While the indoor environment is affected by outdoor weather, some controllers even incorporate weather data for more efficient operation.

Geolocation is one trending feature for connected A/C controllers. With geolocation, the controllers can turn the A/C off as the user leaves home, and turn it back on as the user approaches for pre-cooling the house.

While connected A/C controllers can certainly fit in the smart home, so far their connection with other devices or services in it has been almost non-existent, with exceptions like Intraix and tado°. Intraix provides a hub—KLUG Home—to connect to other smart devices and services including Amazon Echo, Philips Hue, Apple Watch, Apple HomeKit, Google Now and more. tado° has just announced integration with Amazon Echo. Such integrations are perhaps something companies can work on for the future.

1.Intraix

KLUG Air

Wireless: IR, ZigBee, Bluetooth 4.0 (for iBeacon/micro-location)

KLUG Air was launched by the Singapore-based startup Intraix for remote control of split-unit A/C systems. The device is embedded with temperature, relative humidity, iBeacon presence, and light sensors as well as six IR receivers. With the KLUG Air, users can turn their A/C on/off or adjust temperature, mode, or fan speed remotely via the KLUG app. User habit learning and geolocation are also supported. The device is battery-operated, making placement simple. According to Bryan Lee, co-founder of Intraix, the battery life is about 6 months.

Lee shared what is special about the device is that it can receive signals from traditional remotes so that all changes can be synced. In other words, users can use their traditional remote for control, and the KULG Air would know of any changes made.

The KLUG Air has to be used in conjunction with KLUG Home, a ZigBee and Wi-Fi supporting hub that can also connect to other smart devices in the home, such as smart plugs and smart meters.

 

KLUG Air (back) and KLUG Home (front)


Photo courtesy of Intraix

 

2.Ambi Labs

Ambi Climate

Wireless: IR, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 (for iBeacon/micro-location)

Funded through Kickstarter, Ambi Climate features compatibility with close to 350 air conditioners, whether they are wall-mounted or portable air conditioners.

The device has embedded temperature, humidity, sunlight and motion sensors. By taking into consideration the A/C’s efficiency and how the home heats, cools and responds to weather, the device offers intelligent and automatic control. Unnecessary heating and cooling is also reduced to save energy.

There are modes for users to choose from, including the Comfort Mode and Away Mode. For the Comfort Mode, the device operates based on user preferences learned by the device. According to Ambi Labs, “It basically takes over your AC controls and works to maintain what it knows you feel comfortable with, based on sensor readings and external weather changes.”

For the Away Mode, when sensor readings meet user defined thresholds, the device will turn on the A/C for bringing the conditions back to “acceptable” levels.

 

Photo courtesy of Ambi Labs

 

3.Intesis Software

IntesisHome WiFi Air Conditioner Controller

Wireless: IR, Wi-Fi

IntesisHome has multi-language support and allows users to remotely manage settings like on/off, operating modes (cool, heat, auto, fan, dry), fan speed, vane, timer, timer & scenes and more. Certain features like multiple areas and multiple users are available only on the web.

Two models are available—Universal and Brand specific. Whereas the former can be placed anywhere in the room, the latter is to be placed inside the air conditioner and connects to it via a specific AC connection wire.

One of the announcements IntesisHome made at this year’s MWC is VoiceOver support for the blind or the visually impaired.

“With VoiceOver you can control your device with simple gestures. For instance, simply touch your screen or drag your finger on it and VoiceOver will tell you everything in it. Touch one button once to listen (to) its description and twice to activate it.”

Through third party services, extra features including geolocation, weather, voice commands and interaction with devices such as Nest, Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue are also available. IFTTT integration is also supported.

 

Brand specific


Photo courtesy of Intesis Software
Universal


Photo courtesy of Intesis Software

 

4.AskStory Co., Ltd.

myOndo

Wireless: IR, Wi-Fi

myOndo supports both machine learning and geolocation. For geolocation, myOndo can analyze Wi-Fi and GPS data to find the precise location of the user, and turn on the A/C as the user approaches home.

myOndo has temperature and humidity sensors. To maximize comfort, myOndo takes into account the room temperature, user patterns, outside weather and any fluctuation in its operation. Reducing fluctuation of room temperature can help reduce energy consumption, as shown in the following graph.

The device also allows users to get a good night’s sleep—just enter the sleeping time, and the device will also take into account the fall in body temperature during sleep to keep users comfortable.

 

Photo courtesy of AskStory

 

5.Unity Digi Inc.

JiiOrbit LeOne

Wireless: IR, Wi-Fi

LeOne features 100% M-I-T (made in Taiwan) and is compatible with over 95% of the split-unit and window A/C models available in Taiwan. Similarly, it is embedded with temperature and humidity sensors for environment monitoring. The device also supports scheduling and multiple users managing multiple devices. The maximum distance the device can be placed from the A/C is 8 meters.

 

Photo courtesy of Unity Digi

 

Share to:
Comments ( 0 )