Ube: The Smartphone is the Panel
The Internet lies at the core of Ube’s new home automation and security solution. Users can link IP-enabled electronic products with no more hardware or software than a smartphone and an app. To set up the system, the Ube mobile app scans the home to find what devices are controllable, and the user only has to enter the room where the device is located and a name for the device to bring it online. “We knew one of the keys to widespread adoption is to make it very easy to use,” said Glen Burchers, co-founder and chief marketing officer for Austin, Texas-based Ube.
The user’s smartphone serves as a single remote for multiple devices. The interface is gesture-based: an upward swipe changes the channel upward, and a circular clockwise gesture turns up the volume. “It’s really intuitive, it’s what people expect for touch screen devices today,” Burchers shared.
The Ube app works with any IP-enabled device, TVs, media players, thermostats, and more. Burchers estimates that about 250 IP-enabled devices are currently available and that more than a thousand will come onto the market in the next couple of years. Ube is producing smart dimmers, plugs, and outlets to bring lights and other non-IP-enabled appliances on line. “Our goal in creating hardware is not becoming a big hardware company. We will be successful as the number of Internet-connected devices grows exponentially,” he said.
Ube’s solution is distinctive beyond the technology involved. The company is looking at alternative revenue channels, not relying on the sale of hardware or software as much as what can be done with the system or information it collects once installed. The company is considering the possibility of offering two different versions of the app, a free version and a premium version for fee. In the future, the app could be used for marketing and promotional activity. For example, the system could detect that the home does not have a thermostat installed and suggest a model for purchase, or when a light bulb burns out, it could offer a coupon for new bulbs.
What the business model will ultimately look like and what role dealers will play remains to be seen. “We’re in uncharted territory. We’ll be learning with everybody else,” Burchers said.
The Ube app for the iPhone will be available in early December and for Android phones in January. Dimmers, smart plugs, and smart outlets should be available for sale early in the second quarter of 2013.