Internet of Things startup Tado has today unveiled its most ambitious product to-date. The German company and maker of the Tado smart thermostat, which competes with Google-owned Nest and others, has taken to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to launch the Tado Cooling, an Internet-connected device that makes almost any remote controlled air conditioning system smart.
With a targeted retail price of $149, the first 500 backers can bag a Tado Cooling for $69, and $99 subsequently, a significant discount when it goes on general sale. However, those ordering outside of the U.S. will need to add $15 for shipping. In total, Tado is hoping to crowd-raise $150,000.
According to the startup, the Tado Cooling can be retrospectively fitted to 82 percent of legacy remote controlled AC units worldwide, including wall hanging, in-window, or portable units. It consists of a wall-mounted device that replaces the AC’s infrared remote control and connects to the Internet via WiFi.
Then, combined with the accompanying smartphone app, it’s able to detect when the last person has left the house and automatically turns off the air conditioning. Likewise, using geo-location via your smartphone and Tado app, it understands when you are returning home and will begin pre-cooling your house.
In addition, it takes into account local weather reports, and, like the Tado smart thermostat, the overall aim is to not only provide greater convenience and comfort but also save energy and reduce your energy bill.
Interestingly, the Tado Cooling has some additional tricks up its sleeve. Unlike the startup’s smart thermostat, the Cooling does sport a screen of sorts — a translucent matrix LED display and a capacitive touch interface — so it doesn’t rely solely on the accompanying app.
The device also comes equipped with an indoor positioning system based on Bluetooth Low Energy/iBeacon technology to detect the whereabouts of household members, turning the AC off and on in each room accordingly, presuming you have a Tado Cooling for each of your AC units.
To support this feature, the Cooling is packed with ambient light, motion and noise sensors, meaning that not all household members need to be running the app.
Considering that Tado raised $2.6 million in VC funding last November, it’s interesting to see the Munich-headquartered startup turn to Kickstarter for its second product.
“When we launched our heating product in the UK last fall we underestimated the demand and therefore ran out of stock for four weeks in Jan 2014. Forecasting volumes for Tado Cooling — a brand new product category — on an international level is very difficult,” explains co-founder and CEO Christian Deilmann. “Kickstarter gives us the chance to scale production to the right volume after receiving the orders.”
The decision to tackle air conditioning next, after heating, fits with Tado’s mission in a number of ways. Firstly, it can recycle much of its existing technology, in terms of the location-based cloud service that underpins the Tado smart thermostat and now the Cooling.
But there’s another angle: tackling the AC “problem” moves the company into much warmer markets, literally, including America. In fact, Tado is keen to stress this is an international launch. In contrast, its first product was launched in Germany first and then, tentatively, the UK.
“I have this product on my mind for at least 5 years and want to bring it to life now,” says Deilmann. “With Tado Cooling we really get the chance to build a global brand and at the same time offset seasonality of our heating product. Of course we can build up on our existing climate control technology platform which makes it easier to build a great product.”
Finally, I asked Deilmann about the tech in the Tado Cooling, which, as already noted, appears to have a bigger punch compared to the company’s first product.
“We did a lot of research on how people use their AC and what is important to them. The reality is that it varies a lot in different parts of the world,” he says. “One thing is clear, an AC reacts much faster than a heating system. Hence we included indoor positioning as a new feature to adjust when people move from room to room.
“In some regions the AC also accomplishes the task of keeping a certain humidity level. Tado does this in the most efficient way. The screen and the capacitive user interface gives Tado Cooling the touch of a lively gadget. However we have learned that once people use the Tado app they don’t want anything else.”