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Summary:

The system, for which a Kickstarter campaign was launched on Monday, should work with 4 out of 5 existing AC units.

Tado Cooling
photo: Tado

Want to stick some smarts into your old non-connected air conditioning system rather than buying some fancy-pants new unit? Tado, the German Nest competitor, may have something for you.

Tado started selling its smart thermostat at the end of 2012, capitalizing on the fact that Nest didn’t play nice with European wiring. That product is still ticking along – CEO Christian Deilmann told me there are a few thousand orders a month coming in from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the U.K. — but now the firm has developed a new product called Tado Cooling, for which it is raising money and gauging interest via Kickstarter.

The Cooling box sits on the user’s wall and, together with a smartphone app, provides an interface between the user and her AC unit. As with the original Tado system, the app knows when a user is heading home through smartphone location tracking, so that things can be nice and breezy by the time she walks through the door.

However, this new Tado Cooling unit, which is itself connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, also performs indoor tracking via Bluetooth Low Energy, iBeacon and light and motion sensors, to make sure rooms aren’t being unnecessarily cooled when no-one is in them. It even has a humidity sensor.

The really useful aspect of Tado Cooling, though, is its broad compatibility. Nest of course can also be used to control AC, but only central AC. So Tado is gunning for the other kinds of AC units: window, wall-mounted (split) and free-standing. As the Tado Cooling box communicates with the unit via infrared, it will work with pretty much any AC unit that already work with a remote control.

According to Deilmann, around 4 in 5 AC units are non-central. “Especially in Asian countries and Europe and Japan and Australia, basically there are only split units installed,” he told me on Monday. “Also on the east coast of the U.S., you have a lot of these in-window units. These can’t be controlled by Nest.”

Hence Tado’s overt pitch to those beyond the U.K. (where Nest is now available and the German-speaking countries, none of which are in any case prime AC markets. The company sees a gap in the market, and it’s using Kickstarter as a way of getting itself out there on a global basis. It will compete with products such as the connected vent covers from Keen, that try to limit cooling to rooms where people are, and perhaps with the connected window units from GE’s Quirky partnership, though that requires buying a new unit.

“We know that the U.S. and Asia are the biggest markets, but it’s very difficult to foresee how big the demand will be,” Deilmann said. “Right now the product is working, but before we go into mass production, we want to see what is the demand, how many units we need to build… Kickstarter can do all countries [at once].”

Existing Tado owners should note that the Cooling app is separate from the original app, which Deilmann said is due to its vastly different functionality. However, he noted that Tado wants to eventually combine the apps into one.

The Cooling box is only $99 as a Kickstarter pledge (or $69 for 500 early birds), which is a good deal considering the anticipated $149 retail price. And it seems the fundraiser is off to a good start — having launched on Monday afternoon, it is already at the time of writing more than 10 percent into its $150,000 goal.

  1. Will be interesting to see how effectively designers address the IR communications uncertainty problem. Just ask anyone who uses any kind of IR remote what percent of the IR commands require a retry. Its finnicky on a number of fronts even assuming you can duplicate the OEM commands

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  2. Nicholas Paredes Monday, May 12, 2014

    My Quirky/GE air conditioner is set to arrive soon. I’m looking forward to seeing if it is solidly integrated. Moving into devices means that a product has to be supported for a number of years in terms of both hardware and software. Let’s hope that companies don’t forget that aspect.

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    1. That’s why it’s so key that all manual functionality work even if the manufacturer goes out of business. A connected gadget can’t turn into a brick absent the service provider or connectivity.

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  3. Michael Camilleri Monday, May 12, 2014

    So what do the unlock 20% do?

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    1. Michael Camilleri Monday, May 12, 2014

      UNLUCKY 20%, that is!

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  4. Smart thermostats should no longer be called that as they no longer keep the temperature static. Instead a more appropriate name would be thermodyne or demandtherm or some such.

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