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Startup Ube Readies Free Android, iOS Home-Control Apps

Austin, Texas — Startup Ube Management, whose founders include former CEDIA CEO Utz Baldwin, plans November availability of free Android and iOS apps that deliver Wi-Fi and cellular control of more than 200 IP-based home electronics and home-control products.

The compatible products range from smart TVs and set-top boxes to garage-door openers, thermostats, and planned Ube-brand lighting dimmers and smart power outlets. The lighting dimmers and smart outlets are due in March.

The technology eliminates the need to install a central processing unit to control multiple home systems and eliminates expensive programming, which often involves the mixing and matching of different hardware and software standards, the company said. Ube’s system will therefore bring down the cost of home control to mass-market prices, the company continued. “By moving the intelligence into the device, where it belongs, these smart energy devices enable simple, intuitive smartphone control of home lighting and other appliances,” Ube said.

The company is using seed money from founders and angel investors to launch the apps, and it plans to raise additional money to launch the Ube-branded hardware.

Ube is demonstrating the apps and prototypes of its hardware at today’s Demo event in Santa Clara, Calif.

Out of the box, Ube’s apps will control many of the functions of most every home device that already uses standard IP connectivity, co-founder and chief marketing officer Glen Burchers told TWICE. They include every smart TV from such suppliers as Samsung, LG, Sharp, Panasonic and Sony, he said. Ube’s apps will “certainly access all the features allowable by the manufacturers’ [smartphone] app,” Burchers said.

Controllable IP-based products also include:

  • most IP set-top boxes, including models from Direct TV, Comcast, Tivo, Apple TV and others;
  • several thermostats, including models from Lenox, Ecobee and Allure;
  • Craftsman garage door openers; and
  • any product that can already be controlled from an Android or iOS app.

For control of lighting, the company plans March availability of in-wall dimmer switches, which will control lighting on/off and dimming from zero to full voltage in 1 percent increments. March is also the ship date for smart AC outlets, which might be limited to remote control of on/off to prevent problems with appliances that expect full voltage, Burchers said. Smart adapters that plug into existing wall outlets will also be available in March.

The company will sell its dimmers, smart AC outlets and smart adapters for existing AC outlets direct to volume home builders for new home construction, through home-improvement retailers, and direct through the web to consumers.

With Ube’s apps, IP-addressable devices will communicate with one another via Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet, making it possible for one command, for example, to turn on kitchen lights when the garage door opens. Users will also be able to use a single app to control multiple devices, Burchers said. The apps also collect information on how much energy each device is using.

 Besides making a margin on dimmer switches, wall outlets and other products under consideration, Ube said it will monetize its apps in several ways. One way is through targeted advertising. “We will know when your light bulb burns out and offer you a coupon,” Burchers said.

A second way is by offering consumers data for a fee. A premium upgrade of the free apps at $19 per year, for example, will enable users to monitor how much TV their kids watch and restrict kids’ TV usage, he said. Ube’s apps will also make it possible for consumers to monitor energy usage, including by lighting in a particular room, to let them know how much more or less they’re spending from month to month.

Lastly, Ube will aggregate consumer behavior and sell it to entities interested in the data, Burchers said.

 Ube’s founder include CEO Baldwin and CMO Burchers, who has been involved in five start-up ventures and has more than 25 years of experience in the consumer semiconductor market. Other founders include Ramki Anne, the former engineering VP at TomTom; Jack West, former chief software architect at IBM; and Pete Fossick, a user-interface designer and recent professor at Savannah College of Art and Design.