Webee Promises True ‘Learning’ Home Automation System at CEDIA 2014
Indiegogo-funded Webee says it learns better than Nest, always tracking the home to adjust lights, thermostats, A/V gear, other smart home devices without programming. Debuts at CEDIA Expo 2014.
Julie Jacobson · July 31, 2014
The “smart home” is a misnomer, says Emanuel Merciel, COO of home automation start-up Webee Universe. “They’re not really smart, just connected. The trick is how to get them smart, how to get them to speak with each other.”
At CEDIA Expo 2014, Webee promises to demonstrate a truly smart solution – a home automation system that learns behaviors so it can adjust lights, thermostats, A/V and other smart devices on its own.
The learning feature is not unlike that found in Nest for thermostats, as well as certain home automation systems that learn lighting patterns so they can generate a lived-in look in VACATION mode.
At the same time, it’s different. For starters, it learns habits, preferences and schedules for a full range of smart-home systems, not just lights or thermostats. In addition, it keeps on learning in perpetuity.
Merciel says he has owned a Nest thermostat for two years and wouldn’t change it for anything else, but the learning feature is limited.
“It’s not that it’s bad, but it stops learning at some point,” he says. “After that, you have to alter it manually.”
Webee keeps on learning, so as smart devices are added to the ecosystem or as habits change, the system changes with it … if you want it too. The system asks you first.
And by the way, it has a built-in DLNA streamer and IR controller.
Webee was born of a college project by founder and CEO Lucas Funes, who developed an 800-MHz mesh networking technology for home control. As such, the original plan called for a hub and smart devices based on the proprietary protocol, with USB-dongle options available for ZigBee and Z-Wave.
But the company eventually came to its senses.
“We used our own protocol until early last year, when we realized that we were consuming resources (time and money) trying to fight the wrong battle,” Merciel tells CE Pro. “Given our size and very limited resources it was foolish to delay time to market when protocols such as ZigBee and Z-Wave were already the accepted standards, at least for the time being.”
[Continues after Webee video]
So Webee ceased development of its own protocol and “devoted our focus and resources into developing the best hub possible: one with learning capabilities that integrates any device of any standard,” Merciel says.
The hub of the Webee system, called Boss, features Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave wireless technology.
Also included are USB, Ethernet and HDMI 1.3 ports, plus an SD Card slot and IR receiver.
The USBs can be used to expand the system as new technologies and features become available. Merciel suggests, for example, a 4G dongle might be added to the system to enhance connectivity.
The company’s own smart devices, called Bees, communicate via ZigBee. They include:
- Open/Closed door/window sensor
- Smart Plug electrical outlet
- Smart Station multi-sensor (photocell, motion, humidity, temperature, CO)
- Skipper omnidirectional IR blaster
- Smart Host universal dimmer module that monitors energy consumption
- Smart Lamp Holder Edison-style screw-in socket
- Presence Tag Sensor
As with other products of its ilk, Webee has a cloud component for integrating third-party IP devices and enabling remote access. The cloud is also where the number-crunching occurs for the learning element.
Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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