One of the biggest appeals of having a smarthome is getting rid of all of the freaking remotes. The air conditioner, TV, speaker system, cable box, Blu-ray player; each one comes with a button-laden plastic stick, even the most elegantly designed of which still look like something coughed up from the 1990s.
Some smartphones have shipped with “IR-blasters,” the same kind of infrared-emitting technology found in old TV remotes. IR-equipped phones can go some distance in replacing remotes, but they’re not a perfect solution. In addition to being fairly rare on modern smartphones, the infrared-emitters on phones have the same limitations as conventional remotes: they must be pointed directly at the device in question, and are limited to simple single-button actions.
One Hong Kong startup is looking to bring our old IR-based devices into the 21st century – and make it possible to turn nearly any house into a smarthome.
Bringing old devices into the 21st century
One way to bring your home out of the creaky, IR-laden past would be to throw out all of your electronic devices and replace them with newer, wifi/bluetooth-enabled ones. But assuming you’re not in the mood to spend several thousand dollars in the pursuit of remote-less convenience, you might be interested in Klikr.
“We do not want to simply recreate the universal remote control on your smartphone,” says Klikr founder Antoine Vandenheste. “We want to reinvent the experience.”
Klikr takes a seemingly complicated problem – bringing many different types of IR-based analog devices onto a single network – and hits it with a staggeringly simple solution.
Each Klikr device is just a small plastic square. The user attaches the square to their devices’ IR receiver, and voila, the device is on the network.
That’s because each square contains its own IR-blaster and a bluetooth antenna. Using the Klikr app, the user can see all of the devices on their home network, and control them via bluetooth.
This video, a promo for their Kickstarter campaign, shows Klikr in action:
Click “volume up” on the TV app, for example, and the Klikr device attached to your TV fires an IR signal to turn up the volume.
That’s the basic scenario. But Klikr also supports a wide range of more modern smart home features. Get a phone call? Your stereo or movie can pause automatically. In a rush? Just give a voice command like “turn off the TV” or “set the air conditioner to 22 degrees.”
The company is also working on IFTTT support (If This This Then That, a web service that automates digital workflows) which could give the app the ability to, for example, turn on the TV when your phone’s morning alarm goes off.
From Lego to Kickstarter
“The hardware came together like Lego,” says Antoine. “The challenging part was the software.”
The idea for Klikr first came to Antoine and his team in December of last year. Thanks to a design team based in Shenzhen, China’s manufacturing capital, it was relatively easy for Klikr to go from a 3D mock-up to a real device. But making it actually work was a different problem.
“Every Android manufacturer uses different chipsets and therefore has slightly different bluetooth specs,” Antoine says, adding that “every air-conditioner manufacturer has its own standards” as well.
After quite a bit of grappling with stereo, TV, and air-conditioner codes, the Klikr team finally got their app together. Then, they did what many startups before them have done: launch a Kickstarter campaign and hope for the best.
That decision has paid off. Klikr’s Kickstarter has already blasted through its funding goal – it’s currently at US$41,734, as of publishing. It was originally hoping for just US$30,000 – and still has 15 days to go.
The month-long campaign was launched on November 3, and was fully funded in just 10 days. Hundreds of backers paid between US$20-22 for single Klikr devices, and hundreds more threw in for sets of three, five, or seven.
Preparing for the first wave
Klikr is currently a fairly small operation. The team includes ten people spread between Hong Kong and the UK who handle marketing and project management, as well as a dozen people in China working on design and manufacturing.
The company’s Kickstarter has already brought in more than 650 backers, and that number will only grow as the campaign remains open for the next two weeks. It’s clear that many people are interested in what Klikr has to offer, but it will be down to the company to make sure that its production, shipping, and support services are up to snuff when the campaign closes and the orders are due.
When it ships, the Klikr app will be available in multiple languages. After the company participated in the Hong Kong electronics fair, Antoine says, “around 200 importers have approached us.”
Klikr has not yet reached out to external investors, with Antoine saying, “at this stage, all our efforts are focused on finalizing the applications, making the product better, and delivering our first batches.”
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