The smart home space is exploding – we don’t need to tell you that – and although Amazon, Google, Apple and the other tech titans suck up much of the oxygen in the room, it’s the startup space that really keeps things electric here at The Ambient.
It’s here where so many great ideas are hatched, which is why we aim to cover smart home startups of all shapes and sizes – just as long as they’re doing something truly interesting.
Essential reading: Top smart home ecosystems
With that in mind, we decided to round up some of the startups that have us excited to be writing about this space right now. Below you’ll find a wide range of companies trying to make their mark on the smart home. Some have been on the scene a short while, while others are making their big splash this year.
Either way, we think you’ll be hearing plenty more about these in 2019 and beyond.
The product: Smart home water monitoring and leak protection system Flo launched in 2018.
Why it’s hot: Father son duo Gabriel and Henry Halimi have developed an intelligent way to protect your home from water damage that is now backed by Moen.
A trend in the smart home we can totally get behind is tackling whole-home solutions, instead of small, point solutions. That’s the concept behind Flo by Moen, a device that attaches to your main water supply line and calculates water pressure, flow rate and temperature in your system. It then uses AI to tell normal water use from abnormal use to monitor and potentially detect water leaks. If the system detects a leak, it alerts you and you can shut off the water from the app.
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With Moen behind it Flo looks to have long-term viability, plus it has a $5 a month subscription plan that includes a damage protection guarantee and the product is available at The Home Depot. The company is also partnering with utility and insurance companies (including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Safeco Insurance). It also just launched a version made specifically for larger homes and small businesses, and has a battery backup product in the works – so if the power goes out, it will still be able to monitor your pipes.
The product: Smart light switches and sockets. But wait! These do things other smart switches can’t.
Why it’s hot: Den’s mechanical switches and outlets look like any other, but they’re much more intelligent than most “smart” alternatives.
This year, smart home startup Den has made a splash with its range of switches and sockets, taking a different approach than other companies in this space. You see, Den’s products use a mechanical system, which means the switch actually flicks on and off, whether pressed with a finger or switched in the smartphone app.
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This means you no longer have to “train” other members of the household to not press physical switches, but can still treat it like a “dumb” outlet. Den sells a motion sensor too, so should you want to have a light turn on whenever it detects someone nearby, you can set it up to do so.
If you leave a switch on, you’ll get a notification in the app to tell you. Fail to respond it will go ahead and turn that switch off anyway. Then there’s Den’s Smart Tag, which can be fitted over any existing plug so you can monitor what’s sucking the most power, and see exactly what appliances are plugged in at any time. Den has only just hit the scene, but word is getting around fast.
The product: Sensibo Sky, an air conditioning controller that can turn dumb AC and heating units smart.
Why it’s hot: Aside from literally heating up the smart home, Sensibo is solving the problem of dumb AC units, and doing so more effectively than anyone else right now.
As far as retrofit gadgets go, the Sensibo Sky is hard to beat right now. The tiny device can sit on a wall and transform your ‘dumb’ AC or heating unit into one that’s smart, capable of being controlled by your smartphone remotely or even using voice assistants.
What’s great about the Sensibo Sky is that it doesn’t need to be wired into your unit, but simply piggybacks off its remote control frequency. While that limits it to remote-controlled units, it works with a wide range of ACs within that group. The company also points out that it lowers your AC energy usage, thanks to the geofencing capability that turns off the system when your phone leaves the house. According to co-founder Ran Roth, Sensibo is also taking on a sustainability challenge, with air conditioning contributing heavily to global warming.
The product: RoomMe – a patented, room-level positioning technology to enable person-specific smart home automations, launched in 2019.
Why it’s hot: Intellithings’ sensors answer the smart home’s problem of knowing that someone is home but not who that someone is.
RoomMe is a smart home sensor that sits on your ceiling and knows who’s home and where they are – without using cameras or other more intrusive devices – enabling person-specific automation control. Crowdfunded through Indiegogo at the end of 2017, it uses your smartphone’s Bluetooth identifier to activate your specific preferences and adjust things like temperature, lighting and entertainment.
While too much smart home tech presumes you live alone, we love the idea of a room setting itself to our preferences when we walk in and then our partner’s preferences when they come home. Although how this will work when you’re both in the room will be interesting. Founded by former owners of Visonic, a global manufacturer of wireless home security systems, this device has some solid smart home chops behind it. While there aren’t a lot of partnerships yet – Philips Hue, LifX, Ecobee, Sonos and Bose – SmartThings, Wink, HomeKit and Sensibo are all listed as coming soon, making the potential for this type of device pretty promising.
The product: Hub-free, Wi-Fi-based smart home security system that can be professionally or self-monitored.
Why it’s hot: No one wants a hub it seems and Kangaroo is bringing super low-cost security to your home without one.
Like a lot of small startups, Kangaroo was born when its founder ran into a problem; in this case co-founder and CEO Maximus Yaney’s bad experience with a traditional home security system. So he set out to make an affordable, simple smart home security system for the rest of us.
Currently, Kangaroo has $15 motion sensors and $30 motion and entry sensors that connect directly to your smartphone over Wi-Fi to send you alerts if someone’s in your house when they shouldn’t be. A $9 a month subscription plan will professionally monitor those devices. Those are some disruptive prices.
With a two-in-one water and climate sensor, and indoor and outdoor cameras coming this year – plus a siren, keypad and tags planned for 2020 – all for well under $100, Kangaroo is definitely one to watch in the smart home security space.
The product: An air quality monitor and smart plug that track chemicals, dust, CO2 and more.
Why it’s hot: The air we breathe can be full of all sorts of nasties and Awair wants to make us… aware of what they are.
Awair is a name we’ve been talking about since The Ambient was born, but we’re expecting this startup to rocket in 2019. In fact, it already is: Awair raised $10 million in a series B round of funding in May – a number not to be sniffed at. While companies from Dyson to Plume Labs are tackling this space, Awair is the one that’s really grasped hold.
So why are people throwing so much money at Awair? Offices! There’s a lot of potential for Awair to help companies like WeWork monitor their air conditions, and enterprise is proving more lucrative than the consumer space for Awair right now – but as it reaps the rewards from targeting businesses, we expect to see even better products for home monitoring.
The product: 4-in-1 hub-based sensors that detect leaks, opening of doors and windows, alarms, and temperature – the second-gen versions launched in 2018.
Why it’s hot: Notion is targeting the insurance industry to subsidise the cost of installing its “home awareness” tech in people’s houses.
It seems to be taking the insurance industry an awfully long time to wise up to the benefits of smart home tech. So, Notion is taking its unique home monitoring and security system – which uses a single type of device to monitor for some of the most common problems in a home – directly to them. The startup, which was successfully Kickstarted in 2016, has partnered with companies such as Travelers, State Auto, American Modern and Hippo. Many of which subsidise the cost of Notion’s smart home technology and home monitoring service to provide more value to their policyholders.
Denver-based Notion’s all-in-one sensors are designed to hit the high notes of potential catastrophe in a home – water, smoke and break-ins. One device detects them all, making it much simpler for the homeowner to install, especially if their insurance company is paying for it. There’s no camera component, so you don’t need to feel like they’re spying on you, and professional monitoring for $15 a month covers all the scenarios: fire, leaks and break-ins. Another interesting integration is with HomeAdvisor. When Notion detects a leak, it can connect you with a local plumber “in 60 seconds or less.” These types of partnerships are definitely an interesting way forward for companies in the smart home.
The product: What it refers to as the “‘world’s first Connected Food Platform.”
Why it’s hot: Anything to simplify the journey between the supermarket and the plate is a winner.
Innit has a novel goal: make the process of sourcing and cooking ingredients much easier than it currently is. We dig it. Innit is less a product, more a software platform that pulls together disparate elements of the process of buying and making food.
The app will guide you in buying food and with cooking, customising meals based on your dietary and taste preferences. But things get really interesting with appliance integrations. If you have a compatible smart appliance, you can send multi-step cooking instructions straight to it. Innit currently plays nicely with appliances from Philips, LG, Bosch, GE, AEG and Electrolux.
2019 has seen Innit cooking up partnerships with LG, Google and others, as the startup forges ahead on its mission of “giving food a voice,” as it puts it. We’re not sure we’d word it that way, but we certainly like what Innit is up to.
The product: Walabot Home detects falls and can call for help without using intrusive monitoring in your home.
Why it’s hot: Its mobile, low-cost 4D imaging sensor technology helps your home “see” without using cameras.
Developed by Vayyar Imaging, Walabot HOME replaces the need for traditional medical alert bracelets with a wall-mounted device that monitors occupants inside the home using 4D imaging. If it detects a fall, a built-in microphone calls selected contacts and opens up two-way audio on the device.
Aging in Place technology, devices that help seniors stay in their own homes and out of care homes for longer, is a fast-growing area for the smart home. The CTA predicts this space will grow by $30 billion in the next few years and Vayyar is well-placed to take advantage of this growth. Additionally, while Walabot Home and Walabot DIY (which uses the imaging technology to “see” through walls to detect studs, pipes, wires and rodents), are its direct-to-consumer devices, Vayyar’s 4D imaging sensors have potential use cases outside the smart home, including automotive, medical, retail and robotics.
The product: Sense is an electricity monitoring system that learns how your home consumes energy and helps make it more energy efficient.
Why it’s hot: Sense has developed a machine learning algorithm that identifies the energy signature of appliances to track their usage and consumption in real time.
A wearable for your home, Sense connects to your electrical panel and tells you what’s on and what’s off and how much energy it uses for electrical devices in your home. It’s a way of “tracking” home the way we track calories, steps and miles per gallon. The data can be used by the homeowner to improve energy efficiency or just know whether they left the stove on.
Launched in 2016, Sense just closed a $30 million B round of funding in July, bringing the total investment to $50 million. This Massachusetts-based startup is a key player in the whole home solution space, tackling the problem of home energy consumption at the source, and intelligently detecting problems then helping homeowners address them.
The product: Wyze Cam launched in 2017, followed by Wyze sensors, smart plugs and smart light bulbs.
Why it’s hot: Founded by four former Amazon employees, Wyze Labs is disrupting the price point of the smart home market by making good, cheap smart home devices that all work together.
Dispelling the myth that smart home products need to cost a lot to be good and secure, Wyze Labs jaw-droppingly inexpensive smart home cameras cost user $35 and offer a lot of the same features as higher-priced competitors such as Nest. With the introduction of smart plugs, bulbs and sensors this year, Wyze is on track to be a complete smart home ecosystem appealing to the price-conscious buyer.
Wyze’s other angle is treating its customers as part of its development team, putting a public product roadmap on its forums and Facebook group that customers actively participate in to help drive the direction of its business. Plus an Early Access program lets users feel like they’re on the inside, allowing them to pre-order products and get them before the general public.
“We plan to roll out more products this year and next, establishing ourselves as a robust smart home company while maintaining our core strategic principle of making these products accessible to our users,” says Scott Wilson, Wyze Labs’ director of marketing. Partnerships with The Home Depot and $20 million in Series A funding should help ensure the growth of the company, which says it does not lose money on its products. “We also entertain the idea of adding subscription models as long as it adds extreme value to the user and remains consistent with our core strategic principle of customer-accessibility,” says Wilson.
While it works with IFTTT and has some Alexa and Google integration, Wyze’s cloud-compatibility is limited, making it hard to bring into an existing smart home set-up to work with scenes, routines etc. This makes it less appealing to current smart home users, but that appears not to be the company’s target market anyway.