Ambi Climate is a machine learning-powered, smartphone-controlled, add-on device that works with existing remote-controlled air conditioners to deliver automatic, personalised comfort while saving energy.
Ambi Climate is an unobtrusive IoT (Internet of Things) device that allows you to control your typical remote-controlled aircon unit from anywhere. It successfully gained funding on the Kickstarter platform. Upon completing the delivery of the units to their backers, it has just made retail availability recently.
Ambi Climate ships the device in a neat paper-based packaging. In the package, signatures from the team members were printed below the message “Enjoy your Ambi Climate!”Packed in a box, the Ambi Climate seats snuggly in a foam padding alongside the supplied power adapter, USB wire, an instruction booklet, and interchangeable power heads. Kickstarter backers are an international crowd. The four power heads covers the most widely used sockets worldwide.
Before purchasing, do note that not all remote-controlled aircon units can work with the device. When I was first requested to review this device, I was saddened to find that his aircon unit wasn’t supported. That problem was soon rectified with an update from their technicians one week later.
To check for compatibility, you can search for your brand and remote model on their site. Your remote model number is typically printed at the back of your remote. If all else fails, your aircon model number and a handy Google search is your backup.
Ambi Climate has companion mobile apps that are available on both Android and iOS platforms. Printed instructions directs you to search for the app on the app store and download the app from there.
For a first-time user, you will be directed to Ambi Labs’ website to create an user account. Upon successful creation, you are directed to verify your email address. Hence, there is a need to open your favourite email app to open the email and click on the verify link which takes you back to the browser. You then have to log in manually with your user credentials.
To set up the device:
- Positioning the device two to four metres away from the air-con unit is recommended. Additionally, be sure that the air-con can receive the input from the device. For me, I had it placed next to my room door, on the floor, which is about two metres away. When I was setting up the device, it was at my desk at an impossible angle with no direct line of sight, and just a bit more than four metres away. Amusingly, the air-con unit received the signal.
- Connect your phone to the device’s wi-fi network. You will have to input your wi-fi credentials in order for the device to work. The device communicates with your phone through an intermediary server. Additionally, it receives commands from the intermediary server to adjust the aircon settings through the machine learning algorithm.
- Set up the device location. This process is basically a naming step. The same app allows you to control multiple Ambi Climate devices at one time. Surely, you won’t want to confuse yourself.
- Choose your remote. Scroll through the list of remote and select your remote model.
Displayed on initial load are current information such as current room temperature, humidity, aircon status and whether the air-con is in use or not. Tucked away in the different icons at the corners, there are various settings and information hidden such as air-con-related settings, device settings, and history. These hidden settings and information are grouped and separated. It took me some time to familiarise myself with all the screens presented.
The comfort mode requires a week of usage and at least eight feedback on the level of comfort from you. If either conditions are not fulfilled, the comfort mode will not be activated. The comfort mode uses the feedback gained from the user to adjust the temperature of the aircon to match your level of comfort. Each user has different levels of comfort, and Ambi Labs uses machine learning algorithm to do the adjustments.
One thing that I discovered is that multiple phones can control the same Ambi Climate device. In the situation where this device is used in a shared room, this meant
war that roommates can control the air-con together.
Afterthoughts and Evaluation
Setting up Ambi Climate reminded me of on-boarding experiences of applications a couple of years ago: slow, multiple steps, clunky. It takes some time and effort for a first time user to set up the application and the device. A follow-up with Ambi Climate reveals that they are streamlining and improving the sign-up process.
Efforts to make the app as easy to use as possible can be seen through the use of universal icons, clear text and grouping of relevant information and settings. I am fast in the uptake, however, there is a definitely a learning curve. Do take your time to explore the app and don’t be afraid of breaking it. The app is preloaded with several wallpapers. You can set your own image as wallpaper as well. However, I am stuck with the default cat wallpaper (who could resist a sleeping cat?).
I left the device running for a couple of weeks and am generally pleased with the performance of the device. Ambi Climate adjusts the output from your air-con to ensure that the room temperature stays around your target temperature. After sufficient input from you, Ambi Climate can be left running on autopilot, adjusting the temperature to what you feel comfortable with as well.
However, there was a slight hiccup after a maintenance shutdown of the server that saw me indulging the cool air in his sleep longer than I should on a weekday morning. Relying on rising room temperature to wake me up, I had set a timer to turn off the air-con. However, due to some technical failure, the air-con was left running. It highlighted the need for more alarms. Correspondences with Ambi Labs have however been positive and receptive.
One last thing is that Ambi Climate is a relatively new product and first-of-its-kind on the market. Basic settings like fan speed, adjusting louvres’ directions, temperature and such, are supported. Advanced settings such as eco features are currently not supported. Ambi Labs is looking forward to integrate such features in the near future.
Ambi Climate, costing S$279, is available for pre-order on their web store and selected retail stores in Singapore.