Got My Sensibo Kit!

If you follow my blog for a while, you know I’m a big fan of home automation. Especially controlling the A/C from anywhere.

I was excited to learn about the Sensibo Indiegogo campaign last year, and thrilled to receive my Sensibo Kit last week!

The Sensibo kit let’s you control your A/C from anywhere. This is similar the my A/C control project, only done professionally 🙂 .

The kit includes a small hub that connects to the home router, a tiny pod, and free Android & iOS apps. After setting it up, I can easily control my A/C from the phone app from anywhere, which is so great! Nothing like coming back to a pre-cooled house from the blazing Israeli summer 🙂 . There’s even IFTTT support, enabling automatic house-pre-cooling whenever I approach home!

Sensibo let’s you control your A/C from anywhere. It even has IFTTT integration!

Initial experience and thoughts

Initial configuration was a no-brainer. I installed the app on my Android phone, and got a step-by-step guide.

  1. Plug in the hub, that came ready with a power supply and an Ethernet cable.
  2. Turn on the pod, that came with batteries that should power it for some time.
  3. Pair the pod with the app, by scanning a QR code inside the pod.
  4. Point the A/C remote to the pod and press the power button, to automatically configure the pod for my specific A/C.

Boom. Done.

At this point, the instructions were not quite specific about how and where I should attach the pod. I have no idea from where it emits IR signals, so it was hard to guess how to position it relative the the A/C control unit. Luckily, the kit included several sets of adhesives, so I could afford mistakes.

I missed a heartbeat when trying to attach it, just to watch it fall 2.5 meters to the floor! I guess the Sensibo team predicted this would happen, and designed a robust-enough product that sustained the fall like nothing 🙂 .

At this point I tried to use the app the actually, you know, control the A/C. Nothing happens… Trying to reconfigure – still nothing. A short email to the Sensibo support team, and Omer Enbar himself (founder, CEO) answers, after tweaking the specific model of my detected A/C. Working. Hurray!

After getting it to work on my phone, it’s time to add Oogi to the party. Installing the iOS app on her iPhone was as easy, of course. Configuring it was somewhat confusing. Should I login from her phone to the account I created? Or maybe create a new account and somehow share the pod with her?

I thought the easy way would be reusing my account. That proved miserable in a weird way. The app just stopped responding. Hmm…

With no other obvious alternative, we tried creating a new account for her. Looks better. Now the app wants to pair with a pod. Errr, now I’m afraid that pairing her phone will “kick out” my phone, but I see no other way. Oy, pairing requires access to the QR code within the pod, which is already attached to the ceiling. Annoying, but surmountable. Done, and working, without kicking me out – yay!

A short feedback email about this wins another quick answer from Omer Enbar, promising easier sharing down the road. I guess that’s reasonable with early adoption of new products 🙂 .

After that, things work smooth. Both of us can control the A/C from our phones, and the state sync’s across both phones, which is quite important (and not trivial!). Success!

More feedback points

Detecting A/C state changes

One significant detail that seems missing is considering that we still have the regular A/C remote. When using the low-tech remote, Sensibo doesn’t “pick it up”, so the state shown in the app becomes out of sync with the actual state (e.g., A/C is on, but app shows as off). When we’re home, more often than not, using the remote is faster than unlocking the phone and opening the app. It’s important that the system reacts to that.

I understand this is not easy to accomplish. I doubt that most other users understand it too, though. This is one of the things I expect from such a product, compared to a hacked-together DIY solution. I hope this is coming soon.

Offline operation

When I’m at home, I expect the Sensibo app to “just work”, like I expect the A/C remote to “just work”.

Unfortunately, as mentioned in the Sensibo FAQ, Sensibo requires an Internet connection to operate. This is reasonable when trying to control the A/C from afar, but unacceptable for in-house use!

Even when my home Internet is down, if I still have the WiFi up, I expect it to work. Maybe without WiFi, I’d expect it to work using bluetooth. But it doesn’t. I tried.

Sensibo requires Internet connection to operate. Always.

Smart adaptive A/C (AKA green agenda)

From the campaign, I expected Sensibo to adapt the A/C temperature and fan speed to save energy while keeping me comfortable. I expected the interface to have two buttons – “It’s hot”, “It’s cold”. Maybe this is also coming further down the road, but for now it’s not there. The app recreates the remote interface, letting me control the temperature and fan speed directly.

The Indiegogo campaign

In case you haven’t seen it before, they produced one of the best crowd funding videos ever!

  • Omer
    June 19, 2015

    Hi Itamar,

    Thank you for your post. Your feedback is very welcome.
    Sensibo was founded on the idea of making the air conditioning experience awesome and to save a lot of energy. In the last 2 years while working on Sensibo we had to devote most of our resources to the hardware design, the industrial engineering and the power consumption. There was little use for the app and the features if we couldn’t deliver the product itself.
    We had pushed very hard in order to get the product ready for this summer in expense for the more advanced features. We wanted everyone to be able to enjoy Sensibo as soon as possible. Now that the design is finalized and the manufacturing is working we shifted to add more and more features as we progress.
    Every new feature or update will be pushed to you as it is released.

    Easy sharing is coming very soon and also better sync with the remote control.
    Today we believe that mostly everyone has an internet connection, and when it’s out it’s like having your electricity cut off. To make the product as seamless as possible and to make it just work we chose to enable working through the internet without complex configurations.
    Our servers are already running some of our experimental energy saving algorithms that will be pushed to you as they mature. It’s impossible to make that work locally.

    We’re always open to ideas and feedback, and I’d be very happy to hear any feedback you’d have.

    Have a good weekend,

    • Itamar Ostricher
      July 4, 2015

      Thanks for taking the time to answer, Omer!

      Indeed, I understand the challenges in shipping a new product, and the need to make tradeoffs along the way. I think the choices you’ve made so far were all perfectly fine and reasonable, and if I have any criticism whatsoever, is about communicating updated expectations to your early users.

      In case it wasn’t clear from my post, I’m very happy I backed up your project, and I trust that you will keep the good stuff coming 🙂

      Keep in mind that I’m happy to beta-test stuff for you 😉

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