Automation start-up Oplus is integrating home appliances like air conditioners and lighting from name brands into Oplus’ platform, allowing users to control them via the Home app or Siri from an iPhone.
Oplus can tweak home appliances from every brands, like air conditioners from Hitachi and Daikin, which by nature are not HomeKit compatible, so that users can adjust temperatures with Oplus’ solution, said Oplus founder and Chief Technology Officer Brian Lin.
Oplus’ strength lies in its ability to turn all devices and appliances – including switches, lights, air conditioners and locks – into smart gadgets and integrating them into its own platform, so that they are controllable via voice or mobile app, Lin pointed out. “We are not as big as Samsung, Sony or Xiaomi which make everything, but we can integrate their products into our platform.”
Oplus provides an integrated platform, similar to Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit. According to Lin, the problem with the smart platforms offered by the name brands is that they are not available in Taiwan, where Oplus is based. In Asia, Alexa is only available in Thailand, and Google Home is only available in Japan. “Also, you need to have products that are compatible with these platforms. But they are not always readily available in Taiwan,” Lin said.
Operating from the standpoint of a home builder, Oplus starts the smart system configuration from electric switchboard in homes. The company prefers wired installation. All its lighting installations go wired. Wireless connection, including Wi-Fi, is not always stable, Lin explained.
Also, Oplus’ system is not connected to the Internet, which means users can be less concerned about security and privacy issues.
The concept of smart home is fairly new and its implementation is just starting to take off. While do-it-yourself (DIY) smart products have been pushed by big consumer brands, DIY products’ reliability and performance usually cannot be guaranteed.
Instead of installing DIY devices individually, professional installation should be done from the electric switchboard, when builders construct homes, Lin said. “This is the best way to implement smart homes.”
Besides providing home solutions, Oplus is also cultivating the commercial building market. Meeting room and air conditioner control are the main office applications, Lin said. Because air conditioner tends to be the biggest source of energy consumption, it may be linked with sensors and curtains as part of a system to conserve energy.
In the meeting room, equipment that need to be controlled include projector, video conference equipment, lights, air conditioner and curtains. Ideally they can all be adjusted with the push of a button, one single voice command or a switch.
Starting a meeting may involve moving the curtains, turning on lights and air conditioning, while the presentation mode involves turning on the projector, dimming the light, and the discussion mode will simply turn off all equipment.
“For business clients, it’s not easy, because so many things need to be connected and controlled. For Oplus it’s easy because we have worked on many similar cases and the requirement is mostly ‘fixed,’ for example, we know which devices in a meeting room need to be connected,” Lin noted.