What the Puck: Flair Smart Vents, Wireless Thermostats Available for Preorders

honeywell
thermostat
temperature
humidity

(Daniel Myers) #1

Flair is excited to announce that it is launching its Smart Vent and Wireless Thermostat (Puck) for Preorder.

Get better sleep, stay cozy or just geek out on your quantified home starting at** just $60 **if you preorder now.

A single Puck can be used with a smart thermostat to make a nursery or bedroom more comfortable so that your baby has the perfect sleeping environment. With Puck(s) and a Vent(s) you can prevent over heating or cooling in the home. With a more fullblown install, Flair lets you set the temperature on each room individually and control them with your mere presence.

Flair’s Puck is a wireless thermostat featuring wifi, bluetooth, a 915Mhz radio and an IR blaster. It also has ambient light, temperature, humidity, pressure, an expansion port and can run for years off of two AAAs or plugged in via micro USB. It can be wall mounted, stood up on its trickstand (great for night stands) and features an E-Ink Display as well as the ability to adjust the room temperature right from the unit. Puck also supports microapps that can be configured for scene selection or control of other devices in the home as well as firmware over the air upgrades.

For Central heating and cooling, it works with Flair’s Smart Vent to better balance airflow in the home.

For Minisplits, Window ACs, Portable ACs and Heaters with handheld IR remotes, Puck can bridge the devices to the internet ensuring you never come home to an uncomfortable apartment.

We are integrated or integrating with most major home automation platforms at the moment including SmartThings!

Flair is backed by a number of large funds and has been in the works for nearly a year and a half. It is more cost effective and flexible than other solutions on the market and will ship this May/June. We have partnered with a world leading manufacturer and are already at the certification stage as of writing this (January 22).

For more information or two preorder a few units, check out our site at https://flair.co.

If you have any questions about how it works or why we decided to build what we did, I am happy to answer anything :smile:

Also feel free to email me: dan at flair dot co


Ecobee and Flair
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(Brian Diehl) #2

This looks like a great integration that will compete well with the existing vents as it combines the Ecobee remote sensors with the Keen vent capability.


(Daniel Myers) #3

Exactly, we are working to leverage existing data sources as well so that if you already have sensors you can leverage them.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask here or on our forum forum.flair.co!

Cheers,
Dan


#4

The link to “Tech Specs” takes you to…a picture of the product.

Not the kind of company I give my money to.

Once it shows up on Amazon and has some actual technical certifications, I’ll take a look. For now it’s all just marketing.


(Brian Diehl) #5

There were some details below the pictures. Did they not show up for you?
Both the vent and puck pages have the details for me.

Here’s the Puck’s tech specs page, separate sections bolded:

Puck Specifications

Communication

Bluetooth Beacon for occupant awareness

Wifi (Puck can act as its own gateway, no hub needed)

915MHz Radio for device to device communication

Infrared (IR) record/playback

Sensors

Temperature

Humidity

Pressure

Ambient Light

Interaction

Rotation and Click

E-ink Display

Power

Will run for years on two AAAs

MicroUSB

Mounting/Positioning Options

Adhesives (command strip) to wall

Screws on to wall

Built in Trickstand™

Software

Software updates over the air (SPOTA)

Microapps - small apps that you can download to control additional systems and devices

EDIT: I see what happened. If you click on the Tech Specs link itself, it takes you to the pictures… It is actually a drop-down menu with the Puck and Vent having separate pages in that menu.


#6

Thanks. I saw some details on the preorder page, not Tech Specs. But in any case…

I still don’t see certifications. (FCC, to begin with.)

“Bluetooth beacon” doesn’t work for this use case because Bluetooth goes through the walls. It can’t tell the difference between n the livingroom and in the workout room next door. And it would only work if the person was carrying their cell phone with them all the time. This is precisely why nest and ecobee use motion detection instead. That one is stopped by walls, and therefore does tell you where the person is. And it doesn’t matter whether you have your cell phone with you or not.

Anybody who says their batteries last twice as long as the competition needs to provide some engineering to explain why. Battery life management is one of the biggest issues in home automation. If you’ve solved something in that regard, you should have a patent pending and you should be talking about it.

Again, for now, it’s all just marketing. I’ll take a look once the device is actually in the field and there are real specs to look at.


(Daniel Myers) #7

Thanks @diehllane for pointing out how the tech specs experience might be confusing. I will go in and rework that to make it a bit clearer.


(Daniel Myers) #8

@JDRoberts

We have been working on the product for a year and a half and all three team members are hardcore engineers. I have spent 6 months in the last year in China and my cofounder has been living there for the last year. I personally did the industrial design and the first iteration of the mechanical design as well as worked with my cofounder around feature specification, chipset selection and algorithm development, electrical design, firmware development etc. We built an entire set of alpha units over a year ago to test a number of assumptions including whether the vent can be used to gauge room air temp or whether we needed a separate sensor (hence the Puck) which some of our competition has failed to admit.

We are currently undergoing FCC certification amongst others.

Bluetooth beacons work great - we have tested them. Also note that Ecobee now ships sensors with beacons. They don’t work simply by seeing a beacon or not (that would be a very naive implementation) - they have the broadcast ‘loudness’ value embedded in the packet and then the difference between that and the rssi on the phone is used to calculate a distance. Sure, its possible to put a beacon on the far side of the room and another beacon just behind you in another room which can confuse things, but generally this is pretty avoidable given we also leverage ambient light sensors, and other contextual clues. Motion was a heavily debated decision within the team and we ultimately declined as we felt that for a device that could mounted/placed in many different ways, reliable motion detection was going to be sub par. That and third party motion sensors could be used if that actually becomes problematic which are already very much commodities. We have an expansion port on the back which we will use to add optional sensors but we were also trying to keep things affordable and liked beacons for their ability to identify specific people rather than being tricked by dogs.

Our vents operate on 2 C cells ( 9.56 Wh x 2 = 19.12 Wh) and our competition uses 4 AAs (2.60 Wh x 4 = 10.4 Wh) and all of these details are available on both our and our competitors site. Not sure where the ‘four times’ number came from but it should be two times so that is a mistake - could you point out where that is and I will fix it (assuming it actually is a mistake). This was a design choice, not a scientific breakthrough.

The irony, is that the marketing has been my task for the last month while the rest of the team kept hacking so I am flattered that it appears we are just marketing given we are actually all engineers with little marketing experience :smile:

Have a great weekend!

Dan


#9

Thank you for the response.

We do use Ibeacons at our house in conjunction with our home automation system, so I’ve had about a year of living with them. I notice you didn’t mention the need to always carry the mobile phone with you. That ultimately changed how we used them.

The use of constant beacon monitoring can also drain the phone battery very fast, depending on the model. And then there’s the android issue.

We ended up reversing the set up. We put the beacon app on an always plugged in tablet that we use as a home automation control station. I have one beacon on my wheelchair. My housemates have ones that they can carry if they choose. One does keep it in his backpack, and it does very well tracking him away and home.

Mine can track me in zones in the house, but we have run into the practical “through the wall” issue even at “immediate” distance. But it is very effective for catching me just at the bottom of the wheelchair ramp into the house, which is what I wanted.


(David Tucker) #10

What is the IR record/playback capability - does this mean the Puck could be used to control IR devices such as switching on/off a TV?


#11

On the battery life, my bad–it says four years and two times. Not four times. But it’s still an apples to oranges comparison if you’re getting there just by using larger batteries, since the energy cost of your device is therefore the same. (C’s typically cost more than AA’s.) There’s a convenience factor in not having to change batteries as often, so just say that.

As to why the site reads like marketing, not engineering specs, consider this statement in the FAQ:

Will Flair work for my nursery even though my baby doesn’t have a phone?

Yes.

I’ll admit I don’t see how

Bluetooth beacon for occupant awareness

A feature listed on the Puck preorder page

Is going to work in the baby’s room then.

An engineering-based answer would say “primary features like vent open/close do not require a cellphone in baby’s room. However, occupant awareness does require each person to have a Bluetooth-capable device with them.” Of course marketing people typically hate answers like that. :wink:

Also, I’ll admit I’ll be astonished if you can get the battery life you suggest for the Puck since it’s operating as a WiFi gateway as well, but we’ll see.


(Daniel Myers) #12

Hi @djtucker,

It is able to control IR devices and will be able to switch on/off TVs, AV recievers and of course air conditions and heaters with remotes.

I built a project a few years ago (https://github.com/dandroid88/webmote) that even searched LIRC with the recorded commands to help determine the specific remote controller you were replacing and some of those ideas helped inspire how a number of features will work with the Puck.

I am personally very excited by IR control as I always hate dealing with my remotes for switching inputs on my reciever, and tv when really all I want to say is ESPN/Netflix/etc. and just make everything happen. We haven’t pushed hard on marketing this though as we felt the temperature control for many was the clearest messaging.

Cheers,
Dan


(Daniel Myers) #13

Regarding the battery life of the Puck, the way it works is one Puck is plugged in and acts as the gateway and then every additional Puck operates wired or wireless with the WiFi chip largely dormant. We should be more upfront about that in the documentation as its not clear.

In our app you can set rooms to be triggered via a heuristic that combines a number of things (light/beacon/some values from the phone, time of day, third party context/sensor data), just beacon proximity, schedules or to just stay the temperature you set it at.

On the FAQ we have:

Will Flair work for my nursery even though my baby doesn’t have a phone?

Yes.


(Daniel Myers) #14

Our concern with phones as beacons is security. With the phone listening and the Pucks beaconing, no information about you and your location is broadcast. If you invert that, everyone within bluetooth range can see that you are home/away however if are you aren’t concerned with that I can see where it has some advantages. We can do software updates on every Puck over the air so I could certainly see a use case where we enable the puck’s ble chipset to listen rather than beacon if the user doesn’t mind the security implications and is given a clear explanation of the potential risk.

I have been running our App on my phone, my wife’s phone and the rest of the teams phone and the batteries have been fine but its also an implementation detail. If you increase the background/foreground scan intervals and scan times dynamically (based on simple things like time of day, location of the phone, and a few other things) you can greatly improve the latency and battery trade off.

What is the android problem you mentioned - we have been using beacons with both iOS and Android without a problem (must admit I have not tried Windows phone).

Dan


(David Tucker) #15

Sounds interesting. Is there anything stopping the Pucks from being despatched to UK ?


(Daniel Myers) #16

@djtucker - I would love to take preorders from the UK however I think the 915Mhz radio will need to be switched to a 433Mhz radio (just an antenna change and some tuning) which is on our roadmap since 433Mhz is pretty universal everywhere outside North America.

We also need to get additional certifications and set up the logistics among other things. Because of that, we felt at first it was simpler to take preorders for North America and then later in the year offer it in Europe, Asia, India and Australia among others. Sorry to make you wait!

Cheers,
Dan


#17

Thank you for the responses. Having the primary puck connected to mains power makes perfect sense, I just didn’t see that called out on the website, and it will affect device placement.

As for IBeacon security, these are short range devices. In my case, it’s set for about 4 feet. So anyone who is close enough to detect the Beacon signal from the one on my wheelchair is going to be able to see me anyway. They don’t need beacon detection to determine whether or not I’m home.

Also, the only information that the Beacon transmits is its ID. So if I’m in line at the grocery store and the person in front of me happens to have a beacon detection app open and does detect my Beacon, it doesn’t tell them anything. Just that there’s a beacon nearby.

And if for some reason someone was uncomfortable with even that level of interaction, they can always use a farraday pouch.

But mostly it’s the short range that’s the key factor. Since you have to be 4 feet away from me to detect the Beacon, you don’t need to detect the Beacon to know where I am.

As for your company’s FAQ response about the baby’s room, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I don’t believe most engineering responses would stop with “yes.” There are some features of your system which do require a phone. Baby not having a phone means those features will not be available for that use case. You may have other features which can be used instead, which is good, but it doesn’t change the fact that at least one of the advertised features is a “no” with regard to that FAQ.

Obviously, your company is not the only one which feels that the fact that a particular feature is not available for a particular use case doesn’t mean you can’t say it “works” for that use case. Operational engineers point out the limitations, sales engineers point out the possibilities. So it goes. :sunglasses:


(David Tucker) #18

Thanks. Would you expect the 433 MHz to be able to issue commands for switches such as the Chacon/Home Easy range? This would be awesome if it could … and even better if it could issue commands (or receive commands from a 433 remote) on several different 433MHz protocols. Not sure if this would be a software or hardware limitation.


(Daniel Myers) #19

I think this will be doable but we I am hesitant to promise too much right now since we need to stay focused on delivering the things we have already promised. With that said, the subgigahertz radio is progamable over the air so we can push out an update or even load a couple of different stacks on to it (we have the memory to hold a multiple binaries on board) so its technically possible. We are also wanting to provide an SDK in addition to our cloud API to both develop microapps and allow for loading different binaries onto the different radios/mcus. So its possible but it will take a little bit of time.


(Daniel Myers) #20

Makes sense. It sounds like we should definitely consider adding an option to make the BLE chipset listen vs chirp, especially if you have the Puck plugged in.