New Smart Home Firm, Leeo Is Filling A Market Gap

Smart home product manufacturer, Leeo, appeals to the more budget conscious.
Published: Fri 24 Oct 2014

While Nest’s products are proving to be popular in the Silicon Valley, many of its designer appliances are still too pricey for some. Thermostat prices start from US$250 thermostats and smoke alarms, US$99. Despite the US$3.2bn acquisition by Google, confirming Nest as a defining company of the smart home, their prices are opening doors for competition in the smart home space. [Engerati – Google’s Nest Acquisition Brings The Smart Grid Closer To Home.]

New smart home company Leeo, has recognised that there is a market for more cost-effective smart-home appliances and has now revealed its latest product: a US$99 night light and smoke alarm detector which alerts homeowners and neighbours if it hears an alarm sound.

Leeo has already caught the attention of some top investors and has put together US$37m.

Investors include physical and digital designer firm Ammunition, European energy group E.ON, Formation 8 and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Max Levchin, and global technology investment firm Visionnaire Ventures.

Smart home connectivity for the larger audience

While the combination of night light and smoke detector recalls Nest’s Protect, Leeo only needs one device to be placed in a hallway to listen out for existing alarms in nearby rooms. In other words, it is not necessary to replace all the individual alarms- a huge cost-saver for the budget conscious smart home owner.

Adam Gettings, Leeo’s chief executive explains his interest in smart home solutions, “Our homes have a lot of technology in them but we use that when we are there. However, when we are not there, we don’t know what’s going on.”

Gettings wants Leeo to bring connectivity to a “larger audience” than today’s smart-home technology, by focusing on the devices’ benefits rather than what he calls “gadgetry or gimmicks”. While Apple readies its HomeKit platform, Nest has its developer programme and Samsung recently acquired SmartThings, Mr Gettings says these solutions are not resonating with ordinary consumers outside Silicon Valley. [Engerati – Is Google and Nest’s Thread A ZigBee Killer?] and [Engerati – Samsung Gets its Piece of the Smart Home]

“I don’t think that market is thinking about platforms and hubs and that kind of thing right now,” he adds.

Leeo does not require a central hub device to connect to local WiFi, like many smart home systems, or any sort of rewiring to install. It plugs into a wall socket and, when set up via a Bluetooth-connected Smartphone, hooks directly into WiFi. There is no ongoing fee, as there often is for traditional alarm monitoring services.

Leeo’s app does away with the data overload found in many “internet of things” devices to just show the “all clear” on alarms, as well as temperature and humidity. The colour and brightness of the nightlight can also be adjusted.

Smart home products’ value must be obvious

“We think one of the problems with IoT products is that their value is far from self-evident to people outside the bubble,” says Matt Rolandson, chief product strategist at Leeo. “We want to create products and services where the value is completely obvious.”

Leeo’s sensor uses machine learning to recognise alarms. “It can learn from its own ears,” Gettings says. “It’s basically listening and observing patterns, and selecting patterns that it needs to throw a trigger for.”

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms make legally standardised noises in the US, which makes detecting them simpler, but Gettings says that the signal processing could eventually be applied to warn people about other noises in their home, such as a window smashing.

The idea of putting an internet-connected microphone in the home may not be appealing to the security-conscious but Leeo says that its nightlight does “most of its processing locally so very little user information is exposed”. It only records after detecting what it thinks is an alarm, so hackers cannot simply listen in.

Mr Gettings says that Leeo has international ambitions for its products and hopes to go both directly to consumers and work with utility companies on distribution.