Atmos Smart Home Control System: An Automation Platform Two Years In The MakingBy - 06/17/2018
Home automation isn’t just about being able to control your appliances using your smartphone. It’s about putting together a bunch of devices that work in harmony with each other to create a smarter living space. When I started writing about home automation three years ago, the industry was seriously disunited. Devices were divided by brand and standards and options for real home automation were limited.
Today, the industry has become less disjointed thanks to automation platforms. There are platforms that offer voice control like Alexa and Google Assistant, platforms that interconnect and automate devices like Works with Nest and HomeKit, and platforms that create rule-based automation like IFTTT and Stringify. Then there’s Atmos, a platform that combines all three features.
What Is Atmos?
Atmos is a startup that creates smart home controllers. They currently have a smart speaker and touchscreen light switch in the works, but their flagship product, also in production, is the Atmos Smart Home Control System. The Atmos Smart Home Control System (or simply Atmos) is a touchscreen tablet roughly 7″ wide, enclosed in a slim aluminum body and powered by a 1GB RAM quad-core processor. It’s equipped with a front-facing camera, far-field microphones, and multiple speaker modules.
Atmos is designed to be placed around the house where you might need a smart home controller. For example, you can have one in your living room, bedroom, and kitchen. You can either plug it into a power outlet using the included adapter or use the included tools to run a wire through the wall connecting it to your home’s AC power line.
What makes Atmos special isn’t what it is, but what it does. Atmos aims to provide an easy and convenient way to manage your smart home devices so you won’t need to use your smartphone every time you want to, let’s say, turn on your lights. They understand that launching an app on your smartphone and waiting for it to load usually takes more time and effort than physically flipping a switch.
But to be a useful smart home controller, Atmos must first become compatible with as many smart home devices as possible. Equipped to support multiple smart home standards, Atmos can connect with Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and even some devices with proprietary standards like Nest. And Atmos isn’t only for managing smart home devices. It supports several smart TVs like Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV and even non-smart TVs and entertainment systems, thanks to the built-in IR blaster.
Below is a table that compares the standards and brands that work with Atmos, Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit.
|Infrared||(Controls TVs, Air Conditioners, and Other Devices w/ IR Remote)|
|Z-Wave||Only If The Device Is HomeKit-Enabled|
|Zigbee||Echo Plus Only||Only If The Device Is HomeKit-Enabled|
|D-Link Connected Home||(D-Link Omna 180)|
*Atmos hasn’t released an official compatibility list yet. I based this table on the information available on their website and official comments from their team.
**Look for HomeKit versions.
As you might have noticed, Atmos doesn’t have as many integrations as Alexa or Google Assistant, or at least not yet. But that doesn’t mean Atmos isn’t good enough. The compatibility list will eventually expand, and perhaps that will happen sooner rather than later. Unlike Amazon and Google, team Atmos doesn’t wait around for third-party developers to integrate their devices with Atmos. Instead, they actively seek permission to access the APIs of multiple smart home brands so that they can make the integration possible themselves. If there’s a device you want to see Atmos work with in the future, simply reach out to them and if they can make the integration happen, they most likely will.
More Than Just “Compatible”
The number of compatible devices isn’t the only standard with which we measure smart home platforms. It’s also nice to take a look at how deep the integrations are. For instance, if a device is compatible with Alexa, that means you can control it with your voice. But can you create schedules or automate the device using Alexa? Probably not. Can you voice-control all features? Also no. You will still need to use your smartphone to access some of your devices’ features even if you’re within Alexa’s earshot.
How about Atmos? First, Atmos’ developers create the integrations, and they use that process to integrate as many features as each device allows via their API. More integrated features means fewer instances that require a smartphone.
Second, Atmos offers multiple control options. You can use your voice just like with an Amazon Echo. You can also use Atmos’ touchscreen interface if you want a more hands-on (pun intended) approach. Or if you want things simpler, you can create scenes and control a string of smart home devices altogether. Of course, Atmos also offers a smartphone app so you can manage your smart home on-the-go. We’ll discuss these control options in greater detail later.
Another thing that sets Atmos apart is the way it sorts connected devices. Most platforms sort devices by brand. With Atmos, devices are sorted by type. If you ask Atmos to turn off all your lights, it can turn off ALL your lights regardless of their brand.
Managing Your Devices With Atmos
The first control option Atmos offers is voice control. Like with Echo and Google Home, you can ask Atmos to turn off your lights, lock your doors, adjust your thermostat, and so on. It uses its built-in far-field microphones to listen and its proprietary cloud-connected voice assistant to process your commands.
Aside from controlling your smart devices, you can also ask Atmos to answer questions, read out recipes, stream music from Spotify, and even call an Uber.
If you’re worried about the privacy risks associated with putting an always-on listening device in your home, know that Atmos only records your voice after you say the trigger word. Also, information on Atmos’ website shows that you can activate the AI assistant using the touch interface. Perhaps there’ll be an option to turn off the always-on feature and have the AI listen to you only when you activate it manually. We’ll see once it launches.
The second control option is using the touchscreen. Atmos uses what they call a “dedicated smart home interface” designed so you can easily manage the features common in smart home devices. For example, in the smart lights section, you’ll be able to turn lights on or off, change the color, or adjust the brightness. In the thermostat section, you’ll be able to adjust the temperature and create schedules. And in the camera section, you have the option to stream live videos from your cameras, just like with an Echo Show or Echo Spot. The touchscreen interface also offers on-screen notifications. For example, if someone rings your video doorbell, Atmos will flash a notification. From there, you can choose to view the live footage or unlock the door if you have a connected smart lock.
As using the touchscreen to manage your smart home requires that you physically interact with the controller, Atmos recommends placing multiple Atmos Smart Home Controllers around your home. They recommend placing one in your living room, one in the kitchen, and one in the bedroom. The more Atmos controllers you have, the more convenient it is to manage your smart home.
The third control option offered by Atmos is scenes. Scenes are customizable settings that control multiple devices at once. For example, you can set a Breakfast scene to adjust your thermostat, turn on the TV, and start the coffee maker. You can trigger your customized scenes using the touch interface or with voice commands. What makes scenes useful is that it allows you to manage multiple devices with one touch or one short voice command (e.g. “Atmos, activate Breakfast scene).
All three control options we’ve discussed are only for when you’re home, but even when you’re on-the-go, you can still manage your smart home thanks to the Atmos companion app. The app packs most of Atmos’ features into an intuitive graphical user interface that you can access with your smartphone. But of course, controlling your devices remotely requires that your phone is connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G/LTE.
Finally, Atmos offers other features that go beyond managing your smart home. For one, it lets you stream music from Spotify to your Sonos speaker. Also, if you have multiple Atmos controllers at home, you can use them as an intercom system. Using the built-in microphones, speakers, and front-facing camera, you can see and speak with your family members without leaving your room. And lastly, you can use Atmos to video call with friends and family who have the Atmos app on their phones.
The Atmos Smart Home Controller was initially introduced in 2016, and since then, the Atmos team has been working to make it a reality. They’re now closer to making that happen, but they still have a ways to go. They will soon start pre-selling Atmos with a retail price of $249. They are also currently looking for investors who are willing to buy company shares. Buying shares opens up perks, from discounts to free devices once the Smart Home Controller launches. If you’re interested, you can check out their campaign on StartEngine.com.