Intellithings’ RoomMe Hands-On DemoBy - 01/23/2019
At CES 2019, I trekked my way up to the suites of the Venetian to meet with the team behind RoomMe and to get a firsthand look at their Innovation Award-winning sensor.
RoomMe is an indoor positioning system that customizes your smart home by user. It’s a mountable, battery-powered device (uses 2 Alkaline D batteries) with an estimated battery life of three years. It will sell for $69.99 once launched. There is no monthly fee, and RoomMe is a cloud-less device. It doesn’t listen, learn, or send information about you to a remote server. Instead, it waits for you to enter a room and responds to your presence.
I think most smart home enthusiasts would agree that the smart home isn’t very smart. We can set up rules, even adding conditions depending on the platform. We can also use our voices. We can even create scenes. And of course, we can use apps to control ‘smart’ devices. But what we’re all waiting for is a system that’s truly responsive, one that can adjust on its own without input from us. Intellithings’ RoomMe is taking us one step closer to that reality.
What is RoomMe and how does it work?
RoomMe is a sensor. There is no hub, there is no base controller, there is only the sensor itself. Each sensor is programmed individually using the mobile app. You can add as many sensors as you want to one account.
The sensor is a Bluetooth Low Energy device which recognizes smartphone presence. To be clear, the device does not recognize people or movement; it only recognizes smartphones. This, of course, requires that users not only have a smartphone but that they carry it around, have Bluetooth turned on, and have downloaded the Intellithings’ mobile app.
When a user enters a room, RoomMe will recognize the user based on their phone and set the room to the correct pre-set preference. For example, you might place one RoomMe in your bedroom, one in your kitchen, and one in your child’s bedroom. Each sensor will respond differently depending on the room it’s in and the user who is in the room. When you enter the bedroom, RoomMe might respond by swapping Philips Hue to a relaxation setting, turning down your Nest Thermostat, and playing your favorite song. On the other hand, when your spouse enters the same bedroom, the lights might swap to blue, Nest might raise the temperature, and a different playlist will play.
If you’re anything like me, you now have more questions than answers, like what happens when you and your spouse are in the bedroom at the same time? The answer is user management (my term not Intellithings’). User management and access is a large part of what makes RoomMe tick.
Within the app, you will set up your RoomMe device per room and add users. You can add up to sixteen users in total. You will then assign users “prioritization” per sensor. Intellithings offers three levels of priority including Parent, Child, and Room Master. A Parent rules over a Child and a Room Master rules over everyone.
As an example, a child can be the Room Master of his room. If a Parent enters the child’s room while he’s playing, nothing will happen because he is in control of the room’s settings. If two people are Room Masters in a particular room, she who arrives first wins. If she leaves, RoomMe will note this and adjust to please whoever is left in the room.
In Vegas, the demo of the device involved two users: Pink and Blue. Blue liked blue lights and cooler temperatures, while Pink liked pink lights and a warmer temperature. They also had different musical preferences. As we walked through the suite, the different sensors commanded different devices to respond depending on which smartphone we were carrying. For example, in the bedroom, both Pink and Blue shared the same prioritization. When we entered the bedroom with Pink’s phone, nothing happened as Blue was already in the room, hence holding his preferences as the priority.
Beyond user access levels, you can also define how a device behaves depending on the time (at all times, during the day, only at night, specific times, etc.) and date (special occasions, seasons, birthdays, etc.). For example, you might want your bedroom lights to be warm and dimmed at night while turning to a brighter and cooler setting during the day.
We’ve already established that RoomMe works without a hub or central controller. In a way, this limits which devices can work with the sensor. Currently, it works with LIFX, Philips Hue, Nest Thermostats, ecobee, Sonos, and the Bose SoundTouch with more integrations coming soon. Intellithings has plans to also work with ecosystems including SmartThings, HomeKit, Wink, and more.
According to the Intellithings team, how RoomMe communicates with a device will depend on the device. It might connect via WiFi, Bluetooth, or a cloud connection. As much as possible, they try to connect to devices locally, which is something that sets RoomMe apart from other devices. It can communicate with both LIFX and Philips Hue locally (LAN), but if you connect to the Hue Bridge, you will need WiFi.
Bose Smart Speakers can also communicate with RoomMe locally, but WiFi might be required depending on what type of music or programming you are trying to access. For example, during the demo, the team used TuneIn which required a cloud connection. Connecting to Nest and ecobee both require cloud communication.
What I like about RoomMe is that all rules are saved on your smartphone and it works without the cloud. There are no monthly fees and conceptually it seems like a useful device.
What I don’t like is that RoomMe is a large sensor (6.1″ diameter). It’s about the size of a smoke detector. It’s also expensive if you plan to add one per room. For example, if you added one to three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room, you’re looking at around $350.00. Finally, it’s not yet shipping. Intellithings started their RoomMe journey on Indiegogo, and the device is in the prototype phase. They expect to ship a completed product this March. My suggestion is that you wait until this happens before ordering.
Until then, you can learn more at intellithings.net.