When Gimmy Chu was first developing his smart bulb product, he was certain that he wanted it to support HomeKit, Apple’s connected home platform. Finding Apple’s certification process to be Byzantine, Chu did what any hungry entrepreneur would do and went to the source: acquiring Tim Cook’s personal e-mail and asking the CEO himself how he could get approved.
“He connected me with the senior VP, and then the VP, and I eventually got in touch with someone who was a HomeKit evangelist,” said Chu. “It took a while, and we’ve been working with them for several months.”
Chu is the co-founder of Toronto-based Nanoleaf, the startup behind the Smarter Kit, one of the first HomeKit-enabled products, and what the company calls the most energy-efficient LED bulbs in the world. “We use the least amount of energy to create the same amount of brightness,” said Chu. “We measure efficiency in lumens per watt, and while the Smarter Bulb reaches 120, other variants reach only about 80.”
Smarter Kit owners can tell Siri to set their lights to “Netflix and chill.”
In keeping with the company’s vision of a connected home, owners of the kit can use Siri to control their lights, and easily turn on lights in other rooms. At the same time, owners can also create ‘Scenes’ with the light in unique ways—Chu jokingly said that owners can tell Siri to set their lights to “Netflix and chill” for dimmed lights.
Chu said that the decision to use Siri, rather than make a separate app, to control the lights, was a matter of creating the best possible user experience. “Nobody really wants to use an app to control their lights. It doesn’t really make sense since a light switch is much more convenient,” Chu said. “We thought of gesture control, but the reliability of that would have been weak. So we decided on voice control.” Nanoleaf is also working on Android compatibility for the Smarter Kit, and is an early access partner on Google Weave.
While the Smarter Kit is currently in the process of running an Indiegogo campaign, the company isn’t exactly scrambling for public interest. Its other products, including the Nanoleaf Bloom and Nanoleaf One won Red Dot Awards for best product design. The latter also picked up a SEAD Global Efficiency medal.
Best Buy Canada is already on board with the product, and Chu said Best Buy is already planning on having the Smarter Kit available in some stores before Christmas, and nationwide by next year. “They’ve been really supportive of us getting that initial awareness of our product, and they’ll help carry it through,” Chu said. “We’re ready to ship this product as soon as the Indiegogo campaign ends, so we’re actually trying to gain awareness of the product.”