Klug smart home device
The Klug smart home device (above) is a USB stick you can plug into any router to turn it into a smart home hub. Photo: The Straits Times

Our homes are increasingly cluttered with a variety of devices that provide modern living comforts, from routers and modems to set-top boxes and gaming consoles.

So when local start-up Intraix began designing a smart home hub a year ago, it shunned adding another one to the mix.

"Why would I want another box in the house?" said Mr Darrell Zhang, 32, co-founder of the four-year-old company which is based in Ayer Rajah Crescent.

"We can shrink this to the size of a thumbdrive. This makes it easily deployable, it has a smaller footprint and a lower cost."

Intraix's solution, Klug Home, is a sleek black USB stick that can be plugged into any Wi-Fi router. It can communicate with at least 20 smart devices, including Philips Hue lights, Fitbit fitness trackers and Belkin WeMo Insight switches.

Klug Home is now part of a crowdfunding campaign, which concludes next week. Its regular retail price is US$109 (S$149), but it is available through the campaign at US$79. The company plans to begin shipping the device in October.

This is the company's first foray into smart home devices. Before this, it concentrated on developing energy monitoring systems and collecting energy usage data.

Klug team
Mr Zhang (seated) with his Intraix team who developed the Klug smart home device.

Intraix moved into this technology alongside Singapore's push to be a Smart Nation, and a growing smart home market, said Mr Zhang.

While smart home adoption here is still low – Mr Zhang estimates that less than 5 per cent of households have at least one smart device – it is on the upswing globally.

IDC, a marketing intelligence firm, estimated that the worldwide market for smart device solutions will grow from US$1.9 trillion in 2013 to US$7.1 trillion in 2020.

With Klug Home, Intraix wants to create an intelligent, integrated network of smart devices. For example, if Fitbit detects you are awake, the system can turn on the Philips Hue lights and send a message to a coffeemaker using the WeMo Insight switch to start brewing.

"One thing that we emphasise with Klug Home is the ease of connectivity, that you have everything in one single app," said Mr Zhang.

Many smart devices come with their own apps, but they work in isolation and cannot communicate with each other.

While there are other integrated options on the market, such as Samsung SmartThings and Staples Connect, Mr Zhang said that most of them require a lot of configuration in order to work.

"You buy a starter kit, sensors, you have to go online and register, set rules. But with the Klug Home, you just plug it in and within three minutes you're good to go."

Intraix has also developed its own smart air-conditioner controller, called the Klug Air.

It is also available through the crowdfunding campaign for US$100, or US$179 for both Klug Air and Klug Home.

Klug Air is a hexagonal, palm- sized device that is meant to be mounted directly onto any air-con unit. It can adjust the temperature, and also has sensors to measure parameters such as humidity and movement.

Mr Zhang said that Intraix chose to focus on air-con because it is "one of the largest loads in the household", and can account for up to 40 per cent of energy consumption. At the same time, there is a lot of room for optimisation."

After talking to potential customers, Mr Zhang and his team discovered a common bugbear – that the temperature is too cold in the middle of the night, or when waking up in the morning.

While there are other smart air-con remote controllers on the market, Klug Air distinguishes itself by its lower price (other controllers average around US$200 for a setup) and an array of motion and humidity sensors that not all other smart controllers have.

Klug Air can use these movement sensors to determine if a person is sleeping, and then to regulate the temperature upwards automatically, which also reduces energy consumption.

There is even a calibration period of one to two weeks, when the app will ask the user whether the temperature the night before was too hot or too cold, and it will adjust accordingly.

Mr Zhang said: "A smart home isn't just about energy savings, it also brings about a convenience, which you cannot put a value on."

Written by Lisabel TIng for The Straits Times