Let’s say you’re sitting down to catch up on The Walking Dead. You use your smartphone to fire up the TV and cable box and settle in. But it’s not all wine and reanimated roses: The lights are still on, the sun is streaming through the windows, and the room’s cold enough to freeze a zombie in its tracks. Pretty soon, your phone will be able to take care of the last three problems, too.
Peel is a smart remote app that uses infrared functionality — built into many Samsung phones, as well as the HTC One — to control TVs, DVRs, and cable boxes. An iPhone user can take advantage of its other features, such as its show and channel trackers, or pair it with a $50 Pronto to take advantage of its remote control capabilities. On Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the company announced its intention to turn its app into a control for smart home devices ranging from thermostats to lights to plugs to air conditioners using IR, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.
“We’re really looking to become a universal home control platform, where we not only just control the living room entertainment devices that we do today but to really open it up and start controlling a whole slew of other devices,” says Peel Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer Bala Krishnan.
“There’s going to be literally hundreds of devices we’ll be able to support,” says James Ryan, Peel’s head of marketing. That support means users will be able to thoroughly customize their Peel experience, based on what devices they have and how creative they want to get with what the company calls “Peel-in.”
The Peel-in experience is similar to If-This-Then-That functionality (from the popular site IFTTT.com), where actions can be grouped together and executed with a single button. The “Leaving the House” Peel-in might turn off the lights, lower the thermostat, and set the alarm, for example.
Because Peel comes preinstalled on many Android phones and tablets, it already has over 130 million users. Krishnan thinks the company has a unique opportunity to help its users embrace the Internet of Things. Once they see their app can support smart light bulbs, it could be a simple step to provide them with a link to buy some. “We can be very instrumental spurring adoption” of the smart home, he says.
Peel is very much a global company, though, and American’s smart homes would look very different than those in India, for example. It was some of those international users that asked for their IR-enabled air conditioners to get hooked up to their Peel remotes.
“We can start to bring those online through our smart remote and we can connect them to the smart grid, long before people in these countries are ready to buy a $50 light bulb or a $300 thermostat,” says Ryan.