With its stainless-steel appliances, open-plan style, and large windows, you could easily mistake the tri-level home currently for sale at 2621 Franklin Ave East for any other pricey Seattle property. Though you might walk into a dining room with gentle yellow lighting and soft music playing, you might not automatically peg it for a smart home. The only thing that might give you a clue is the white, rounded hexagon placed on the wall next to a Nest thermostat. The Kirio runs the home, though, and will soon do so for about 300 more houses in the Seattle area.
We first saw a demo of the integrated smart home system this summer. Back then it took place in Kirio’s office. It was a little different to see it all come together inside a three-story condo that costs nearly $1.2 million. Seattle is one of the country’s hottest housing markets, but Kirio thinks its little white hub (though the team doesn’t like it to call it that) can still make properties stand out. Instead of a DIY system homeowners buy after moving into a place, builders install Kirio along with a bunch of sensors and other devices during construction. It controls everything in the home — “wired and wireless,” CEO Rob Green told Digital Trends during a tour of the home. “It’s a real, live smart house.”
The Nest on the wall is a bit superfluous, said Dave Fester, who does marketing for the company. The Kirio controls the HVAC system itself, but the familiar smart thermostat is nice for demo purposes. In addition, the automated system can control the water — turning it off if a sensor detects a leak or if a toilet is constantly running — gas, lights, fireplaces, locks, blinds, ovens, and basically anything you can make smart.
When you open the app, it looks similar to any other hub’s app. You can control devices individually in groups, or with “scenarios.” Your night-time scenario might shut off all the lights, turn off the fireplace, lower the heat, lock the door, lower the blinds, and power off the TV. Where the Kirio differs, said Green, is its ability to learn. Maybe you hit the “good night” button at 10 p.m. every day — or ask Alexa, Siri, Google Home, or Cortana to do it — but your teenager automatically cries, “Hey!” and turns her TV back on. Kirio could learn to turn off every TV but hers from then on. Kirio will come loaded with a “baseline” of about three months’ worth of data, taken from the beta testers who have been living with the system.
“Most people have pretty similar habits,” Green said.
Over time, Kirio will adjust to your routines and offer recommendations. You can take the suggestion or not.
“The homeowner’s always in control,” Fester said.
Right now, Kirio is compatible with about 8,000 devices from a variety of brands. It’s an agnostic system that will act as the conductor for a variety of devices speaking different languages, getting them to coordinate. Seattle is essentially waiting for an earthquake to strike. Kirio has a built-in seismic sensor and could shut off the gas, water, and even electricity if things start to shake — all without your input. Meanwhile, the Kirio will still be running on its backup lithium-ion battery.
“You shouldn’t have to think about that, just let Kirio do it for you,” Fester said.
Kirio can help minimize disaster by shutting off your gas, water, and electricity.
The ability to minimize the effects of a disaster could make your smart home more attractive to insurers, he said. An accompanying energy meter can also give you insight into your house’s efficiency, an attribute that makes the system attractive to green builders.
“I am not a tech guy,” Rob McVicars, CEO of Buildsound, told us. “It took my kids about three months to teach me how to load an app on my phone.”
Yet his company built the property we toured and has committed to constructing 50 homes with the automation built in over the next two years. Buildsound jumped on the green-building trend and wanted to get ahead of the smart-home craze. While McVicars saw other builders including a couple devices here and there — a lock or camera — he liked the full integration and customizability of Kirio.
“You can scale it to whatever you want,” he said.
Kirio offers three packaged for builders — good, better, and best, Green calls them — but they all center around the HVAC system. Lights, blinds, and other devices are bells and whistles that might go into the higher-end packages, but McVicars said his firm wants to offer a very basic package that goes into the most inexpensive homes he builds. The product itself is $1,799; adding sensors and devices increases the price.
The system is scalable, letting homeowners choose how much automation they want.
One of the most unique things about Kirio is how it works with devices. If you have a Wink hub, for example, you’ll still need a Philips Hue hub to operate your smart light bulbs, as well as an account, complete with password. Kirio uses zero passwords. When a builder installs all the smart devices, Kirio bypasses the need for hubs and accounts. To work Kirio for the first time, a homeowner scans a QR code on the device with the iOS or Android app and must physically press a button in the middle of the hexagon. They also have to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the Kirio. While it backs up to the cloud, Kirio doesn’t run on it, and it doesn’t communicate with other homes running the system. All data is anonymized. When a homeowner moves, the Kirio stays. That’s partly because the Kirio itself is customized to the house itself. The builder inputs a bunch of information during setup. It takes into account the location, the number of windows, the number of bedrooms, and so on, so that it can run everything as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
While the system is connected to your network, it can still run if your internet goes out. It knows the time of day and season, so it can automatically turn on lights at dusk. But if one room gets less natural light and is equipped with sensors, you can set a threshold so the lamps turn on. If the motion sensors don’t detect anyone in the room, though, Kirio won’t bother to illuminate it.
The system is supposed to get to know you so well, it anticipates and reacts to you. Sound a little spooky? If your smart home does turn on you one day, at least you know where its brain is and can dismantle accordingly.
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