It’s not always that I believe the hype people spout about smart technology being easily and readily available. And it’s definitely not often that I believe hype relating to connecting everything in your house in a realistic and cost-effective way. But then, I met Lucas Funes at the IoT World Event in San Francisco. He began working on what would become Webee when he was an undergraduate in Argentina, even as people called his ideas wildly unrealistic. But ten years later, Webee is alive, functional, and even learning to help improve people’s lives.
BS: In one sentence, what does Webee do?
LF: Our main focus is to simplify the way that people live their lives and interact with devices.
BS: How does that work?
LF: There are many devices. All the time there are more devices like lightbulbs, intelligent lightbulbs, thermostats, other devices that fit with watches or whatever. It’s like a mess. You need one app to turn on the lights, one app to control the thermostat, etc. So we made one smart hub that speaks all the languages – all the protocols. It has the ability to discover and connect all the third party devices – any brands, any devices. And also, there is one standardized app that is focused on the user experience. It’s very easy and simple to use. So an example we have here…
At this point Lucas pulls out his personal cell phone to demonstrate Webee live in front of me.
LF: This is our experience center in Miami. It’s in real time. We can adjust the room temperature, or know what the temperature is there. In the same app you have the sensors, like open or close sensors [on doors]. And it’s very easy to set up different notifications and alerts – you can turn them on and off easily. We are focused on common people, not technical people. The people who want to use this and who want to enjoy all the features the devices give to you – but not get too complicated.
Also, this is built with our proprietary Internet of Things platform that allows you to control remotely and monitor in real time as we are playing now with this app. And Webee is built with artificial intelligence. So the magic really comes when you start interacting with daily objects. We start learning from you – what you do, how you live. And then we can start creating suggestions and scenarios for you. Such as: “Okay, we know how to help you save energy. You can save 30% of your energy because you left the thermostat on all day while you were away.” So we set up a scene and send you a notification and ask you if you’d like us to change it and you can say okay.
BS: Then do you see it helping in sustainable development?
LF: Definitely. We have a huge artificial algorithm that learns energy consumption patterns. So we detect anomalies in the lights or in the fridge and then we start suggesting how to save energy. So an example is, you keep the lights on during the day. We say, “Why? Also, you are not at home. So if you’d like, we will turn them off.” We create this alert automatically and receive a message like as if a robot were talking to you. It says, “Hey! It’s the day! We will turn off all the lights, okay?” And then you say, every time this happens in the same pattern, please do that.
BS: What made you first think of this?
LF: I started this in 2004. It was a project for my electronic degree. And then I continued on to my Master in Innovation Technology.
BS: So you started in undergraduate?
LF: Yes, in Argentina. They called me crazy sometimes – many years ago. I was talking about ‘Internet of Things’ and connecting devices but no devices were on the market. So I started developing the devices myself – wireless devices that you can connect. Now, [with Webee,] you can connect other manufacturers’ devices or our own devices to the hub. But at that time, you couldn’t find devices that were plug-and-play to start transforming your home into a Smart Home. I was traveling here to the US, to Palo Alto, to San Francisco, to New York, pitching my ideas. And people said, “What you are talking about? Home automation is a solution for the luxury solution – 100,000 dollars.” But no! I said. This is plug-and-play! This exists!
BS: So everything is fully functional? Someone can do this right now?
LF: Yes! And it’s plug-and-play, you don’t need technical skills.
Lucas continued to regale me as to the possibility of having an affordable Smart Home right now. As I said at the beginning – I personally had not been won over to the ‘Smart House’ concept 100% before discovering Webee. But after absorbing the energy and passion of Lucas, I’m just one step short of believing. And maybe I can take that step, if Webee just turns on the light.