How Cleu is making the smartphone even smarter

Originally published via Kelsey Coppetti (rhubarbstudios.co, 10/22/15) 

We have developed many apps and devices that make the environment around us controllable and more friendly to the ever-growing advancements in technology with a simple ‘click’ on your phone. Amongst all these devices is a lot of cluttered noise. While one app you purchase will act as a remote for your TV, you’ll need to download another to control the thermostat to your home. In an attempt to simplify your life, your phone will be a complicated muddle of hundreds of apps that only perform one function.

Cleu, a smart [automation system] made at rhubarb studios, is de-cluttering the field and re-inventing the way we engage with our technology. By simplifying the complexity of devices around us, Cleu highlights how our environments can run through the connectivity of things working together, also known in tech terms as Internet of Things (IoT). Imagine you wake up, and your Nestthermostat, Philips Hue lighting, calendar notifications, weather updates, and itunes are all integrated and automated to the settings of your choice. Cleu does that. Or, with their upcoming integrations for Cleu 4, you’re at the office and need your Uber in fifteen minutes and your dinner delivered to your door once you arrive home, Cleu will do that too. Use it as a simple, sleek alarm clock, or create ‘events’ that automate your environments regardless of your location.

Uzair Hussain, Cleu’s founder, chats with Kelsey Coppetti of rhubarb about how Cleu integrates your systems, how this will drive further innovations, and what upcoming features to keep your eye on.

Kelsey: Tell us about Cleu

Uzair: Cleu is a time-based automation system that lives on the iphone and Apple watch and helps automate your environments. You can set an ambiance when you wake up by automating your temperature, lighting and music. Or when you’re at work, you can program Cleu with your calendar. In the past, you use the same devices to be notified on your phone or watch. What we are now doing with Philips Hue is using lighting as a notification, where instead of checking your device, you might see a color change on your desk lamp and that could tell you that a meeting is coming up, or you have an ‘x’ amount of minutes until the meeting. Another way to use Cleu is for temperature. If the thermostat is between 70° and 72°, Cleu will assign an action. If the system is between 72° and 74°: do this. If it’s 74° right now and person ‘x’ comes in and they prefer their temperature at 65°, Cleu will incorporate that into the average and stabilize the room, that way everyone is comfortable at the same time. By nature of notifying and automating experiences we’re able to now enhance what you’re being notified of within that notification.

Kelsey: What kind of opportunity was there in the market for Cleu?

Uzair: As these smart devices continue to release, the space is getting more cluttered. There’s more and more devices that you have to be cognizant of in your daily lives. So, the problem we see is the complexity of these future systems around us in general. As users, we won’t be able to tap into each and every single device individually, it would just rip our attention spans apart more than they already have been. What we’re doing is resolving that. Take these activities that you would normally be checking into, and instead of opening your calendar app, the weather app, then the Hue and Nest app, you would have everything in one application that’s being automated. The complexity of managing multiple activities is the problem we see; the solution is bringing that time back into our days by replacing that complexity with automation.

Kelsey: How does Cleu differ from other smart alarm clocks?

Uzair: There’s not many alarm apps that have explored the idea of IoT and automation via smart devices. There’s been one or two. One player connects with Philips Hue, but the challenge with these alarms is that they very much focus on sleeping and the routine of just being your morning alarm. Our difference is that we take that into the rest of the day, or even outside your home; we’re not limited to one area. With IFTTT or Apple’s HomeKit, the biggest difference with us is you can expand outside of that home. With our upcoming Uber integration, you can now have a ride that takes you from home to work, all automated to get you to your next location.

Kelsey: How else are you looking to integrate with systems that use apps, like smart tv or Apple watch?

Uzair: Integrating with those systems require that a brand or product to at least have found market fit. Meaning they have to have a product that is working and that makes sense for consumers. Nest and Philips aren’t the only products we could have tapped into, we’ve had to go through a process of choosing the market leaders in each vertical, which helps define who we connect with next. With that being said, there’s two spaces that we are growing in. One’s enterprise and the other in the commercial space, like the studio we’re in now, where there’s a few bulbs in the space and we can control that. There are hundreds of people in these spaces and they don’t all want the bulbs to do the same thing. We have to be able to give independent control, and that’s something we’re optimizing in all our integrations. That helps us grow in the commercial space by communicating with people that if my bulb is red that’s my ‘do not disturb’ mode. On the consumer side, we are slowly getting out of the home where we’ve been focused on temperature and lighting and now we’re getting into transportation, food services, and home security. These are the top interaction points that the market is seeking right now. We’re just going with market trends and leaning onto that consumer behavior. People are already going to be enhancing their home and work, so let’s focus on organizing all of that before it gets really crazy — because it already has.

Kelsey: How will Cleu further drive changes for innovative and integrative technology?

Uzair: We will continue to become timekeeping experts. You have the automated time trigger, the human trigger and the sensory trigger. These triggers will define how our future progresses as far as automation goes. So for us it’s very important that we are connecting with the best services and devices that enhance experiences for folks by increasing Net Promoter Scores (NPS) all over the place. But there will be ninety percent of the industry that will continue to bring out ‘fluff’ and just clutter it up even more. For us, it’s about picking and choosing the right devices to integrate with and helping drive that automation habit across both consumer and enterprise bases.

On the manufacturer side, we have to help guide these manufacturers to build devices that are actually relevant or empower the user rather than ‘let’s get this cool gadget out and give twenty graphs that come with it and expect a customer to use it and to change their habit’. We don’t believe in that; we’re going to let you do what you’re doing, but we’ll give you some data points and create a little bit more efficiency for you, so that way you’re driven and empowered to change your behavior by real data that’s meaningful. We’re going to take these metrics and remove all the noise and create an automated system for you so that way you can just focus on yourself. As we continue, we’ll have to make sure that we’re always empowering our users with data and driving this method that we believe is the right way to showcase data rather than lingering on what we’ve been doing since the smartphone came out in 2007.

Kelsey:What’s on the horizon for Cleu?

Uzair: Uber integration comes out before the end of the year. We’ve now started working on Cleu 4 and that’s what we are really focused on for 2016. It’ll be an all new design, quicker, faster; it’s slick and will have more delight-factor. Integration-wise, you’ll see expansions on each of the verticals we’ve already started. For temperature, Honeywell and Ecobee will come out. In lighting, LIFX will come out in support. In transportation after Uber, you’ll see five major public transport systems integrated: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and London. With LA being so cognizant of innovation, it puts us in a strong position to work closely with the city to expand on these APIs (application program interface) and integrations that we’re already doing. We’ll know real-time data to even report back to the city and say ‘hey, we need two more buses at this stop right now because the Dodgers game ran twenty minutes over’. The goal is a system for a connected environment, and environment isn’t a limited location.

Cleu is free of charge in the App Store. Download Cleu and keep up to date with new features by visiting their website.