With a boom in the IoT segment, everything in your home will soon be smart. When we say smart, we mean every appliance in your home will be able to communicate with each other and you will be able to control almost everything from your smartphone using simple apps or your voice. IoT devices are presently available and range from common smart light bulbs to smart refrigerators. However, these appliances feature wireless (Wi-Fi) connectivity need you to have an active internet connection so that you can control them from your smartphone and from anywhere around the world. However, controlling a light bulb or a fan from outside your house may sound stupid.
Ottomate, a new brand that has stepped into the market, has launched a smart fan that is smart but does not use or need internet to perform. It uses a Bluetooth mesh technology that is limited in terms of range. The smart fan uses technologies from major solution providers such as Qualcomm, Toshiba, Texas Instruments and Life.Augmented.
Let’s talk about the ceiling fan first. Available in a few colours, the Ottomate Smart ceiling fan is the same as your conventional electric AC fan that you see hanging from your ceiling. It comes in standard blade sizes 1250mm and 1000mm, and in four different variants — Smart Standard, Smart Ready, Smart Standard Plus and Smart Ready Plus. The Plus models feature four blades, while the others are 3-blade fans. Each blade is also coated with a special coating (paint) that resists dust and dirt more than what is featured on standard fans available in the market. The company claims that with the special coating a consumer would have to climb up and clean the blades only around twice a year, given that standard fans need cleaning at least once a quarter. The main motor is a higher RPM 14-pole motor that runs on AC voltage. The motor and blades are designed and chosen for higher air delivery as compared to standard fans out there.
The fan is designed well, and will definitely suit your interiors. However, there are just a handful of models that differ in colours and design for now, and the company is planning to introduce more models and designs soon. Customers can also select their own colours for the blades or motors, mix and match them, at purchase. Interestingly, if you end up changing the colours of your walls in future, you can simply purchase new colour blades and motor covers to match your interiors.
The main element of the fan is the Bluetooth module that is at the heart of the appliance. The BT module is a BLE 5.0 standard and uses very low power for communication. The smart fan has this additional circuit that comprises of a few sensors, such as humidity, temperature and Infrared, which are clubbed together with the BLE module for app connectivity. With the smart circuit onboard, you won’t need your standard regulator. In fact, it is recommended that you bypass or completely remove the manual regulator that controls the fan speeds because (1) the smartphone app will give you micro-level control over the fan’s speed, and (2) the manual regulator will damage the onboard smart circuit.
So, essentially, the Ottomate Smart Fan is actually a standard electric ceiling fan, with a wireless smart regulator installed. However, the fan has a slightly different motor, as compared to standard fans, which allows better control over the rotation speeds or RPM. In order to make things simple and convenient when shopping for multiple fans, Ottomate also gives you the option of Smart Ready Fans which ships without the Bluetooth module and can be used with a standard regulator. In future, if you wish to make the fan smart, you can simply call up the company and purchase the Bluetooth module and make that fan smart too.
Installation of the fan is pretty simple and similar to standard ceiling fans — users and standard electricians can themselves mount it too. It comes with a regular two-lead wire, all the mounts, blades, and all one needs to do is hand it on the ceiling hook and connect the wires. Make sure the standard regulator is bypassed in order to have this fan working efficiently. The fan ships with three blades, the down rod, a plastic covering for the down rod, a single plastic canopy, and the fan blades. Sadly, the single canopy makes it look a little weird, and if the down rod does not match your ceiling standard (if you don’t have the hook inside the ceiling or within a false ceiling), the missing canopy will make your fan look a bit ugly. Ottomate should supply an additional canopy with the fan because not all ceilings are the same. Opting for a third-party canopy may not be possible as the design would differ.
Since installation is as simple as any conventional fan, you can either install it yourself or via a local electrician. However, Ottomate ensures that the installation is taken care by them for free. In short, you simply need to purchase it and wait for the Ottomate engineer to ring your doorbell who will have it installed within a few minutes. The engineer will also give you a demo after helping you set up the fan control app on your smartphone. The app is currently available for Android only and the iPhone app will be rolled out soon.
Once the installation is done, the fan starts and rotates at normal speed, and a red led starts glowing in the centre. This indicates that the fan is now ready to be paired with the smartphone. Each fan is latched to a specific user account and is pre-paired with the smartphone user’s account. When a user wants to buy more fans, you simply need to purchase them from your account and the fan will be paired to your account from the company itself. All you need to do is simply hook the new fan(s) to your ceiling and add the fans to your app. The rest is taken care of by the app itself.
The Ottomate fan has two parts to it — the main electric motor and an intelligent Bluetooth 5 mesh circuitry. While the motor is similar to a standard fan, the Bluetooth component is what gives the smart fan its life. The circuit is controlled by the smartphone app over the Bluetooth interface, and since it uses BT v5.0, the operating range is longer and it can also control other fans and equipment in the house.
BT mesh works on a master-slave type of principal. For example, one fan can be made as a master, while the others are controlled by that one fan itself. This is how a Bluetooth mesh is created — which is pretty similar to a Wi-Fi mesh. So if you want to send a command to a fan in another room, the fan in the same room as you beams the command to the other fan(s) within its own network mesh. The corresponding fan then receives the command and replies back to the master fan that it has executed the command, and in turn, the main fan then sends the message back to the smartphone app notifying that the fan is in the state as desired. The entire operation is done on a secure Bluetooth platform and there is no interference or need of internet connectivity here. So keep in mind that the fans can be controlled only if you are in range — around 15 – 20 feet of any one of them.
The app is very straightforward and simple. It features a main interface that tells you how many fans you have. Each fan is controlled individually and all you need to do is select between manual or preset modes. Manual mode gives you finer control over the fan’s speed or rotation between 1 and 100. While conventional fan regulators only have 5 speeds, with the app you can have the desired speeds in between too. So if you want the fan to simply rotate and spread the air around, you can keep it between 1 and 10. This way, if your air conditioner is also switched on, you can have the cool air spread around the room rather than hitting you directly on your face. Also, this is a beneficial mode where the fan can be set to lower speeds for those who need just a gust of breeze rather than higher speeds than conventional regulators force on you.
Opting for the preset modes is fun too. There are three modes you can switch between.
Otto mode: This is where the fan operates on automatic mode. The Ottomate Smart Fan senses the room temperature and humidity and selects an appropriate speed to ensure that the room is cool enough for humans. The rotation speed and ambient room temperature are monitored and the rpm of the fan is adjusted accordingly. So if you keep your fan on at around 9 pm during Summer, the speed would be at the highest. But as the night sets in, the temperature gradually drops and the room gets cooler and the fan will lower the speed to keep you comfortably asleep. No need to step out in the dark and manually change the fan speeds at midnight like before. If you still feel that you need the fan to be faster or slower, you can simply switch the controls from your app. The sensors in the fan send the readings to the app too where you can personally see the temperature and humidity levels in your room.
Breeze mode: This mode is equally fun, but we found this great only if you use an air conditioner in your room or have large open windows. The fan in this mode keeps on increasing and decreasing the speeds between 1 and 100 and continues to cycle back again. This mode gives you a slow gust of gentle breeze, mimicking the seaside where the breeze comes along with the waves.
Turbo mode: In this mode, the fan is pushed to the highest RPM for full speed operation and does not need any explanation.
Lastly, you can also take charge of all the fans in the room at once. You can simply hit the ‘all on’ or ‘all off’ button on the app and turn on or off all the fans in your house in one go.
We did find that there were a few features that could make the product more valuable. We did speak to the company spokesperson and he said that they were working on the same to ensure that mode features will be added to the existing products. Shortcomings on the app or the features that we did note are as follows:
- The fan does not have any option for scheduling or timer operations.
- You cannot build your own preset mode that can set the fan speeds according to personal requirements.
However, the app does sport a few good features from the company. You can key in your address and make changes to the address, name each fan according to your home member, room names or alike, call for service or chat with the company in case you need any help.
Apart from being smart itself, the fan is also beneficial with respect to a lot of areas. For example:
- You don’t need a regulator and switch anymore. This will help you save on the regulator and switch cost and additional wiring that heads from the main power supply point to the switchboard and then to the ceiling point.
- You can save space on the regulator point and have a smaller switchboard or use the given space for an additional power point for other electrical equipment.
- New homes or interior redesigning can also benefit by saving costs on drilling into the walls for concealed wiring that also adds to labour costs and future issues where drilling holes for furniture can cause accidental damage to internal wirings.
- You won’t need to move out of your comfortable bed or chair to regulate the fan speeds and all can be controlled from your smartphone itself.
- The app can also be used by other members of your family. All you need to do is send an invitation to your family member and they have to install the app and gain access to the fans. Guests can also be given access to fans in their room so that they can also control the fans when they live with you.
- By using it in Otto mode, you can save on power bills where the fan will consume electricity according to the temperature and humidity in the room.
- Cleaning the Ottomate fans are also less trouble as the special paint coating resists dust on a larger scale.
The Ottomate Smart Fan is a great option for those who are looking to replace their existing fans or for those who are moving into new homes, or if you are planning to change the interiors of your house. The fans are simple and straightforward and will definitely help you save on your electric bills in the longer run. In full speed, the fan consumes around 75 watts while in standby mode (off mode) it consumes less than 0.5 watts since the Bluetooth modules in the fan are based on BLE (low energy).
The Ottomate Smart Fans are available starting Rs 2,999 (for the smart ready) and goes all the way up to Rs 4,199 for the Smart Plus variants, and come with a one-year warranty period. The Bluetooth module carries a two-year warranty period. The smart fan IR remote will cost you Rs 199, using which you can also control the fans without the need of the app or allow children and the aged to operate it safely too. We would recommend the Ottomate Smart Fans if you are keen on a smarter home ahead....