Indian wearable startup Ultrahuman is getting into the smart home game. It has announced the upcoming launch of connected hardware that’s designed to monitor the “health” of your home, as its marketing puts it. The device, which it’s calling the Ultrahuman Home, is being shown off at CES this week — with a shipping date that’s slated to start in July. RRP is US$349.
Looks-wise, the Ultrahuman Home resembles a sleek (metallic) Wi-Fi router or Apple TV — basically it’s a low, squarish box — but functionality is quite different: Sensors in the device will allow the user to monitor levels of natural and artificial light, air pollution, noise, humidity and smoke in the room where it’s installed, according to the company, sending data, in the form of space “scores” and actionable insights, to a new “home” tab in the Ultrahuman app.
Ultrahuman’s existing wearables are squarely targeted at the quantified self trend, linking sensing hardware to an app that crunches the user’s data to deliver personalized lifestyle advice — with the goal of helping users improve fitness and wellness.
The new incoming (static) hardware is intended to supplement the ability of Ultrahuman’s smart ring to deliver personalized lifestyle nudges as it can factor in data on the indoor environment the user is exposed to too. But it can also work as a standalone in-home tracker to provide an assessment of the healthiness of a home environment — and offer advice on how to improve a sleep space, for example.
Down the line, the idea is the Ultrahuman Home will be able to plug into home automation, per CEO and founder Mohit Kumar. So while it’s just an environmental tracking device on its own, installed in a smart home it could be used to power automated decisions to, for example, dynamically adjust devices like the air conditioning to promote deeper and more restorative sleep. Temperature in a bedroom can be an important factor to quality of sleep, he suggests. So the vision here is that home automation will be looped into the overarching mission of boosting users’ wellness.
“In the future, you will see us integrating with protocols like IFTTT to actually get into home automation,” he says. “We’ll be able to do things like, for this individual, lowering the air conditioner by two degrees when they are in deep sleep mode. It is more beneficial because that helps them get into a slow wave or deep sleep zone. [Also for] personalised humidity levels in the room. The third is even lighting suggestions in the room.”
As with diet and activity level, environments where we spend a good deal of our time can influence our health for the better or worse — depending on what we’re being exposed to. Air pollution bad, natural light good type thing. So on that level it’s not too surprising to see a wearable maker taking an interest in what’s going on in the homes of its users. Ambient factors like temperature, humidity and air quality may be impacting things like the quality of sleep a person is getting or even productivity in a workplace.
But it’s fair to say Ultrahuman is blazing a bit of trail here compared to wearable competitors by expanding into environmental monitoring. The likes of Oura and Whoop — the two rivals it’s most closely tracking — have stayed in the wearable lane so far.
By capturing more data-points it can link to its smart ring users, Ultrahuman may be able to improve the accuracy of its algorithms — to give its personalized advice an edge over rivals. Having another device in its portfolio to cross-sell to existing users won’t hurt either, especially as the strategy it’s taken with its smart ring also contrasts with rivals because Ultrahuman does not require users to shell out for a subscription; they just have to purchase the hardware to get ongoing access to its tracking software.
The same is true with the Ultrahuman Home: There’s no subscription required for the service; just a one-off hardware purchase.
Kumar says Ultrahuman’s no subscription approach has allowed it to drive sales through gifting as existing users aren’t put off from giving its products to friends or family members as a present since there’s no requirement they then have to dip into their own pocket just to use the gift. He also credits expanding offline sales of the smart ring — via retailer partners — with helping grow the user-base, given it’s the sort of device people may want to see and touch before they hand over money.
Since the launch of the Ultrahuman Ring Air, its sleeker second gen smart ring which we reviewed last summer, momentum has been growing, with sales exceeding 10,000 units last month, per Kumar. “I think a lot of momentum has been built up primarily because of repeat usage — or gifting,” he tells TechCrunch. “People actually don’t like gifting subscriptions because it’s like sending a gift and expecting the other person to pay money. So that’s why I believe that we have this advantage in this category from a domestic perspective.”
Returning to the Ultrahuman Home, Kumar confirms it’s designed to monitor and track changes in the environment of a particular room — so it’s intended as a static device.
A large household would clearly need a couple (or more) of these devices if they want to cover the entire home. But at $349 a pop it’s likely most users will stick to monitoring just one room. And the obvious choice will be the room where they spend most of their time (bedroom, home office etc).
Privacy considerations are being addressed by restricting processing of data captured by the on-board mic to the device itself, with no sound data uploaded to its servers, according to Kumar. There is also a hardware button on the device that will let users switch off the mic when they wish. The on-board wi-fi and Bluetooth can also be switched off via an airplane-mode style hardware toggle for those who want to manually limit their exposure to radio frequencies.