Ambi Climate

A Cloud-based air conditioning control system with a long-distance remote

Image: Hugh Threlfall

If you live anywhere hot, air conditioning is more than a part of life; it is a 24/7 preoccupation. I spend time in Hong Kong and the US and consider air conditioning to be one of the greatest modern inventions, yet it is scorchingly expensive and unenvironmental to run. It doesn’t help that I find AC remotes universally unfathomable and normally just turn the cooling to max, then wait for the place to feel like a fridge, thus wasting more energy.

So when the start-up behind this brilliant bit of technology brought me to its Hong Kong base at the height of soup-like August, I was deeply impressed. Ambi Climate is an advanced control system for almost any number of AC units in a home or office. It works through the inevitable smartphone app and at its simplest is a superb remote, usable from anywhere. Founder Julian Lee, a former private-equity strategist with an engineering background, developed it initially to keep his tropically inappropriate husky comfortable at home while he was at work, avoiding the need to simply leave the AC on full blast.

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I tested the appliance at my apartment in Central, which was like an indoor rainforest with the AC off. Each day, five minutes before arriving at the front door, I selected the desired temperature and found the place chilled to perfection. Other testers have used Ambi Climate to switch off the AC in their distant holiday home when guests have forgotten to.

So far so good, but Ambi Climate can go a step further. Its engine room is in the Cloud, where complex algorithms work out the best level of cooling for your personal comfort. Temperature, Lee says, is only responsible for 40 per cent of the way you feel. So each Ambi Climate room sensor tracks temperature, humidity, sunlight and motion in the room and asks you to rate on the app how comfortable you feel over several days. It takes around seven days to “learn you”, whereafter it attends to your comfort in an uncanny way and you start to feel just right all the time. Ambi Climate’s Cloud functionality is fully operational but still a work in progress; ultimately, it will understand how different people feel and adjust for them too. This is intuitive, palpably intelligent technology. A real innovation.

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