While designing farm houses spread over 18 acres in Karjat, architect Ravi Desai’s main concern was to save power. He wanted a retrofit solution that would prevent all the street lights getting switched on or off at the same time. “It was a complex design as we wanted one set of lights to switch on and off automatically at a particular time, and the other set to switch on at another time,” says Mr. Desai. They wanted manual control as well.
Like him, Prasad Bhagare, a businessman, too wanted an automated solution for his 3,000 sq ft home at Kharghar; a system that could easily be operated by all the members of his family, from his 14-year-old son to his 80-year-old parents. “We wanted a blend of physical as well as touch screen solutions,” says Mr. Bhagare.
The startup NUOS [NOU is intelligence in Japanese, while OS is part of the word ‘ethos’] Home Automation fulfilled their needs, without them going in for any additional civil work or rewiring. Says its founder Neil Savant, “It is generally believed that people can go in for automation only when they are renovating or moving into a new house or office. However, we provide retrofit systems that don’t need rewiring or civil work, and minimise installation-related problems.”
It is this retrofit (switch-to-switch replacement without change in wiring) that sets NUOS apart from its competitors. Its solutions allow customers to control appliances through a mobile app from anywhere in the world. “To automate devices like lights and fans, most companies’ products have boxes that go behind the switchboard,” says Mr. Savant.
In almost all cases, there is no space behind the switchboard to fit any small device because there is a lot of existing wiring. Hence, civil work has to make space for their boxes. An expert is needed to wire the devices to their boxes — it is not something a local electrician can do, explains Mr. Savant. However, NUOS hardware eliminates the need for rewiring and civil work as the existing switches just need to be replaced by touch switches and sensors in the existing switchboards. “Further, installation can be done within 15 minutes and the entire system can be up and running in 20 minutes flat,” says Mr. Savant.
An automation system for a three-bedroom-hall-kitchen flat can range from ₹1.5 lakh to ₹3 lakh, depending on the requirement.
Growing from scratch
Mr. Savant has always nurtured the aspiration to make home and office automation products simple, precise and innovative. After working for nearly four years with Navistar and Cummins in USA in various engineering and management positions, Mr. Savant returned to India in 2014 and launched NUOS in July that year, with two engineers.
With a couple of laptops, a savings pool of ₹1.60 crore, the team started out of a 180 sq ft garage in Matunga by making prototypes of circuits (controlling LEDs and fans through a mobile app and gaining expertise in power electronics). The team has now expanded to 15 members. NUOS now makes industry-grade hardware and software, which are essentially Internet of Things products.
Its product range includes touch switches, an IR or infrared blaster [All devices like televisions, air conditioners, set-top boxes and projectors which need an infrared remote can be operated using the NUOS app through the blaster wirelessly]; temperature or humidity sensor; a curtain motor controller, which helps automated curtains and blinds to open or close; an Internet Protocol camera whose feed can be viewed wirelessly from anywhere in the world and a central gateway which works with an Android/IOS mobile application as well as a web platform not just from inside the home or office but from anywhere in the world.
Recently, NUOS unveiled an energy meter through which they plan to regulate power consumption. The meter can measure power and the consumer can control it using the NUOS switches. Its ‘Amazon Alexa’ enables clients to control home appliances with their voices. “By saying, ‘Alexa’, our consumers can turn appliances on or off and even change the intensity of lights and fans,” says Chandrashekhar Sahu, Engineering Lead.
Till date, NUOS has provided home and office automation services to over 25 customers in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Bengaluru. By December, 2017, Mr. Savant hopes to achieve 4,000 installations across India.
Mr. Savant also has a grander vision for the company: set a benchmark in the smart home industry through their ‘made in India’ products. Says Mr. Savant, “Five years from now, we plan on having not just products in the realm of automation but a strong platform that will be intelligent as well as intuitive and solve energy and environmental problems by helping to reduce the carbon footprint.”
Founder: Neil Savant
Funding: Self; angel investment