nCube – the home platform focused on saving energy

Photograph of a lit element in an incandescent light bulb.

nCube is a Smart Home platform with a specific focus on saving energy.  We reckon it should be possible to get your cost back within 18 months through the energy saved. However the energy companies have got away with it, energy prices jumped an average of 8% in November 2013 and in fact looking at the historic rises, they’ve risen by an astonishing 60% in 6 years.

The story is that when I was a teenager, my parents incessantly nagged me (and my brother and sisters) for always leaving everything turned in our rooms and wasting energy costs. So the solution I came up with was an automatic way to turn everything on/off as you walked in/out of the room. I didn’t want to just put a 240volt switch under the carpet, so the idea is the ruler balanced on two small springs slides under the carpet in the doorway; when you stepped on it the old hacked tape deck motor turned (half a second pause was enough) and the bent bottle top worked as a cam to push the 240 volt power switch carefully positioned somewhere safe. Hey, presto whenever I walked in/out everything would magically turn on/off and no more nagging.

Now we’ve turned the core idea into a product (without the tape deck motor and ruler of course). The core idea is that nCube is a centralised platform to support a wide range of devices (too many other solutions lock you into their devices only). The software runs on the well-known Raspberry Pi and uses Z-Wave mesh network to communicate with all the devices in the home.

Just controlling things with an app isn’t enough so we’ve looked at how behaviour can be changed through three steps:

1. Awareness – these are the ‘billiard balls’ that make people aware of the consumption and efficiency and start to think about changing behaviour.

2. Energy Leaderboard – if you want to change behaviour, social sharing is one method; what we’ve done is a parallel to all the exercise and jogging apps to gamify energy saving.

3. Data – as the nCube hub has all the on/off, consumption & efficiency data and per user, then clever analytics helps prompt people on either a weekly or monthly basis.

Right now nCube supports heating, hot water, lighting, anything plugged-in and smoke & presence detectors.  But for us, that’s just the start as there’s a lot more Smart Home capabilities coming.

A rather neat guerilla marketing result was when we entered the British Gas Connected Homes competition. Stuff magazine wrote a great article about their new product, Hive, but Stuff’s closing sentence was “true heating enthusiasts may like to take a look at the home automation by nCube, which lets you program control individual radiators using wireless valves.

Editor’s note 2017: nCube is now at the forefront of smart home technology, you can visit their website for more information.

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