We all love summertime. That is, unless we happen to have a classic AC window unit.
For those of us who do, it’s all about trying to fit a hundred-pound monstrosity into a window frame clearly not shaped for the purpose. It’s about the decisions we make before we leave for work each morning on those hot summer days: Do I jack up my electric bill and waste energy by leaving the unit running all day, or do I shut it off and come home to a sticky inferno?
Thanksfully, 63-year-old inventor Garthen Leslie may have come up with an answer.
A few years ago, during daily drives through northwest Washington, Leslie noticed how many AC units were hanging from old apartment windows. The former Department of Energy worker wondered just how much energy those units were wasting, and started to play with the idea of an AC that could be controlled remotely with a smartphone.
Now, with help from Quirky, a New York City-based design and manufacturing company whose mission is to “make invention accessible,” and General Electric, Leslie’s idea has become a reality.
Dubbed the Aros, the Quirky + GE branded appliance is a Nest-like AC unit that is controlled via an iOS and Android app called Wink. It allows you to cool a medium-sized room (around 350 square feet), fits windows that are up to 40.5 inches wide and 13.5 inches high, and offers three cooling modes and fan speeds that are accessible via touch-sensors. And an added bonus is the sleek, attractive design.
Through the Wink app, Aros collects information like monthly budget, location and usage, to learn over time how to automatically maintain the right temperature for your home. An operating setting based on an individual’s budget will also be available, and the app will recommend changes to help save you money.
The Aros is controllable from any remote location through your smartphone app, and will automatically turn on and off based on your smartphone’s GPS settings.
Ben Kaufman, the 27-year-old CEO of Quirky, believes the Aros is set to make a huge dent in energy consumption.
“In NYC alone there are six million window air conditioners accounting for 20 percent of the total energy usage at Con Edison during the summer months,” he says. “By making AC units “smart” users are less likely to leave them on all day, just so they can walk into a cool home.”
For Quirky, the Aros is just one in a long line of successful products focused primarily on gadgets for the home, leisure and health. Quirky crowd sources inventions from an online community of 500,000 and turns the best ideas around for market in less than a month. Its in-house barebones design and engineering team keeps costs low (the Aros, for example, is now $300 on Amazon).
Quirky’s business model is about providing fast turn around, but it’s also an avenue for wannabe inventors to bring their ideas to life. This is at the heart of Kaufman’s vision, and why he enjoys working with people like Leslie.
“Garthen Leslie is the exact type of person we try to empower at Quirky,” Kaufman says. “He’s a lifelong inventor that has never had a fair chance at seeing his great ideas come to life. Garthen has been amazing.”
Last year, Quirky and GE teamed up to create a line of co-branded smart devices for the home. The Aros is one of four projects to come of this partnership, but it is by far the most ambitious. Other products, such as the Egg Minder which lets users know when eggs are going bad, and the Nimbus, a smart alarm clock that lets you keep a virtual eye on things like commute traffic, weather, and email, are just fun gadgets, but the Aros is the first time that the companies have created a smart core appliance.
According to a report from Juniper Research, it’s expected that the installed base of connected appliances in “smart homes” will surpass the 10 million mark by 2017. This means that there is a huge opportunity for both GE and Quirky to grab and retain consumer awareness in the “smart homes” sector through connected products like the Aros.
The Aros will be available this summer in Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Best Buy, P.C. Richard & Son, and Target. As a community stakeholder, Lesile is set to earn half a million dollars on his invention this year alone.
Image courtesy of Quirky