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MARKETS & INVESTING | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong
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This entrepreneur is behind (AI)-enabled air conditioner accessory Ambi Climate

They recently launched its second edition in the market.

When Julian Lee, now 41, launched his first crowdfunding campaign in 2014 for an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled air conditioner accessory called Ambi Climate, it failed spectacularly. But Lee was determined to bring his brainchild to Asia, believing it could revolutionise how air conditioners are used in the region. He licked his wounds from the failed StarHub Crowdtivate campaign and made a second attempt at crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

Ambi Climate became an overnight hit to crowdfunders: In nine hours, Lee raised US$25,000 and eventually hit four times that initial target to US$114,000 for the whole campaign. This helped convince the entrepreneur to establish Ambi Labs, a hardware startup seeking to improve the usability of common household appliances with Ambi Climate as its core product.

Three years into the business, Lee continues to innovate their core product Ambi Climate with the launch of its second edition. In mid-2017, Ambi Climate 2nd Edition reached its US$50,000 Kickstarter funding goal in 11 hours and went on to raise US$152,000, or three times their target amount.

To understand the market better, Lee and his team also conducted a survey on Hong Kongers’ aircon usage. The survey revealed that 99% of the respondents experience comfort-related problems while using their air-cons, which ironically is designed to provide comfort.

One of the most frequent complaints the study found is that the room is often too cold that leads to discomfort. Ambi Climate 2nd Edition aims to solve this problem by using artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology. Lee says that instead of selecting a temperature, users simply report their current thermal comfort Ambi Climate’s A.I. engine analyzes the impact of multiple factors and automatically adjusts the AC to enhance comfort.

“It is an affordable, revolutionary product,” says Lee of Ambi Climate. “It combines AI and Internet of Things (IoT) for the modern-day smart home,”

While it was easy to sell the idea of Ambi Climate to technology aficionados, the average person on the streets found it harder to believe that AI was more than a cool technology, and that it can actually improve a product they use in daily life.

“It took countless talks, articles, interviews, pitches, and demonstrations to convince the public of the improvements of an AI-enabled air-conditioner control device,” says Lee. “Between flying all over Asia to spread the word about AI smart home automation, I had to secure reliable supplies to manufacture a better product.”

Bringing Ambient Intelligence to Asia

If there is a phrase that captures the vision of Ambi Labs and drives its product design, it is “Ambient Intelligence” for the Asian customer, which Lee argues is overlooked by other companies in the industry.

“We believe that truly smart technology is intuitive and seamless -- fading into the background and augmenting the user's lifestyle,” he says. “Too many products today are designed with US or European lifestyles in mind, but the increasingly affluent population in Asia often has different needs and face different challenges.”

 

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