Smart air-conditioner controllers: Handy features, tricky app interface

Smart air-conditioner controllers: Handy features, tricky app interface
Flat and squarish, the Tado can sit on a table or be mounted on a wall. It is managed via an app.

Sherwin Loh puts two smart controllers to the test and discovers that keeping your rooms cool can be pretty complicated

These days, there are smart devices to switch on the lights, play music, open digital locks and perform all manner of services.

With so many homes here dependent on air-conditioning, it is surprising that devices that control home air-conditioners remotely, like the Tado Smart AC, did not surface earlier.

You link this small device to your home network, and manage it with an app to control the infrared blaster of the Tado unit. It needs a clear line of sight to your air conditioner. So, separate Tados are needed for each unit.

But why switch on the air-conditioner if no one is there? It could be to cool the room down before you get home. Or, in an office, before the work day starts.

The Tado works only with conventional air-conditioner units that use an infrared remote control, and not with central air-conditioning.

Flat and squarish, the Tado looks like a drink coaster. Being flat, the Tado can sit on a table or be mounted on a wall.

You must use the app (Android or iOS) to set it up. It is easier with the iPhone app as the Android app can be sluggish at times.

Once you enter the brand name of your air-conditioner unit into the app, it will attempt to turn the unit on 20 times. Each time, you need to acknowledge the successful attempt.

Each attempt is actually a pre-set profile, so you have to check that the other controls (for example, mode or temperature changes) on each profile also work.

This is quite tedious. After two tries, I found out that several profiles could control features on my air-conditioner, but none would actually turn it on.

So, I checked with customer service. They told me that they needed to update several frequencies. As each Tado unit has a unique serial number, they can access my unit remotely and update it.

Once connected, the Tado's built-in sensors can measure the temperature and humidity in the room. One great feature is a proximity sensor.

You set it and the air-conditioner turns itself on once it detects that the user's phone is in the vicinity.

If multiple users are in the room, the Tado can switch off the air-conditioner automatically, when the last person with a registered phone leaves.

The app's interface is annoying, though. Rather than recognise a selection with a tap on the smartphone screen, you also need to tap the Start button to register an action.

So, to switch on the air-conditioner, press the Power button, then hit Start. To change the temperature, hit the arrow key and then Start.

This two-step approach does not make sense. If you want to lower the temperature and increase the fan speed, you have to go through the two steps for each adjustment.

PRICE: US$199 (S$279) from
CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi/bluetooth
DISPLAY: LED Matrix with capacitive touch
SENSORS: Temperature and humidity


This article was first published on Feb 10, 2016.
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