Founded by Patagonic Labs, WeHaus is an engineering startup that designs, licenses and manufactures Machine-to-Machine (M2M) solutions to help companies launch their own connected home services. Besides hardware, WeHaus CEO Gastón Farías B. sees growing demand in an area where platforms are quickly becoming a highly sought-after service in the IoT space.
Q: What are your views on the current connected home space?
A: We see opportunities in the home automation space. However, what we are seeing is a market that caters largely to a network of traditional installation brands. Then, last year we witnessed streams of interesting vertical devices for the consumer market, such as thermostats, network cameras, and weather monitoring systems. But those products were expensive since every company has to reinvent connectivity and brand. Hence, we see an opportunity for platforms that integrate vertical products over open standards with digital solutions as a possible way to market. Basically, we are not going to retail, we want to offer home automation as a service.
Today, we are providing services for telcos such as AT&T Digital Life and Comcast XFINITY.
Q: Do you work with utility companies?
A: We do have installed equipment within the utilities sector. We are also looking for pilot test runs of approximately 2,000 units in Argentina.
Q: What is so special about WeHaus?
A: WeHaus provides different products for different needs. We began by offering cellular-based thermostats for homes with no Wi-Fi connectivity. For example, in Argentina, only 40 percent of households have broadband. So, if you have a second home or weekend house and want to manage your gas boiler, chances are that most of these homes do not have broadband. What we have decided to do is a product that is super simple to install by connecting it to a cellular network. This means no password, cables or configuration; just plug it in at it will connect to our Cloud Server. The thermostat also comes with an wireless occupancy and temperature sensor, that you can place anywhere in your home.
The WeHaus thermostat allows you to control heating systems, gas or electric boilers, central HVAC units and many other configurable devices. It is a cellular gateway with control capabilities, all packed into one device – cellular gateway plus controller, where you can later on add new ZigBee enabled devices to expand your automation capabilities under the WeHaus platform.
Q: When you say cellular, do you mean GSM?
A: Yes, it’s a 3G smart thermostat. It’s unique to the marketplace since it’s a niche product. So what we are trying to do is to position ourselves with these special products for sophisticated consumers. We are not competing with the mainstream because it probably makes no sense to develop a company under that logic. It would only make sense if it was a growth market but then I believe there’s going to be a war on prices. The hardware that we do is for niche products and the platform itself can control every possible mainstream products which are ZigBee enabled, we currently have over 26 different products, form differenet vendors connected to our platform.
As an Internet-of-Things company, we combine software with hardware in order to provide useful applications and solutions for customers. Put simply, we enable the physical layer of things through your smart phone.
The smart phone is essential for the smart home. Our products have no user interface but instead they come with just some push buttons for some essential features. All the logic is applied through the app, which is downloadable through the smart phone. We want the user to use the things around them, such as cellular phones, tablets or PCs.
Q: Do you think wearable devices are important to the smart home?
A: I think there is a space for wearable devices. It’s a way to differentiate the value in an already-competitive supply chain. But the core feature remains the same, which is mostly about turning on/off the switches when you need it and where you need it. The wearable device is an enabler but I don’t think it’s the core feature for the smart home.
Q: Would WeHaus consider integrating with Apple’s HomeKit or Google’s Nest in the future?
A: We haven’t decided that yet. It would probably create a differentiation for our products in the home automation front, but only time will tell.
Q: Where is your biggest market?
A: Our biggest market is currently in Argentina and in many other parts of Latin America. We are in a market where no one else is focusing on as of yet. Everyone else is focusing on the US whereas we are focusing on the rest of the world.
Q: How has WeHaus performed last year growth-wise?
A: It has grown 10 fold because we made several important deals. Most of our customers are currently telcos/ISPs. We want to position ourselves as a platform provider that enables connectivity through our devices.
Our strongest advantage lies in our local footprint and flexibility. With our end-to-end solutions, we are able to manage both software and hardware in a sense that we are able to control offer and cost. And by that I mean we don’t have to negotiate with third-party companies. In retrospect, we have invested so much into engineering and product development that we are able to control cost and supply in our own hands.
At the moment, we have our own set of products and those from third parties that integrate ZigBee. So, any ZigBee-compatible device can be hooked up to our system. IP cameras with Wi-Fi connectivity can also be connected to WeHaus.
We are an end-to-end engineering company based in Buenos Aires with offices in New York. We currently house 26 engineers.