Redefining the remote control

Creating an app for the Sensibo air conditioner controller

Sensibo - The World's First IoT Air Conditioner Controller

Sensibo is a smart controller for air conditioners that allows anyone to control any A/C remotely using an application. It is similar to Nest, a smart thermostat, aquired by Google for $3B.

Project Goal
We wanted to create an app that will allows our users to control their air conditioner from anywhere, but will look nothing like a remote control. We used that fact that it's a digital product to offer a clean interface with functionalities that are visible only when they are needed.

As Sensibo's creative director I was in charge of all aspects of the product, including the company's brand identity, mobile app, physical product, packaging, exhibitions, and even the company's crowd funding video. I've researched and define the app requirements, defined the UX, created working mock-ups, ran user testing, design the visual UI, defined the roadmap, managed the task backlog, and worked with engineering on developing the app.

Sensibo's app

The app's main screen provides the main functions that are used mostly by users (ON/OFF, temp, fan, etc), while less frequently used functions are accessed through the app's menu (scheduling, changing mode, setting a new A/C, etc).

Animations & Small Magical Touches

A part of Sensibo's appeal was the small touches we've given the app to make it feel more magical. We've used colors extensively to project a feeling of the current temperature in the room and the A/C's state (cooling or heating). We've added personal messages, small animations that help the user know if the A/C is on or off (for example - small dust particles that hover and slightly move around in the 'air' in the app's background, and start spinning when the A/C is turned on) and smart features such as recognition when the user arrives and leaves home for automatic control of the A/C.

Using Color

fucntional use of color was one of the most prominent design aspects of the app. We've used color to represent the temperature of the room in which the air conditioner is and the temperature that the air coditioner is set to. For example, a cold room with an A/C set to a high temperature would appear with a blue to red gradient background.

Not Just Eyecandy

The use of color made the app more appealing, but it also served a function. By creating the extreme temperatures in very bright and saturated blue and red colors, we made those temperatures seem extreme, in order to get users to avoid setting the air conditioner target temperature to very low or very high temperatures to avoid inefficient operation of the A/C. We've done a lot of iterations to reach the right colors that blend well in all possible color combinations.

Dynamic Control & Smart Features

A part of Sensibo's funding came from a crowd funding campaign we ran. But the funds weren't the real value we got from the campaign. That was the community we've built around our product. We've used that community to learn a lot about what is required from the app, which taught us which smart features will need to be easily accessible, and which can be more in the back. For example - we've learned that the timer feature should be easily accessible, but scheduling can be set from a sub-menu.

Remote Verification

One of the questions we were asked while we ran user testing on initial test groups was "wait, but if I'm at the office, how do I know that my air conditioner actually received the command I sent?"

Quick and dirty sketches

I started sketching out ideas that would make it clear that an action took place.

The concepts we were considering were -

  1. Show the user a notification in case a command fails to send
  2. Freeze the buttons in the app until the command was successfully sent
  3. An animated spinner, that indicates that a command was sent or not in real time

After sharing these concepts with users, I got feedback that they’d like to be able to continue using the app freely, without anything freezing up, and that they would like to get instant verification, not a message sent just afterwards.

Design Progress Sketches

The application's design process was iterative. We created version after version and tested them with our target audience each time, before starting to develop features. One of my favorite methods to do these iterations is to go back and forth from paper to digital and move the design forward with each attempt.