The primary reason I was drawn towards creating a smart remote controller was to manage the supply and demand of electricity.
Despite electricity access being a basic necessity in everyday life , most people are not familiar with the world of electricity. I was fortunate to have my knowledge of it be developed through my work as a business development manager at Mitsui & Co — one of Japan’s largest energy business players.
My role involved a mixture of high level strategy work with executives, investment bankers, and international lawyers. This was contrasted with tough negotiation with busy foreign government officials that sometimes required me to wait in front of their office room for several hours.
Aiming to shift towards the use of renewable energy
With regards to my international business trips, one experience in particular stands out to me; that being my trip to Indonesia in March 2011. During our visit, on a clear sunny day, we flew out to a coal mine in a small Cessna aircraft. The scenery from the sky remains etched in my mind to this day. Below us was a tiny village that sat next to an enormous coal worksite. The scene was chaotic. Hundreds of excavators and transporters were operating while hordes of workers worked tirelessly inside the mines. The sheer scale overwhelmed me with a sense of discomfort, and I wondered to my self how this can be sustainable.
Perhaps fatefully, on the very same day when I returned to my hotel, news of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was being reported on every channel.
Both events made me question the current norm of using coal-fired power and nuclear power as a main power supply source. It inspired me to establish a business that can shift the world towards using more distributed and cleaner energy.
The journey to launching my own company
Since I was little, I’ve always dreamt of starting my own company. I sensed that in order to achieve my calling as an entrepreneur, I needed to gather as much experience as possible to shape my future. I focused my efforts on pursuing a computer science degree, taking on internship roles around the world, and working in my aforementioned role at Mitsui & Co.
It was during university where I first became interested in the field of ubiquitous internet — as it was known back then. It has since rapidly evolved to what is commonly known today as the IoT industry.
During the earlier days of IoT, creative solutions to energy management were starting to take off. ENANOC, a Boston based startup had successfully introduced energy demand management as a service that focused on the use of electricity, rather than how it’s generated.
When I applied this lens to my own context, I started to think about the potential of managing the power consumption of a single product. It didn’t take long for me to realize that one such opportunity existed in managing air conditioners and that it required a solution.
This idea was sparked in particular by the fact that Japan has one of the world’s largest demand for air conditioners and consequently uses a significant amount of energy to power them. Furthermore, Japanese air conditioners typically come with infrared remote controls, so if there was a way to replace them, you would be able to operate most air conditioners in Japan. This concept would of course also work worldwide on any infrared controlled air-conditioner. It was my next discovery in technology that proved to be the final piece in putting everything together.
My discovery of smart speakers
During my time in Boston when I was pursuing an MBA at Harvard, I stumbled on the then relatively unknown world of smart speakers. A friend of mine who worked at Amazon showed me the first Echo Dot. Admittedly, I was skeptical at first, but it didn’t take long for my interest in it to grow. I was impressed by how well it recognized human speech, and the vast range of its potential applications. It was clear to me that smart speakers were going to be a big part of the future, and I was excited to explore different ways of using them.
Putting it all together
With all of these ideas and experiences floating in my mind, it was time to turn them into reality. In order to build a consumer friendly product, I decided that the functionality of an internet connected smart remote controller would be more practical than an energy demand management solution.
There are two major benefits to a smart remote controller that I wanted to focus on:
The first benefit is that the air conditioner could be operated anytime, anywhere . For example, you would be able to turn up the temperature of your room on a cold winter day before arriving at your home. The second benefit is that it could bridge your smart speakers and home appliances together.
The functionality of operating air conditioners remotely had already appeared in the market during this time, however, there was still lots of room to improve on the end user interface/user experience. In addition, there wasn’t much discussion on the connectivity between smart speakers and home appliances.
Driven by a strong desire to fulfill these two areas of focus led to the creation of the Nature Remo, and the start of an incredible journey since.