Case Study

Design in business | Climote Ltd.

The company

Established in 2010/11, Cliomote Ltd was built on the director’s experience in home automation solutions. By 2012 Climote Ltd developed their first product concept – the Climote hub. This product enables customers to control their heating system from any location via text or the web and is just one of a suite of new products currently under development.

The company employ around 20 employees at their site in Dundalk and subcontract manufacturing to Asia. They have grown significantly since launch and have already secured investment to support the development of their design capacity in Dundalk.

Climote Ltd design and develop smart home heating controllers which are part of the emerging technology area – the ‘internet of things’. This is a fast moving area of technology and service development which is based on connecting everyday objects and devices to the internet to enable the exchange of data. The increasing pace of this sector is constantly driving the company to innovation in new products alongside its core Climote hub.

Design activity in Ireland

Climote worked with an external design house to develop the Climote hub however they have since sought to develop their own design capability for future product development. Internalising design capability at the core of the company will contribute to cost containment as well as integrating their home automation expertise with the design and development of new products. To facilitate this, they have recruited a specialist product designer to work alongside a small team of engineers and software developers in the development of new products.

Climote’s design philosophy emphasises both product styling and usability. They recognise the growing importance of aesthetics in product design but believe that user experience should be shaped by an understanding of all potential user needs– not just those of ‘tech savy users’.

“We have some really good innovators on our team, so we set them the challenge of solving the problem of heating controls. We were wondering if there was an opportunity there and if we could do an Apple on heating control by making it simple and easy to use.”

Design in focus

The support provided by the external designers in the development of the Climote Hub included the industrial design of the hub itself, brand positioning and a suite of apps. This anchored the initial concept and ideas of the company and facilitated the creation of the first prototypes. The dial became a core feature of the finished product which adopted design cues from smart phone devices. This demonstrates the company’s emphasis on user-friendly technology.

The external design partners worked to design, specify, prototype and build the User Interfaces for a range of devices (web, app etc.). This sought to bring consistency across platforms, allowing users to monitor heating via the Climote web portal, iOS, Android smartphones or via text commands. Support was also accessed for Climote branding and for developing their relationship with utility clients.

Climote is continuously growing and one of their current projects includes design work for a new boiler control for which several patent applications have already been submitted.

Impact from design

The simple, usable design of Climote Hub has won the device a number of awards including Best Product of Show Award, Best Innovative Product Award and Best Controls Product Award. Its corresponding smartphone app was a runner-up in the worldwide final of the Appy Awards in San Francisco. This attests to the promise of the company situating it as a leading contender within technological product design.

The company has a number of key competitors, including the US Company – NEST (owned by Google), originally established by the designer of Apple’s iPod. Without investing in design capability, Climote Ltd would struggle to compete in such an innovative market. As they are still in the early stages of development its current product design and R&D costs are high representing 25% of sales. However, the product is currently marketed through agreements with a number of key utilities including Electricity Ireland, SEE Airtricity, Power NI and Scottish Power.

“We fully expect our sales to increase, offsetting our costs in investing in design resources. Without this capacity it would be difficult to develop our products effectively and efficiently, and would find it difficult be competitive in our market place.”