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Connected-battery maker Roost announces two new low-cost smart smoke alarms

TechCrunch TechCrunch 4/05/2016 Brian Heater

Beginning life as a Kickstarter campaign back in 2014, the team at Roost found a compelling, low-cost backdoor into the world of smart smoke alarms dominated by the team at Nest.

Roel Peeters and James Blackwell, both formerly of Wi-Fi chip maker Ozmo, applied their Wi-Fi know-how to a smart battery, a component that transforms an existing smoke alarm into a connected device that can be monitored remotely courtesy of your garden variety smartphone.

Best of all, the fancy little nine volt did so at the low, low price of $35.

Now that the company has its foot in the door, thanks in no small part to distribution through retail chains like Home Depot, Roost is jumping in with both feet. The hardware startup is launching two new smoke detectors that leverage the battery’s wireless connectivity and app platform for smartphone-based alerts and check-in.

In a conversation with TechCrunch ahead of the announcement, Peeters described the Roost battery as a sort of warm up for the new products. “It’s that kind of maturity and learning that we’re now bringing to the market with the smart smoke alarm. It’s not exactly a new product introduction, because we’re taking the lessons learned from that first product and really bringing that all together in the new products.”

Through that crowdfunded component, he explains, the company was able to create a more well-rounded final product to compete with Nest. “A lot of connectivity bugs were fixed,” said Peeters. “Nothing that was jeopardizing the alarm notifications, but things like the daily check-in were not as reliable as they could have been. And we’ve made tremendous progress there and I’m very pleased with where the product is now. “ 

The RSA-200 is the baseline model, offering smoke and fire detection at $60. For an additional $20, the RSA-400 adds carbon-monoxide and natural gas detection. Either way, the devices are markedly cheaper than Nest’s second-gen offering, as Peeters is more than happy to point out.

“If you look at the price points they’re at, it’s targeted at the one-percent,” the company’s CEO explains, somewhat hyperbolically. “At Roost we’ve had a much more democratic focus on making the smart home affordable. We started with a battery you could use to retrofit [an existing smoke alarm], and we’re following that same thread here.”

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