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Ruling the Roost

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Upgrading ‘regular’ devices to smart alternatives can be an expensive caper but what if all it took was replacing the battery? Joe Young reports.

It’s a home owner’s nightmare to be woken up at 2am by a smoke alarm telling them, through an obnoxious and repetitive beep, that they need to change the battery in their smoke detector.

Now, a Californian start-up called Roost has released a 9V battery that will send a push notification to a home owner’s phone before that dreaded alarm goes off.

It will also send a notification to the home owner if the alarm sounds.

It’s no surprise that there are smart smoke detectors on the market like the Nest Protect but incorporating the smart technology into a battery is providing the market with a considerably cheaper alternative to completely upgrading an old smoke detector system (photoelectric, of course).

“The Roost Smart Battery is the only smart 9V battery that is patented and upgrades a normal smoke alarm into a ‘smart smoke alarm’,” says Roost head of marketing David Henry.

Not to mention that the upgrade requires only a simple battery swap, a much easier task than re-wiring and installing a new system.

So how does it work?

Inside the smart battery is a primary lithium battery, a WiFi chip, a microprocessor and a piezoelectric sensor. When the alarm sounds, it wakes up the sensor which communicates via WiFi to the Roost Cloud which will in turn send a notification to the user’s smart phone via the Roost app.

To be fair, Roost doesn’t offer the same functionality as the Nest Protect, which offers IFTTT integration. But it can carve out its own section of the market for home owners who want a cheap yet basic smart upgrade for their smoke detectors.

Pricing is not yet available for the Australian market, but in the US a Roost battery costs about $US35, compared to a Nest Protect at $US99.

Like any standard 9V battery, the Roost battery will die after a few years but the user only needs to replace the chemical battery section of the unit, which is priced at $15 and reattach it to the part of the battery with the smart technology built-in. That cost is comparable to a standard 9V battery which is typically around $10.

The Roost app can show you if your battery levels are good, low or critical and if you have multiple batteries installed around the house, if set off, the app can show you which alarm has been activated.

“We started shipping the smart battery in the US almost a year ago,” David says.

“Since then we have shipped thousands of batteries via retail, online and through insurance companies in the US.”

But they haven’t come to Australia yet.

The manufacturer is looking to increase its presence in the smart home protection market by launching solutions for carbon monoxide and flooding protection.

The RSA-400 is a smoke, fire, carbon monoxide and natural gas detection device and comes with the Roost smart battery.

Then there is the water and freeze detector. The idea is a home owner can place water sensors in appropriate places around the house, such as next to tap or shower fixtures or next to the toilet and when the sensor detects water leakage, it will send an alert to the home owner so they can stop a leak turning into flood .

It doesn’t offer the same functionality as the Water Cop Pro, which shuts off the main valve automatically when a leak is detected, but again this solution can carve out its own part of the market where homeowners want a cheap and basic smart upgrade.

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