Beyond Wi-Fi: why AI is 'the future of air conditioning'


03 April 2024
AI-driven smart AC can learn from user behaviour over time, customising settings to individual preferences automatically

Ran Roth, CEO and co-founder of climate tech IoT company Sensibo, believes the air conditioning industry needs to embrace the benefits of artificial intelligence.

In an era defined by the pressing need to address climate change, one of the most significant contributors to energy consumption is often overlooked—the ubiquitous air conditioner (AC). The key to addressing this issue lies in the synergy of AI and cutting-edge technology, which also will assist brands to differentiate themselves from competitors, create new revenue, enhance customer loyalty and the ability to upsell. In addition, AI-infused smart ACs have the potential to revolutionise the industry by optimising energy consumption, improving efficiency, and ultimately mitigating their environmental impact.

While Wi-Fi connectivity has enabled remote control and monitoring of AC units, it falls short of realising the full potential of smart technology. AI-driven smart ACs can learn from user behaviour over time, customising settings to individual preferences automatically. This level of sophistication goes beyond the capabilities of basic Wi-Fi connectivity, offering a truly intelligent and user-friendly experience, assisting in customer loyalty.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 25% of the world’s energy is consumed by heating/cooling devices. As temperatures rise globally and the demand for cooling solutions intensifies, the environmental impact of traditional AC units becomes increasingly alarming. While the integration of Wi-Fi capabilities has marked a step forward in connectivity, it is high time for AC manufacturers to embrace artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, Machine Learning, sensors, and advanced technologies to create a new generation of smart air conditioners that go beyond mere connectivity.

New industrial revolution

The climate is becoming more extreme, and Sensibo’s data shows that the average customer uses their heating and cooling devices 43% more compared to the past 5 years. Around the world there are nearly 1.5Bn air conditioners, while Sensibo has found that 37% of users forget to turn the AC off at least once a week. We are in the midst of a new wave of the industrial revolution, powered by data and IoT: how will AC brands and manufacturers leverage these innovations to reduce CO₂ emissions, while creating new revenue streams and completely changing the perception of end customers about their brand? 

Traditional air conditioners, despite their efficiency in cooling and heating, are notorious for their energy consumption, leading to substantial carbon emissions. The use of air conditioning has a significant impact on the environment. According to the US Department of Energy, air conditioning’s energy consumption results in the release of 117 million metric tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere every year.

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AI’s most recent development, ChatGPT, can be used in this smart AC revolution: ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, an AI and research company. It is an advanced language model that uses a deep learning architecture called transformers. Sensibo, the leading Climate Tech IoT company combining smart heating and cooling devices with a more sustainable world, uses ChatGPT to suggest recommendations based on the user’s behaviour patterns, such as an automated AC schedule based on custom behaviour of the user. Leveraging the power of advanced AI promises to augment user experience and boost energy efficiency, marking a notable stride towards sustainable living. 

In addition, AI-powered sensors enhance the precision of temperature control within a given space. By continuously analysing data on room occupancy, external weather conditions, and user preferences, smart ACs can dynamically adjust their settings to maintain optimal comfort without unnecessary energy expenditure. This intelligent adaptation not only reduces energy consumption but also leads to significant cost savings for consumers.

Enabling predictive maintenance

Moreover, AI algorithms can enable predictive maintenance, identifying potential issues before they escalate into costly repairs, thus reducing visits, costs and having the right parts needed for repair. Predictive maintenance can also provide quantitative information to the end user informing them about the benefits of replacing their old unit with a new, more energy efficient equipment. 

Furthermore, the integration of machine learning algorithms can facilitate demand response capabilities. Smart ACs can collaborate with energy grids to optimise cooling cycles during periods of low demand, contributing to a more stable and sustainable energy ecosystem. This not only benefits individual consumers by potentially reducing electricity costs but also alleviates the strain on the overall energy infrastructure. Moreover, the data collected by AI-infused smart ACs can be harnessed to generate valuable insights for energy planners and policymakers. Aggregated and anonymised usage patterns can help identify trends in energy consumption, inform the development of targeted energy efficiency programmes, and guide the planning of future energy infrastructure investments. This data-driven approach empowers decision-makers to make informed choices that reduce the load on grids, such as the recent struggle that ERCOT experienced in Texas this summer, while demand exceeded previous records for 42 days in the summer of 2023.

Recently, Sensibo’s vision became a reality when we launched Sensibo OS for AC brands and manufacturers that are looking to infuse AI into their technology and differentiate themselves with smart technology that other players have failed to offer. We commenced an important partnership with a leading AC manufacturer, integrating Sensibo OS into their air conditioners and heat pumps, allowing their customers to control their devices from anywhere using Sensibo’s suite of mobile smart AC functions such as smart scheduling; geo-fencing; climate react; and voice control.

Customers will also be able to take advantage of Sensibo’s machine-learning algorithms to help them conserve energy and enjoy greater comfort and control. This use case is a true win as the AC manufacturer is providing its customers with an enhanced customer experience with a plethora of mobile features, alongside creating new revenue streams and a brand enhancement. For this vision to become a reality, collaboration between AC manufacturers and tech companies is essential: manufacturers and tech companies must collaborate on research and development to bring these advanced solutions to market.

Real-time adaptation

The integration of AI in smart ACs also aligns with the broader trend of the Internet of Things (IoT) and interconnected devices. These systems can communicate not only with each other but also with external environmental sensors and weather forecasts. This level of connectivity allows smart ACs to anticipate temperature fluctuations, adapting in real-time to create more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly cooling solutions.

In conclusion, the imperative for AC manufacturers to embrace AI and advanced technologies extends beyond the realm of connectivity. Smart ACs, powered by artificial intelligence, data, machine learning and sensors hold the key to a more sustainable future by reducing energy consumption, minimising environmental impact and providing consumers with unprecedented levels of comfort and control. The industry is ushering in a new era of climate-conscious solutions which are creating business value and new revenue streams. Those who adopt these technologies will charge forward, and those who do not embrace them will be left behind.