How a Japanese hardware startup lets your phone and home appliances talk to each other



On the way back home from a day at work, it would be great if you could turn on your air-conditioner to make your room comfortable for when you arrive. Or you might want to start filling your bathtub with hot water, so you can jump in without any delay.

The Japanese government has decided to lift regulations for the remote control of consumer electronics, which had been established to avoid possible fires or accidents at unmanned places. But this change could motivate some Japanese startups to develop solutions that could may make our daily lives a lot more convenient. Pluto, a hardware startup comprised of three engineering graduate students from the University of Tokyo, introduced a smartphone-based remote control system for consumer electronics products this past December. Dubbed Pluto Station, it is available at Amazon Japan for 12,800 yen (about $140).


The system consists of a smartphone-optimized web app (available on iOS 5.1+ or Android OS 4.0+) and a base station that connects to your home internet. It allows you access to all your remote-controllable appliances, after the station learns infrared signal patterns from remote controllers in advance.

The team first developed a prototype in April of 2010, with the aim of presenting at an annual campus festival at the university. Akito Gyoen, the head of the team, thought it would be unrealistic for people to replace all appliances with brand new, internet-enabled models. But when he first saw the iPhone 3G in 2008, he thought that the smartphone would be an ideal remote controlling device. That motivated him to start working on the new idea with the other two people.

There’s an atmosphere of hope in Japan nowadays that integrating physical devices with the internet will bring us some sort of the innovation we’ve never seen, and that it might also trigger a huge boom in digital craftsmanship.

(Via: Engineer Type, Career Design Center, Tokyo)