Next-generation smart homes

By Lin Zhiqin
/ EdgeProp |
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Franklin Tang talks about Habitap, Asia’s first fully integrated smart home app, which can also be customised for commercial and mixed-use developments
Although his company is called Philip Tang & Sons, CEO Franklin Tang is better known as “the Habitap guy” to those in the real estate industry. That is because the home-grown tech company and Tang are behind Habitap, billed as Asia’s first fully integrated platform that seamlessly blends smart home control, smart condominium management and lifestyle offerings.
Keppel Land was an early adopter of Habitap with its luxury condo, Corals at Keppel Bay, designed by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind and completed last year. All 366 units at Corals at Keppel Bay are fitted with a “smart hub”, which allows the residents to control their main door lock and air-conditioning units via their smartphone. The intercom system has been incorporated into the app, allowing homeowners to vet and grant access to visitors using their phones, thus eliminating the need to have a physical intercom mounted in the home.
Residents will also be able to use the Habitap app to book condo facilities as well as for linked services such as ride-hailing app Grab, food delivery service Deliveroo and online food, grocery and laundry service Honestbee.
Keppel Land is an early adopter of Habitap with its Corals at Keppel Bay project
Tang says Habitap will also be deployed at seven upcoming condos, including Keppel Land’s 726-unit The Glades and 500-unit Highline Residences, UOL Group’s 505-unit The Clement Canopy and Tuan Sing’s 130-unit Kandis Residence. The Clement Canopy will see the launch of a new feature called Dynamic Access Control, which allows residents to use their smartphones to unlock condo facilities based on their booking on Habitap.
Scale model of Highline Residences, which will also feature Habitap smart homes
Residents of The Clement Canopy will be able to use their smartphones to unlock condo facilities based on their booking on Habitap
Tang is also collaborating with leading German brands such as Bosch and Gaggenau to expand the range of smart appliances linked to the Habitap app to include washer-dryer and coffee machines. In the future, residents will be able to remotely activate their washing machine and put it on the spin or dry cycle, or set their coffee machine to prepare a cappuccino or latte while they are getting ready for work. Tang reckons these appliances will be available in projects launched next year. “This way, smart homes will have a more complete range of smart devices,” he adds.
Habitap can also allow for different “scenes” to suit various moods at home. For instance, in the morning scene, the curtains will be opened automatically to let in the light. At night, the curtains will be drawn and lights switched on. Users who have Amazon Echo or Google Home will be able to issue voice commands to control the smart devices or switch scenes, and even control the type of music to be played. Eventually, Habitap will incorporate artificial intelligence, says Tang. For instance, the smart home will be able to recognise your habits and mood, operating your smart devices automatically and playing the most suitable music, he says.
Birth of Habitap
Philip Tang & Sons was incorporated in 1980 as a management and accounting services company by Tang’s father, Philip Tang. Having joined the company in 2001, Tang has worked on close to 200 software and IT projects. He believes they can “do a lot more” with the experience the company had gained over the years.
Habitap has its roots in a project the company undertook in 2014. “We were collaborating with a global tech company,” recounts Tang. “I cannot name them, but we developed the first prototype smart home app and concept for them.”
Many of the smart home products were built for the US market, where most people live in houses and every household is a silo, adds Tang. In Singapore, most people live in high-rise residential blocks. Therefore, most of the smart home products on the market may not suit the Singapore lifestyle.
Another hurdle is that every smart home product has its own app. “Each time you want to control a device, you have to open an app,” says Tang. “That means you end up with 20 to 30 apps, and it takes a long time to do what you want.”
Taking inspiration from the “universal remote control”, Tang designed Habitap around three pillars: the Internet of Things (IoT), creating a community and the gateway to a lifestyle. “Habitap means smart homes that are connected and driven by software,” he says.
As Habitap is a software, it is not tied to an ecosystem of hardware products. Consumers therefore need not be forced to buy products from the same brand for compatibility reasons, says Tang. They also need not worry about hardware obsolescence. For instance, for sound systems, Habitap can work with Sonos or Bose; for voice activation, it can use Amazon Echo or Google Home. “Our app is able to support almost every product,” he adds. “We’re brand agnostic.”
The app will also be automatically updated so users can enjoy new features with each new version, adds Tang. Subscribers to Habitap currently pay subscription fees of just $15 a month, which entitles them to unlimited scene settings and an unlimited number of smart home devices that can be linked to the app — from the TV to lights, air-conditioning units, fans, refrigerator or even washer-dryer. There is also no further charge for new smart household devices to be linked to the Habitap system, he adds
Tang: Habitap means smart homes that are connected and driven by software
Mixed-use, commercial space
Philip Tang & Sons has also developed an app for M+S called MySphere. It is the first app in Singapore that connects the communities — from businesses to residents and visitors — across two integrated developments, DUO and Marina One, which were developed by M+S, the joint venture between Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. Combined, the two projects will have more than 1,600 residential units, almost 2.45 million sq ft of office space, close to 200,000 sq ft of retail space and the 342-unit Andaz Singapore hotel.
The app offers mobile turnstile access and automated lift assignment by authenticating office workers from their smartphones. It is also convenient for visitors to the office buildings. They will be given a code on their smartphones for access through the security gantry without having to queue up to obtain a visitor’s pass.
MySphere will allow office tenants to contact the maintenance staff and the concierge service as well as book the use of a bicycle, an e-scooter or a car under a sharing scheme. Using their smartphones, office tenants and residents can book and access facilities not only within their own development but in the other as well. Those in Marina One can book the meeting room at Andaz Singapore in DUO. Likewise, office tenants at DUO will be able to book the auditorium at Marina One. It can also be used by residents for booking condo facilities, contacting the handyman or making dinner reservations at any restaurant in DUO or Marina One.
The communities at M+S’s
Across borders
Tang believes Habitap is the leading smart home player in the condo segment and the sole player in the commercial and mixed-use space. Habitap is also ideal for co-working spaces, and it has already been adopted by Kloud, Keppel Land’s serviced/co-working space at Keppel Bay Tower in Singapore and at its future co-working centres in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Yangon, Myanmar.
Members will be able to book and unlock meeting rooms using their smartphones or dim the lights during presentation. They will also be able to send an invitation to guests and sign them in automatically when they RSVP.
Tang says Habitap is gaining traction in the commercial segment and he has secured a deal where it will be used in two commercial buildings in the CBD.
He is also exploring the use of Habitap in two mixed-use developments in Indonesia. Another area of interest is student accommodation, which Tang sees as a form of co-working and co-living. Tang is already in talks with a student accommodation firm, he reveals.
Tang’s dream is to connect users and buildings across cities and countries. Therefore, he is in talks with developers whose portfolios include a mix of properties. “Every project is a building block for us,” he says.
This article appeared in The Edge Property Pullout, Issue 797 (Sept 18, 2017) of The Edge Singapore

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