At CES, Big Ass Fans wants to save the smart home from itself

The team at Big Ass Fans is revealing an entire new smart-home division called Haiku Home, and we asked company CEO Carey Smith to tell us all about it.

Big Ass Fans made a pretty compelling case for the connected ceiling fan when it introduced the app-enabled Haiku with intelligent sensor technology in 2014. Now, at this year's Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, the company is doubling down on the Haiku name, with an entire Haiku division focused solely on the connected home.

The original Haiku ceiling fan with SenseMe technology.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

The ceiling fan is still front and center in the product lineup -- namely, the new $450 Haiku L Series, a significantly more affordable version of the original Haiku that offloads those built-in smarts into a separate Haiku Wall Control unit that will sell for $125. Other peripherals include a smart recessed light fixture and, further down the road, an entire Haiku-branded smart HVAC unit.

It's all part of the smart home plan at Big Ass Solutions, of which both Big Ass Fans and the new Haiku Home are divisions. But this is not your usual smart home company -- at least not according to Carey Smith, Big Ass Solutions' likably ornery CEO.

"[The connected home] is in the very early stages," Smith says, "and when people ask why hasn't this caught on, well, what the hell is there to catch on? There's nothing there. I mean, taking something off of the wall and putting it on your telephone...it's a conceit to imagine that that's anything interesting or important. You aren't doing jack is what it comes down to."

Big Ass Solutions CEO Carey Smith.

Big Ass Solutions

That might seem like an odd thing for the maker of an app-enabled ceiling fan to say, but Smith thinks his company's approach to the connected home sets it apart.

"With the rest of what's out there...You see the inklings, you see the beginning of it. Each thing is a piece. I mean, you could buy all of the pieces to build a car, but that's a pain in the ass."

Smith would rather just sell you the so-called car. In his view, that means offering a practical smart home setup that does the thinking for you.

"Our view of what the consumer is actually asking for is a house where they can walk from their bedroom to their child's bedroom and there's not a 20-degree swing," he explains. "Where they walk into a dark room and it's automatically lit appropriately for the time of day, and with the minimum amount of light needed to do so, and therefore the minimum amount of energy. It's an anticipatory, responsive environment."

The bit about saving energy is an especially important part of the company's vision. Smith sees it as one of the most important drivers for smart-home adoption -- both with consumers and with the housing market. And Smith thinks the Haiku Home line is uniquely positioned to take advantage on both fronts.

"This is something that can make an impact in every house," he says. "They can talk in Paris until their eyeballs fall out and nothing is going to change. The difference is going to be made on the ground, in individuals' homes. And you're not going to ask individuals to think about this. You're going to provide it, so they don't have to think about it."

In Smith's view, that means a lot more than just offering app-enabled automation smarts. "The connected home is a big part of it, but it's just an ingredient," he explains. "It's not the cake."

Cakes, cars and other metaphors aside, Smith has a point. It doesn't matter how smart a smart product is if it isn't a good product. And the Haiku ceiling fan is, by most accounts, a very good product. We took a tour of the Big Ass Fans production floor in Lexington, Kentucky back when SenseMe tech made its debut, and saw firsthand the amount of work that the company puts into crafting and balancing its gorgeous-looking residential fans.

The Haiku ceiling fan having its balance calibrated on the Big Ass Fans production floor in Lexington, Kentucky.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Smith sees that manufacturing expertise as another ace up his sleeve. "Within the last year we've added 30 coders for software and firmware," he says. "That's easy for us to do. But if you're a company making software and then you need to start manufacturing something, well, that's a very long row to hoe. It just is. It's hard. It's a shorter step for us."

The Haiku L Series ceiling fan and the Haiku Wall Control unit are both slated to start selling this month on the Haiku Home website. The color-tunable Haiku Designer Series Light is expected to start selling in April for $149, with the Haiku HVAC system joining the mix sometime after that. We'll look forward to testing and reviewing each product in the CNET Smart Home -- for now, you can check out our Haiku Home product gallery for a closer look at all of them.

As for Smith, he'll be joining us for CNET's CES 2016 Smart Home Panel at the CNET main stage in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center on Thursday, January 7 at 2:15 p.m. CNET Reviews' Editor-in-Chief Lindsey Turrentine will again be serving as moderator of the panel, which includes Smith, CNET Smart Home Executive Editor Rich Brown and representatives from Samsung, Nest and Amazon. Tickets are available online -- if you're in Las Vegas for the show this week, we hope you'll join us.

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