Tech Transformers

This app wants to control your whole home

Smart remote will deliver 'actionable advertising'

Sit back, dim the lights, turn up the heating and put on your favorite film...all with one app.

Homes are getting more connected, with thermostats and locks already linked to the internet in some homes. Now, one U.S. start-up is looking to take advantage of this growing trend with an app that lets you control your whole home from your smartphone.

Peel - which was founded in 2009 and last year received $50 million of funding from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba - hopes its app can become the remote control for the home.

"In the connected environment, you have to launch one app to turn off the light, one to control the heating, one to check the water sprinklers," Thiru Arunachalam, co-founder and CEO of Peel, told CNBC at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"I don't know if consumers want a siloed life like that."


Users can connect devices to the app, called Peel Smart Remote, via bluetooth or wifi.

The app shows what programs are currently on TV and users can use it to change the channel. Arunachalam said he is hoping the company can partner with streaming services such as Netflix to integrate the service into its app.


Arunachalam, a former Apple employee, admitted that the connected home market was nascent. But he said he hoped to partner with device makers to help sell hardware to the app's 125 million users and create its own market.

"Us having this huge a distribution will make the internet of things industry happen. We are going to be focusing on helping these guys sell units to our users and build a market," Arunachalam said.

To date the company has received $95 million over four rounds of funding, including a $50 million cash injection from China's Alibaba.

China is a key market for Peel, Arunachalam explained, adding that he hoped its relationship with Alibaba would help it penetrate the world's second-largest economy.

"If you look at the smartphone market, a good lump of market share has been taken by Chinese players. That is why we needed a Chinese investor to crack China. Most people haven't been able to do it," the CEO said.

IPO ahead

The company is not yet profitable, but is beginning to monetize by selling "featured" slots to TV companies that want to promote their shows.

Arunachalam was candid, however, and said he was not yet sure how the company would monetize people using Peel to control things like lights.

And as for going public? Arunachalam revealed to CNBC that this was on the horizon in the next "two to three years."