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Tech Startup: JStar synchronizes with your house and all the gadgets inside

Denver-based JSTAR’s “black box” acts as nerve center to automate connected devices


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JSTAR

WHERE: Denver 
WEBwww.josh.ai 
FOUNDED: 2013

INITIAL LIGHTBULB

Tim Gill, well known in Colorado as the founder of Quark, started developing the artificial intelligence behind JSTAR to automate his Denver home in 2012.

“It was his personal project,” says Gill’s co-founder, Alex Capecelatro. “He was just hacking around on his own.” Gill would use it to turn on lights and music, adjust the heat and air conditioning, and otherwise coordinate all of his connected devices.

As Gill perfected “his own personal smart home,” he connected with Capecelatro to start JSTAR.

The duo named their AI “chatbot” interface JOSH, honed its personality and linguistic processing, and launched the product in September 2016.

JSTAR currently has about 15 employees split between its Denver headquarters and an office in Los Angeles. Gill is the company’s CTO and Capecelatro serves as CEO.

IN A NUTSHELL

JSTAR’s “black box” acts as the nerve center to automate all of the connected devices in a home, says Capecelatro. It integrates the devices with iPhones, iPads, Androids and other interfaces for voice control.

“We auto-populate the rooms,” he says of the system. “Pretty much instantly, you can play The Beatles in the kitchen and turn on the lights in the living room.”

The speech recognition technology is specifically designed for home automation and is more accurate than Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, says Capecelatro.

“We’re the only platform that can handle complex commands,” he says. “We do a number of things that allow for an infinite number of commands strung together in a single breath.”

For example, most systems might have trouble with a command like,
“Play Simon and Garfunkel,” and separate the two singers at the end. Not JOSH, says Capecelatro.

He anticipates launching JOSH in non-English-speaking countries by the end of 2017.

The system can be programmed for daily routines and adjust to users’ lifestyles. “We’re the only system that’s focused on learning patterns in the home,” explains Capecelatro. “The system gets smarter as time goes on.”

Price is another differentiator, he adds. JOSH is in the $2,000 ballpark, less than competing systems from Crestron and Savant.

JOSH is currently “running in a couple dozen homes,” says Capecelatro, and shipping to more every week. 

Robert Costanza of RVC Systems in San Jose, Calif., installed JOSH in a client’s home in late 2016. “Probably within 30 minutes, I had it up and running,” he says.

Noting that it’s a good fit for homes with at least 10 connected devices, Costanza calls competing technology “more involved,” and says, “You have to have an integrator out there to change anything.” With JOSH, he’s able to add devices. “It’s so easy. I don’t have to do anything.”

THE MARKET

Selling through home installation professionals, JSTAR’s initial target market is owners of homes worth $1.2 million or more, but it will move into broader markets in coming years. “We’re basically taking the Tesla approach,” says Capecelatro. “It’s analogous to going from the Roadster to the Model S.”

The company will essentially follow the adoption of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices into the mainstream. While most homes might currently have one or two connected devices, he adds, “By 2020, it’s going to be 20 or 30 devices.”

FINANCING

“We’ve been fortunate to self-finance,” says Capacelatro. “We get approached all the time, but we’re not actively raising money. It needs to be the right partners and it needs to make sense.”

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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