APIs as startup opportunity: Eneco Toon API

Many corporates are adopting open innovation, and are creating interfaces (APIs). These APIs are opportunities for startups to directly do business with corporates without cumbersome negotiations and discussions. As StartupJuncture we believe in more business and less hassle for startups and have decided to review several promising APIs, starting with Eneco’s Toon API.

The Toon device

quby-toon-thermostatLike NEST and some other devices, Toon is a smart, connected thermostat. The device measures temperature, controls the heating and is also connected to the Internet. Toon was actually the first smart thermostat in Europe, and has a large installed base. According to Eneco there are 275.000 devices sold, mostly in The Netherlands. The thermostat can be wall-mounted, replacing older thermostats. It has a large colour touch screen display with information on temperature, energy usage and control options. It also provides remote control via an app: extremely useful if you left the heat on while on holiday.

philips-hueToon started as just a thermostat but is developing into a more complete ‘home automation’ platform. One can connect Philips Hue lamps to the Toon and switch on the lights remotely. One can also connect ‘smart plugs’ to it, allowing one to control basically any device from Toon as long as it just needs an on/off signal. There are further interfaces on the roadmap (Z-wave has been mentioned). Once these interfaces are available, Toon would basically be a home automation platform. The current API however does not have all these features: as of today it only supports energy insight (electricity, gas and Dutch district heating, depending on where you live) and thermostat control.

Quby: the company behind Toon

The Toon was invented by Dutch startup Quby, with Eneco as a major customer. Because Eneco wanted to invest further in Toon, it became a shareholder: in 2013 they obtained the majority of shares, and in summer 2015 all shares. Since then Quby acts as an independent company within Eneco, located at arms’ length: The about 130 Quby engineers are in Amsterdam, while the Eneco headquarters is in Rotterdam.

The Toon API

The Toon API is marketed separately at www.toonapi.com. The platform was developed early 2016 and quietly launched at TNW in May 2016. At the website, developers can register and get access to a virtual Toon so that they can code and test immediately. Once their app is finished, it is tested by Quby and the developer receives the API key for connecting to actual devices (see this developer journey for a full overview). Currently there is one independent developer who is using the API: Wake Up, developed by Node1* is in beta test.

The API itself is fairly straightforward: it is a normal ‘JSON-REST’ API that should be easy to understand for most developers. It is very interesting to see that the API does not only provide information: it really gives control to third party apps. This explains why a review process for apps is needed: apps using the API can really change the energy (and thus save energy or increase comfort).

The API seems to use a freemium model: API keys for up to 1000 users are free. This is enough for most startups to build and test their business model. Once startups have more than 1000 customers, startups must contact Toon and discuss a high volume license. “We want to support any app to grow beyond 1000 users, but we need to know what kind of system load each app generates before we can provide a high volume license. A discussion is therefore needed” says Juriaan Seveke from the Toon API team.

Startup opportunities

The current API is energy focused: it provides opportunities for startups that need energy data, for instance for an energy savings game. In the future, this API would have much broader use: any Internet of Things device could be connected via this API to the Internet: startups would benefit from not having to develop any hardware, and could also talk Eneco into marketing their app to all existing Toon customers.

* Note: Node1 is part-owned by the author.

Image credit: Selected from quby.com website

Sieuwert van Otterloo
Sieuwert van Otterloo is IT expert by day and startup enthusiast by night. IT expert via Softwarezaken | innovation expert via Node1 | editor and cofounder of StartupJuncture | member of StartupDelta | startup investor. Reach out to Sieuwert via otterloo @ gmail .com

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