We’re thrilled to announce Andrew Dai as our new Director of Hardware Engineering. Andrew comes to Flair from Nest and Tesla.
Andrew grew up in Boston and attended Northwestern University, where he graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering. Andrew started his career by developing software and hardware for Tesla Motors. He then led hardware projects for Nest Labs.
Andrew’s extensive experience in hardware development has led him to believe that great technology comes from close attention to mechanical design, electrical engineering, firmware development, cloud services, user interaction, and customer usage. I talked to Andrew about joining Flair and building hardware at our Berkeley headquarters.
Q: Nest and Tesla are large companies. What drove you to join Flair?
I’ve always been interested in how we can use energy more efficiently. I was at Nest for about four-and-a-half years and worked on all sorts of consumer products. Before that, I developed hardware and software at Tesla Motors for charging systems.
I remember growing up in Boston. My mom used to spend $700 a month during the winter to heat this old drafty house, but she would only stay in two rooms: the kitchen and her bedroom! We need to think about how we can efficiently heat and cool homes. Smart thermostats have helped us to start thinking about maximizing comfort and saving energy, but one thermostat isn’t enough.
What do you think about Flair’s hardware?
I’m amazed at what this small team has accomplished. Larger companies usually have whole teams focused on just the mechanical engineering or the industrial design. Then they have these other teams for firmware, software, web services, and so on. I’m impressed by how Flair has developed the Puck and Smart Vent with a small team. They set up a factory and went through FCC and EMI testing. It’s really impressive. I’m excited to work with them and develop new products!
What is your favorite feature in the Flair product suite?
Definitely the Smart Vents. When I left Nest, people were asking where I was going. When I told them I was joining Flair, most of them would respond by saying, “That’s a great idea! I have this room in my house on the second floor that faces the west side. It’s always sweltering in the afternoon when I get home. And then there’s this room on the east side on the first floor that’s always cold.” It’s so cool that Flair is poised to be one of the early manufacturers in rethinking home heating and cooling.
What do you always try to keep in mind when designing and building hardware?
It’s important to have tight integration with the rest of the team. Back in the day one person made hardware and someone else made software on top of that. It led to these convoluted structures in the design process. Nowadays things are more integrated. Software and hardware developers sit side-by-side to build efficient and secure products. It’s important to integrate with product design as well. It’s the details that make a beautiful industrial design.
I always make sure to check everything twice—or more! You have to make sure every possible situation works perfectly. Testing to just make sure that the bare-bones function works doesn't cut it, especially with consumer products. These are devices that are going into people’s homes. They’re going to be devices that they see every day. You can’t have a product that will flake out on them and leave them cold in the dead of winter. You have to make something that’s beautiful and reliable. There’s really no other option.