Let’s face it, we have been hearing for a while that smart homes are the next big thing and that they will revolutionise our lives. With the launch of Nest’s beautiful thermostat in 2011 and their sub sequential sale to Google for $3 billion, the world of home automation was in the mainstream, and people loved the idea of having smart homes with gadgets and sensors! Yet, today we are still in the same place where home automation is the future. Is it? Yes. Are we there? No
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Home automation can make our homes more efficient and safe, and bring convenience and beauty into our lives. The easy part is that the technology exists. Right from smart locks to smart switches, lights and yes, even coffee makers. It’s not only about making existing stuff convenient, its also about having sensors that can detect smoke and gas leaks. These devices can connect to the internet and alert us wherever we and and allow us to control our homes remotely. So if the technology exists, then why are people not going in droves to install this technology? After all, they not only bring efficiency and safety, but also can save us money.
The story of Nest’s second product, the Nest Protect fire alarm offers some good insights. Launched in 2013 with a lot of fanfare, the Nest Protect became an instant phenomenon. It sold almost half a million units in 6 months, and then people started reporting issues around consistency and reliability. By April 2014, Nest had to suspend sales and recall all the units due to consistent false alarms. Therein lies the problem with home automation – it’s not the technology, but the implementation. People are not going to let anything important into their homes if they do not absolutely trust it.
How will home automation become a reality?
Home automation products need to be built like the space shuttle. To win the trust of consumers, the products need to be designed considering every single possibility and offer users the flexibility to customise their experience. Secondly, people should know that even if the primary mechanism of the product fails, there is a backup and that they won’t be left stranded for hours. Thirdly, support and service should be prompt and available 24×7, because people cannot wait for the next working day if your smart lock is not working.
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The huge leap for smart homes is going to be the illusion of seamless evolution. New devices should be built in a manner that even your grandmother can use them. If you get a smart light, it should work even if you don’t have your phone to control it, and a smart lock, initially, should still work with a key.
A lot of us feel that we already have a lot of technology in our lives. That doesn’t mean we need less technology, it means we need good design. Home automation products need to be designed to be invisible. Things that work in the background, are smart to learn the user’s behaviour, and pop up only when there is a genuine need. This is the product design philosophy of Yoky – stay in the background and be there only when necessary.
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About The Author:
This article was contribute by Guruprasad Shenoy, Product Builder at Gida Technologies. He is an ex investment banker from IIM-C and an electronics Engineer. He heads hardware design and manufacturing for Yoky.