Recently, Peter Taylor had an epiphany. He was at a restaurant with his young daughter who was annoyed that the lights were too bright. At home she was used to controlling the lights with her voice using Amazon Echo so she shouted:
“Alexa, lights off!”
The waiter was perplexed as to why a girl would talk to the lights, but it made Taylor and his wife laugh. To their daughter, all lights inherently would respond to her voice commands.
“It made me realize that the connected home is already here,” says Taylor, vice president of products at WeMo, a line of connected home devices by Belkin International, in an interview for ArchiExpo.
Over the 10 years he has been in the industry, people have continued to predict that the connected home would be just around the corner, and though different categories of devices have seen rapid growth rates of 15 to 40 percent annually, most studies estimate that no more than one in four Americans owns a smart home device.
“We’re still in the first wave of connected home devices, and it’s mostly early adopters using it. However, the trend is accelerating and big players like Google, Amazon and Apple are beginning to drive awareness to the category,” says Neil Strother, research analyst with Navigant Research focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT).
“It’s a Kind of Magic”
The promise of a truly intelligent home is alluring and some devices are gaining traction such as home security cameras, thermostats, lighting, door locks and smart plugs. This year Amazon Echo has people excited about home automation, a Bluetooth speaker acting as a personal assistant that sits in your home and responds to voice commands that can turn on the music, adjust your thermostat or add milk to your shopping list.
Read the article: Home Voice Assistant Showdown: Amazon Echo vs. Google Home
“It changes how you interact with things and it feels kind of magical,” says Strother.
While some connected devices still feel clunky and impractical—having to get your smartphone out of your pocket, unlocking the screen and finding the correct app to turn on the light—voice commands are intuitive and natural.
“Our living room has three lamps, a fan and a fish tank and when I say, ‘Alexa, turn on the living room,’ it’s a quite powerful moment to see all five things turn on at the same time,” says Taylor.
Read the article: How to Fix 11 Common Google Home Problems
“Style matters! The home is a reflection of who you are and if you make a poorly designed product, it won’t be used,” says Strother.
WeMo wanted to create a smart plug that blended in at home, but were perhaps too successful, because consumers had a hard time differentiating it from a regular plug.
The home is a reflection of who you are.
“We probably underestimated the importance of design, and I think the next wave of products will have an increased emphasis on creating a more appealing device,” says Taylor.
Connected devices can save us time and money while providing peace of mind by making our home feel more secure. For instance, having a smart plug that automatically turns on your porch light at sunset and turns it off at sunrise.
“You’ll never have to touch the light switch again,” says Taylor.
Difficult even for the Tech Savvy
Connected living is not as simple as buying a new TV or computer—the smart home consists of dozens of vastly different elements, and the current challenge is devices that don’t necessarily talk to each other and require several different apps to control.
“I have 10 devices and the interoperability is such a pain and I haven’t found any killer apps. That’s a frustration many consumers have,” says David Westendorf, president of Binatone, a company that makes baby, home and pet monitors.
“It’s sketchy at best even for tech savvy people,” says Brian Reese, vice president of strategic innovation at Sears Holding Corporation.
Price is another factor, as many smart devices are far more expensive than their “dumber” versions, and even the staunchest tech lovers will probably hesitate to fork over $3,899 for Samsung’s Family Hub smart refrigerator.
And let’s not forget that hackers can break into any device connected to the Internet, best illustrated by a massive cyber attack in October, when hackers used smart home cameras and smart TVs—rather than computers—to crash websites such as Twitter, Netflix and The New York Times.
“But I think these challenges will be overcome the same way Internet banking has done it,” says Strother.
Banks are moving away from usernames and passwords and toward fingerprint scans, device detection and other more secure techniques to identify their customers, Inscoe says. In the near future, they might even use other biometrics like iris scans, facial recognition or voice prints. – Read more here.
It’s a Marathon
The transformation of our homes will likely be a marathon and the starting signal has just only sounded.
“We’re at the same stage as the Internet was at in 1995. We see a lot of possibility and interest but we have yet to solve the challenge of making it easy for the consumer,” says Reese.
Most of the current devices are merely connected, but the vision for the future is to make them truly smart by intuitively predicting and offering what you need. Most experts believe that we won’t even be talking about the smart home in the future, since it will be as ubiquitous as electric outlets in your home.
“Pretty much everything is going to be connected in 10 years,” says Taylor.
10 devices making your home smarter:
- August Smart Lock – unlock your door with your smartphone and monitor who is entering and leaving your home while you’re away. Works with Apple HomeKit
- Ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat – Nest’s thermostat may get all the attention but Ecobee’s alternative is pretty solid too, especially for larger households
- Philips Hue – turn your lights on and off remotely or change the color with these smart light bulbs that also work with a range of other connected home devices
- Netgear Arlo Q – this Wi-Fi enabled security camera can stream video to your phone or computer and will notify you if it detects motion
- Amazon Echo – it may look like a regular Bluetooth speaker but ask the digital assistant Alexa any question and she will help you searching the Web, turn the music, set alarms and other things
- Nest Protect – this smoke and carbon monoxide detector alerts you and can send notifications to your phone when you’re away and can be turned off by a wave if it’s just you’re steak burning on the stove
- Belkin WeMo Switch – the easiest way to start smartening your home is this switch. Plug anything into this smart switch and control it through your smartphone or create automation rules through IFTTT
- EyeSight SingleCue – allows you to control anything from your TV to your lights and climate control by hand gestures and a flick of a finger
- Sleep Number It – even the bed is getting intelligent with sensors tracking and optimizing your sleep. You can also adjust the firmness of the bed through an app and it communicates with a range of other devices
- Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator – this smart fridge has a large touchscreen (with a calendar, notes, music and other apps) and three cameras that take a photo whenever you close the door so you can keep track of when you’re out of milk