Are smart devices making you feel silly?
Sam Buckby, September 2016
I get it, I see it, I hear the concerns. The whole world is going “smart”, right? You’ve got a smartphone, you’ve got a smart TV and you’ve probably got a couple of relatively smart appliances. I mean that Thermomix you paid $2000 for is “smart” isn’t it? That’s what the 20-something salesperson said to you anyway… But if these things are making life a little easier, well, that’s awesome but, do you feel like these smart devices are really creating a life less complicated? Perhaps you feel like they actually need more of your input than you like, and certainly more than the stuff you grew up with. So how is that easier? It’s complicated, it really is. We are supposedly moving toward a world where EVERYTHING is connected through the “Internet of Things” (or IoT if you wanna sound with it). It is said that every object, electronic or human, will be connected in the near future, changing the way we communicate forever. This sounds like that movie “Avatar,” doesn’t it. A network of “life” were every person knows everybody’s business and every THING knows every other thing’s secrets. Plug your brain in and hold on for the ride, right? Look, I’m going to be honest. I work in this field, smart homes are my thing, but not unlike you – the average punter – I’m a little concerned about this whole IoT thing. I mean we all want life to be less complicated, but do you honestly feel that technology is achieving this? Well, for me, the answer is undeniably “No.” If we forget to give these smart devices the data or information they need, then they invariably fail. If the communication protocols that our smart devices are utilising (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet – you get the gist) fail, then guess what? Also no good. What if the actual technology, that piece of extreme electronic engineering you’ve paid good money for Just. Freaking. Stops. Working? Hold your breath, count to ten… Not only is this tech failing to make your life easier, but it also makes it worse because now you have to replace the damned thing! So why? Why in the back of our minds do we want this? Why is this one of the fastest-growing markets in the world right now? Why is it you have to have the latest, greatest smartphone in your handbag or pocket? Well, despite all the downsides highlighted up to this point, there is an upside and it is promising. So, let me tell you why you will be part of this market in a very big way in the not-so-distant future. The tech heads are already there. They are not the ones that need convincing. But what are the benefits and outcomes that the average Joe needs to take this leap of faith? Get ready to take a walk down memory lane. Any of us over the age of 40 to 50 have most probably (almost certainly) been through this change in the way we assess, purchase and use certain products. So who owns a car? If you owned a car in the 60s or 70s you got a chassis, an outer shell, 4 wheels and a motor. That was about it. Then in the 80s and early 90s seatbelts became mandatory, airbags arrived, power-assisted steering evolved, air conditioning became standard and cars got more fuel-efficient. From the 90s to now, we have added in climate control, satellite navigation, integration with smartphones and hybrid and electric cars that cost practically nothing to run. And funnily enough, the people who are driving their advanced, safe, efficient and convenient Audis or BMWs around now are the same people who most probably drove their Ford Falcons to work many years ago. In many cases these are also the same people who feel that the technology being thrust upon us in the home automation space is too complex and problematic and frankly, not worth the investment. So what’s the difference? There are probably a couple of differences, the first that come to mind being availability and affordability. But beyond that there is actually only one main reason that the residential market lags so far behind that of the automotive industry. Synergy. When you want a new car you go to a dealership, pick out one that best suits your needs and you like the look of. You go on to add any “extras” – additional air bags, rear air conditioning, sunroof, and so on. You sign on the dotted line and pick it up some time later. A single visit (in most cases), a single point of contact, a single manufacturer and a single warranty to back it all up. All very simple, succinct and coordinated. Synergy. Now consider fitting out your home with the optional extras – a better security system, automated climate control, motorised windows, a multi-room audio system, a lighting control package – all leading market segments in the home automation sector. But you need to speak with a security firm, a heating/cooling company, a window manufacturer, an audiovisual specialist and an electrician or lighting control integrator. It’s no wonder it all seems a little too hard! Now let’s imagine you’ve battled through the quoting, organising and installing phase of all this stuff and just a few months down the line the windows stop automatically opening on warm days. Well, that’s fine, you’ll just call the window company… or the electrician who wired them… or perhaps the heating and cooling mob, as they linked the windows to their system… or… Who knows! Not sure this is can be considered synergy. Yep, I don’t blame you for wanting to move into a cave right now where nothing can go wrong. So can the residential industry overcome this problem? Can synergy be achieved for the poor consumers who just want a safer home, a more efficient home, a more convenient home? Yeah, it can, and the automotive industry had their hiccups too. I mean this is exactly what we do. We manage the whole process to create seamless installation, but more importantly, seamless functionality is at the end of it all. Climate control that incorporates windows, blinds, awnings and ceiling fans, using next to no power at all. Active heating and cooling systems that only kick in once the weather gets too extreme for passive systems. Safety and security systems that have the standard motion detectors and sirens, but also include electronic locking systems and automated lighting control to stop anyone before they can even get inside. There are now many ways to create homes that work and perform as good as they look. Achieving a highly functional, future-proof and smart home is actually not all that hard, but it all comes down to getting one thing right… the design. But that’s another blog post altogether!