Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Recently, there has been a flurry of articles about IoT and home automation, spurred by Apple’s announcement of HomeKit and Google’s announcement that Nest is buying DropCam. Yesterday, I read an interesting article about how WSJ Tech Columnist Christopher Mims visited SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson to “see how he’s turned his home into one of the “smartest” homes in America.”
I applaud this focus on an area of technology that could indeed be of direct benefit to my family and me. But it also raises questions:
As an Mac, iPhone and iPad user, will I be able to extend the useful Apple platform in to a virtual iHouse?
Will Google/Nest/DropCam morph into a useful House+ platform? Will it interoperate with my Apple stuff or will I have to switch?
Will another more independent company such as SmartThings really make possible a SmartHome?
How much of this will be really useful and easy to use, rather than be a series of geeky science fair projects?
It was interesting to read Christopher Mims comments about how SmartThings home automation does lots of cool stuff, but not necessarily in an easier way. Maybe using an iPhone to control everything isn’t really easier than using fashioned light switches or manually adjusting old thermostats.
What I hope emerges are systems that deliver real value to me while being drop-dead simple to use. Here are a few things I really look forward to:
- Coordination of all four AC/Heating zones and ten ceiling fans in my house for optimum comfort and electricity savings, rather than just individual controls provided by Nest and others.
- Coordinated control of all ten irrigation circuits for our yard (both sprinkler and drip irrigation) based on weather reports, humidity sensors and soil moisture sensors to optimize water savings and plant health.
- Integration of home alarm, garage door and car ignition controls into a single device, preferably my phone, to minimize my frustration and size of my key chain.
The state of the industry right now seems a little bit like the computer industry in the IMSAI computer kit era, when hobbyists could buy lots of components and patch together (sort of) working computers. Hopefully, the recent IoT announcements will bring real progress beyond the hobbyist phase.