Author: Zohaib “Zee” Khan
Your house isn’t smart, it’s just obedient. Just like your dog, it obeys your commands. You tell it to sit and it turns off the lights. You tell it to bark and it turns on your favorite song. What if your house automatically turns off the heater and all the lights when you leave the house? What if your house was actually “smart”? That is what we envisioned when we watched The Jetsons or Back to the Future, but we’re not quite there yet. This will take time and will require more adoption. Being in the heart of Silicon Valley, I’d like to share my perspective.
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Here, it seems like everyone has taken the “smart home gateway drug” known as buying a smart speaker (Google Home, Amazon Alexa, etc.). I’m surrounded mostly by techies, so this gives me a false impression on the “average user”. The average user is actually someone that is not tech-savvy. What’s holding the average user back to having a smart home? I’m glad you asked:
- Ease of use: The installation process needs to be seamless. Some users don’t even know their WiFi passwords! Because of this, there’s a major push for smart devices embedded with a SIM card: Simply power on the device and the service provider does the rest.
- Lacking interoperability: There are so many different protocols, all-in-one solutions, and compatibility issues. The space lacks standardization and cohesiveness between competing players that want to “win” the market.
- Cost-effectiveness: “Am I getting the bang for my buck?” The killer app in Europe for a while was climate control and/or energy harvesting. Can you justify spending $X upfront for savings of $Y in the long term?
- Privacy concerns: In the US, the killer smart home app is security. In the Valley, you’ll rarely enter a home without being recorded through a doorbell camera or indoor camera. From my understanding, things are different in Europe: The idea of having security cameras inside their homes seems ludicrous to a lot of Europeans. Even in London, which is one of the top 10 most surveilled cities, people would never put a camera inside their own house. What it comes down to is trust. In the US, generally, people trust companies with their data more than governments. We see the opposite in cities like London.
With more adoption comes more innovation and smartness. So, how do we make our homes smart? Well, there are options, at least to make your home smart-er. Using services like If This Then That (IFTTT) or Google Home routines are a start. I mean, if I were able to remember to turn off my lights 100% of the time, I wouldn’t need a routine for that. At least now I can combine turning off my lights with a routine that also turns off the heater, but now I forget to say “OK, Google… I’m leaving.” If only my setup had a trigger for my routine that would monitor if I left the home automatically like geofencing, motion sensors or WiFi so I could forget about this problem entirely. I believe other tools like Apple’s Homekit and Samsungs SmartThings have this capability. I don’t mind if my dog knows when I’m home and when I’m not, but do I want big brother to know? Is sacrificing your privacy worth the convenience? You decide.
At the Swisscom Outpost, we scout for IoT innovations and evaluate companies to work with, including such that provide solutions for truly smart homes. This ranges from automation to energy efficiency to elderly care and more, all while keeping data privacy at the center. As “obedient-home“ occupants and enthusiasts ourselves, our goal is to make Switzerland’s buildings and homes #ready for the future.
If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to me at Zohaib.Khan@swisscom.com!