Sensoritory, or Difficulties in creating a “smart home”

    You can even buy toothpaste from LG in the store, but if you want to buy a “smart home” from a well-known brand, you will find a bitter aftertaste of disappointment - the idea of IKEA for high-tech manufacturers is scary. In a world where Samsung creates self-propelled artillery installations, and Google produces milk under its brand, a conventional thermostat that automates all the processes associated with maintaining an optimal indoor climate was developed in a startup.

    "Smart Home" is falling apart due to the simple incompatibility of products of various companies. It is difficult to configure the interaction of devices that communicate with each other in many ways and on the basis of different protocols, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Insteon and so on.

    Who and why is tearing the "house of the future" into pieces?

    Touch internet

    They have been talking about the “Internet of things” for fifteen years now, we are gradually starting to drown in various sensors, but so far we are not nearly seeing a single unified system for a “smart home”. Many devices have their own set of sensors, do not interact with each other, work on their own protocols.

    Take, for example, the Sony Smart Tennis Sensor, which collects information about the number of strokes with a tennis racket, the acceleration attached to the ball, the type of swing, the frequency of the shots and the force of the blow. Data is transferred to the application on the smartphone ... and die in it. You cannot load this data into another fitness application, you cannot calculate how many calories you burned while playing tennis, you cannot copy this data to a spreadsheet and so on.

    “Smart Home” today is hundreds of such Sony Smart Tennis Sensor.

    There are similar devices for runners. The runScribe sensor measures 13 indicators based on the position of the foot, which allows you to set the features of your run and choose the most suitable technique. It sounds great, but the gadget is tightly tied to its application. Devices connected to the car and reading information via the OBD II protocol into a smartphone application and a cloud service provide interesting data (an analysis of driving style, for example), but still suffer from the same childish “greed”. Give someone else this valuable data? No, not that!

    Internet brands

    “Smart Home” is still a toy for large brands, a means of advertising promotion, anything but the real direction of industrial development. Year after year, companies carry tents with advanced home appliances to the exhibitions, but after each show, consumers feel a little cheated. It cannot be said that nothing interesting is going on in this direction at all. Every year we see an increase in the number of companies ready to deal with high-tech solutions for the home.

    Apple launched the HomeKit program, thanks to which iOS devices will be synchronized with smart home devices to intelligently control doors, lights, temperature, security cameras and so on.

    Quirky, an American startup, is setting up Wink to develop a single network for automated home devices. The Wink mobile application will provide users with the ability to control nearly sixty devices, including light bulbs, video cameras, electric drives, water heaters, lawn watering installations and much more. The Wink app is already available on the App Store and Google Play, but so far it can only control 5 gadgets.

    Staples has expanded the capabilities of the Connect program, it includes several new devices for building a unified home automation network around a single hub and within a single application.

    Microsoft’s partnership with INSTEON involves not only mutually beneficial work of the products of the two companies, but also support for devices from other manufacturers. Google and Samsung have teamed up to create a new wireless protocol that should replace Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee. The Thread standard is a low-power mesh protocol that will support IPv6. The standard is created on the basis of existing radio equipment, which will allow manufacturers to update devices with a simple software upgrade.

    Control4 with its platform for building a "smart home" adapted the mobile application for Amazon Fire Phone, thereby breaking out of two popular mobile platforms. And dozens more companies and applications that we did not mention about, right this minute they are engaged in their own development of “smart home” systems, attracting new users, but adding chaos to the development of the industry.

    GE and LG companies furnish the kitchen with innovative devices (“Smart refrigerator for a revolutionary new approach to food storage” - the marketers delighted us). Philips plugs in a coffee maker and the restless Whirlpool showcases “energy-saving” dishwashers. This is where the Second Great Problem appears before us - consumers do not buy only one brand of goods in the house. It’s possible that fans of Apple products would occupy this niche if the company expanded its product line, but everyone else who buys a Philips coffee maker doesn’t have a washing machine, TV, lamps, video cameras and other devices of the same manufacturer. For some devices, the life cycle is quite long, so the consumer is forced to combine products from different brands (and with different specifications).

    Telecommunication Service Providers

    In the West, in some cases, companies that are suppliers of cable television and the Internet can also offer solutions in the field of home security and automation. "Smart" security systems that respond to potentially dangerous events, such as opening / closing doors or unusual opening times for a door to an apartment, as well as allowing you to remotely configure digital thermostats, turn lights on or off, watch video from wireless cameras, are offered by Xfinity (project from Comcast), Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Deutsch Telekom and others.

    This approach has advantages (someone sets up the Internet for you, why not let them set up the rest), but after changing the provider (no one is perfect, people can change attachments from time to time), you will need to throw out several devices that are tuned for functioning in one environment.


    Popular do-it-yourself kits, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other platforms are regular suppliers of new smart home equipment. LIFX LED Wi-Fi bulb controlled by iPhone / Android devices, August Smart Lock or Goji Smart Lock keyless door lock, SmartThings hub with which you can control hundreds of different sensors and devices or Revolv's hub. Everything is so interesting, so you want to buy everything, regardless of whether there is a tangible chance to turn into a live beta tester of "raw" technology. It makes no difference whether you take a new product from a startup or trust a brand with a story - it’s hard to assess whether the device can become part of the standard “smart home” platform.

    Large companies sell single platforms, but they also market individual devices made in startups. Large players do not want to lose the market and, although they do not put as much effort as they could, they keep a “finger on the pulse”, tracking trends.

    Housing companies

    Construction companies are another important market player. Many of them are already starting to think about how home automation systems are the trend of the current decade. What could be easier, build a house, stuff it with hundreds of sensors and sell more expensively under the guise of “future”. IControl or Zonoff, trying to be the first and get a quick profit, are already appearing in this field with a proposal to add their security systems, energy consumption and home automation.

    There is a bit of reason in it - to assemble a “smart home” at once seems easier than trying to fill an existing “box” with various devices. However, most construction companies still see little incentive for more innovative construction.

    Technomonocultural giants

    Apple, Google, and perhaps Microsoft are sloppy but steadily starting their invasion. Google bought Dropcam surveillance camera maker for $ 555 million, strengthening its position in home security and video monitoring systems. Earlier, Google “ate” Nest Labs for $ 3.2 billion, thereby experiencing depression after a failure with Android @ home, when the giant intended to control a variety of home electronics through its operating system using its own wireless standard.

    Apple has traditionally been building around iOS with iPhones and iPads, but now it’s hard to predict what the company will do next. Microsoft, on the other hand, does not want to once again give way to the competition, so it will not stop partnership with INSTEON. For consumers, entering the smart home market of the largest IT companies carries several risks, from the loss of control over personal data (Apple security cameras - is Jennifer Lawrence a bad dream?) And even their legal transfer to advertisers, to dividing the world of private houses into two camps - according to OS dualism in phones.

    What are we waiting for

    From the “three whales of the Internet” we would like to get not binding to the OS or platform, but some standard protocols that would allow devices of different manufacturers to exchange information with each other. Given the security factor, we would like to see devices that can work locally without an Internet connection.

    The number of cheap sensors is growing exponentially not because we really need five tracking sensors to take into account various aspects of movement, or five automobile sensors telling about the consumption of liters of gasoline per kilometer. Rather, it is because there are no standards, no real market for sensory data, and there is no reason for all companies with different ecosystems to work together.

    Are manufacturers ready to start thinking about their devices not in the paradigm of smartphone-app relationship?

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