Why the once exciting smart home is now boring – Stacey on IoT | Jobs Reply


During a long walk this weekend, my wife asked me, “What’s new in the smart home these days?” I took at least 20 steps in silence before answering her, saying, “Not much, to be honest. It’s kind of… boring.” Oh, I know Matter will bring much-needed integration between devices and ecosystems, but she doesn’t care about that. She uses what I buy and frankly, she doesn’t use our smart devices that much at all. The truth is, apart from the Matter devices launching this year, I don’t feel the excitement I feel about the smart home.

I’m sure some of this perspective has to do with how long smart devices have been in my home. It’s been almost 12 years since I first encountered Insteon equipment. My wife will ever let me forget that time.

I was in London covering a Nokia event, I was demonstrating how I could turn the lights on and off at home, which was thousands of miles away. Of course, I forgot the time difference between London and Philadelphia, so my wife’s first smart home experience was me inadvertently waking up to a pre-dawn light show. Yes, I blew the smart home concept to bits on day one for my family, which probably explains their lack of use to this day.

My first smart home hub since 2010. Image courtesy of Universal Devices

Even 12 years is not that long. We regularly hear from readers who implemented an X10 smart home decades before I featured remote home access. I wonder if those readers are even more bored than me.

As it turns out, this “meh” feeling has come up recently as Stacey and I plan our IoT Podcast episodes and blog cover. “What new device would you like to review?” Stacey asked. And with increasing regularity, I came up empty. It looks like we’re nearing the end of the smart home going mainstream while we wait for the next big thing. I believe the next big thing will be connected devices that understand our intentions without using voice or touch. Call it the next stage of “the invisible interface”, a term I coined in 2011. That won’t happen anytime soon though.

Since I have been reviewing and using smart home devices for over 10 years, let me share more details about why I feel this way.

Image courtesy of Amazon

I was certainly excited when the first smart speaker arrived in 2014 with the Amazon Echo. Technically, I wasn’t excited about it at first, but once Alexa achieved voice control integration with smart home devices, I was in for a treat. Other platforms followed suit with their own smart speakers crammed into speakers, and there’s a good selection.

Those, as well as the clever demonstrations that followed, sated my enthusiasm for a few years. How much real innovation in this product line has come in the last few years, though? There isn’t much outside of adding ultra broadband to the Apple HomePod 18 months ago. And that’s not even exciting: I can take music away from my phone to the speaker using a PCB. Yay?

So I’m not on board to review the latest iteration of a smart speaker. The additions are far too incremental.

Unfortunately, I can say the same about the latest smart light switch. Or a smart camera. Or a smart bulb. Or… you get the idea. These “smart” devices aren’t getting much smarter. They just want a radio, feature or a new coat of paint every now and then. How many iterations of the same devices are worth looking at in detail?

To be fair, there are impactful new technologies in the works that raise my excitement level.

I mentioned Matter and I don’t want to diminish its importance. Because of him yes important. It will open up the options for smart home owners to mix and match devices from different smart home platforms for a more integrated experience. It’s an initiative we should all be excited about. My enthusiasm may be due to the fact that I already use devices from different platforms in my home, but that’s because I have to have that perspective to write and talk about them. Either way, me time looking forward to Matter.

But where are the cool new devices that will take the smart home even further? What will drive my excitement about the smart home in the future?

The answer probably lies not in new categories of devices, but in services that bring synergy to our smart home devices. Services and technologies that make a robot the smart home itself, as Stacey said recently.

Image courtesy of Google ATAP

For example, there are different approaches to solving the problems of presence detection in the home. And it’s not just the presence of a person in a particular room; research and development is going to “what that person is doing or what they are likely to want to do” in that room. That is context, which is fairly basic in today’s smart home. Ranging from Wi-Fi solutions to those using Bluetooth or ultra-broadband, I think these sensor solutions are interesting and practical to advance the smart home.

Another interesting smart home feature is Edge intelligence which has a lot of room for growth. And I want to see that grow because when paired with contextual intelligence in the home, machine learning models at the edge can improve the smart home experience. Maybe then my family will use our smart home devices more often and not even know. If those devices can better understand and anticipate their needs, our home will simply not respond to my family and eliminate the voice assistants and mobile apps they don’t want to use.

Am I being too arrogant here? Having just turned 53, I know I run the risk of listening to a crotchety, old-fashioned blogger. And maybe that’s part of the reason my enthusiasm for smart home is at an all-time low. But I don’t think that’s all or even most of the reason.

I’d love to hear what you think and if you’re feeling the way I have over the last year or so. If you are new to the smart home, you might agree with me. I understand that because this segment is bringing new functions and experiences to your home. For me, and some others like me, though? Bored now and the promise of more excitement with new technologies.



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