Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Internet of Things needs to be a whole lot smarter...

Ben Kaufman, CEO of Quirky, has some interesting things to say about the
Internet of Things. Quirky is a "Smart Home" supplier and Kaufman was interviewed at South by Southwest by Andreessen Horowitz partner, Scott Weiss, at the conference this week.

As I've mentioned before, there are considerable challenges for people that want to get into a Smart Home – and these challenges will keep Everyman from implementing a lot of these helpful tools.

He discussed 7 problems.
1.Installation. Some people will have difficulty with this piece. A door lock, for example, may not be the easiest thing to install. A thermostat has a number of wires to connect and messing it up could damage your furnace/AC or thermostat.

2.Connecting to the Internet. This could be more or less complex depending on how the end-user has set up his/her WiFi or Ethernet environment. 

3.Battery replacement. People have problems remembering to change the batteries on their smoke detectors… While these devices can typically tell you when they need new batteries, it's just another task that people would rather not do.

4.Maintenance. The typical old-fashioned thermostat doesn't need any maintenance – it just works. With IoT devices, they will require periodic software updates, at least. They could also require other types of maintenance that their "dumb" cousins don't.

5.Security. Like any computer, you're at the mercy of whomever wrote the software for your device. They may have included features that a hacker could exploit. If these are discovered – you need to patch them.

6.Interaction. The software that each of these devices use can be more or less difficult to use. And, many of them don't really know how to talk to each other – so data from your thermostat can't interact with data from your security system or video camera. 

7.Support. Retailers may not have the appropriate skills to help you with these devices. Particularly big box stores whose idea of service is telling you what aisle a product is in…

In the Q&A someone asked "How can you get to the point that your grandmother can use these things?

Weiss said that smart home evolution is like the early days of the PC. We may be past the hobbyist stage, but it still takes some technical knowhow to get a smart home connected and functioning.  Until the day when most of these activities are automated, it will take a nerd to make them work. Kaufman said, "In general, there is a belief that the internet brings functionality to devices you could not have without it. Trying to crack the code is interesting - we're not super there yet..."

What do you think? What has been your experience with Smart Home products?

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