As more people install smart NEST thermostats and use iPads to interact with their TVs, the stage is set for massive adoption of the completely connected home, right? Well, maybe.
Some big issues have to be sorted out before that will happen. For one thing, there is a Tower of Babel of standards for communicating between various devices made by different vendors to serve different purposes. That has to come together first, according to speakers at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference on Friday.
There are cool home automation devices coming out of Kickstarter as well as from consumer electronic giants. That variety is great except for the fact that if these things can’t talk to each other, they really aren’t connected at all.
“We need to see some consolidation,” said Eric Bruno, VP of strategy and planning for Verizon’s consumer and mass business markets group. “Honeywell or Ingersoll Rand or GE –all that stuff has to talk,”
“At least service providers can control the infrastructure. Do it yourself is a challenging market though — you have to be your own integrator,” said Bill Brown, GM of converged consumer solutions for Motorola Mobility. And, most consumers really, really, really don’t want to be integrators.
Rather these interoperable devices have to be drop-dead easy to use or people won’t use them. Five years ago, that wasn’t the case. People had to get their laptops out, call up an application to control their system. Now that can be done with a smartphone. “If you can take something that took 10 minutes and now do it in 10 seconds, you’re good,” Bruno said.
The adoption of a small set of networking protocols to tie these devices together, and then a single way to interact with all of them, is something to strive for — but will be also difficult to achieve.
“The idea of [UI] ubiquity across devices is a holy grail to aspire to, but we’re not there yet,” said Chris Jaffe, director of product innovation, at Netflix. The simple truth is that people are used to different interfaces for different device types and applications. “With TV it’s left-right, up-down where as with the iPhone or tablet, it’s omnidirectional. We have to resolve the tension between being ubiquitous and being the best interface for the job.”