We’ve all had visions of the perfect automated house for sometime now. From sci-fi films to the latest excited tech release, it always seems as though the next big thing is just around the corner. After all who doesn’t want a robot butler around to pick up your clothes, cook your food and generally look after things? Admittedly we need to be careful what we wish for (I’m looking at you HAL 9000!)
I can’t let you do that…
But right now it seems the stage we’re at in home automation is that of voice controlled prompts linking to the other smart items in your house. So saying “Hey Alexa, turn my heating on to control your temperature”, it’s not quite the little wheeled robot butler but it’s a start. What the purpose of these blogs at Ovon is to put a different perspective on what’s out there and show the sort of things we might consider while developing. So this article isn’t going to be a review of all the latest smart home devices. There are lots and CNET/TechRadar etc. can easily help you out with that! Instead here are 3 key things to consider when thinking about if you want to control your home.
The smart home dream, everything connected and controlled together.
“Your Home is Your Castle”
Security first. Your home is your castle. But we’re not talking about simply buying smart security cameras. What is arguably more important is your digital home and how easy this is to access. We’ve all heard stories of people’s webcams being hacked or a computer getting a virus. Now imagine if that hack could unlock your front door, turn off your fridge, turn on your cooker… The more connected devices we have, the higher the chance of things occurring. Look for a system that has solid cloud encryption, regularly issues security updates (no system is perfect), uses a secure protocol such as Thread (which we often develop on) and is natively compatible with what you want. The less steps you build in with the less logins etc., the less chance for systems to be compromised. This isn’t however to say there aren’t great workaround aggregator systems such as IFTT but be careful with what you link!
Oh and also, don’t set your password as HOME2018…
Linking directly to security is Compatibility. Working with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit etc. is great. But would it not be better to work directly between devices and remove any possible weak links? So choose products with multi-protocol support, don’t simply believe a manufacturer when he says “of course my Zigbee light works with your Z-Wave switch, they’re both smart” as they probably won’t. But be aware that this market is developing, so don’t buy products that use their own special encryptions and only work in a very specific way with own brand products. This will limit you controlling everything together in future.
User Interface or UI for short, now this is the bit you see. So does it have the features you want? Can you control it easily? How automated is it really, or are you always having to reset schedules? This is a lot down to personal taste, but we recommend always downloading the app first before buying a product so you can try out the look and feel. This is also why when we develop, we use fast, clickable prototypes so we actually build something people want to use and enjoy interacting with.
Looks like a boring spreadsheet, but easy to use, appropriate colours, interacts with desired user control. This ticks many of the boxes for a good UI and therefore experience.
So there you have it, a very brief run down of some key elements to consider. Sounds simple and hopefully it will be! But remember to always look beyond the marketing and analyse whether a product is actually right for you and your customers, not just the latest hype. Any questions, queries or comments? Just contact us! We’d love to hear from you.