Home Automation Jitters

Dan Moren wrote a great piece at Six Colors about his foray into home automation. It’s an interesting illustration of the promise and limitations of the industry. His conclusion really resonated with me:

My time with the Philips Hue lights and the Echo and my Harmony Hub have convinced me that the Smart Home has some cool potential, and it’s definitely coming along. But right now, the tech is so Balkanized that it ends up being fairly hostile to even a tech savvy user…

This is my greatest concern about home automation right now. I dread a world when previously functional pieces of my home are caught in the middle of a platform war. I’ve already been burned by this a bit. I have a Nest and am happy with it overall, but it’s hard to imagine a world where I will be able to control it with Siri or HomeKit.1 Multiplying that frustration across all the different things we can make smart in homes now seems like a small nightmare, in which we take the unreliability of cross-platform interoperability and apply it to the previously reliable world of home appliances. In addition, as is typical in the technology world, little thought is typically given into how multiple members of a household will be able to interact with home automation when everything is tied to a single person’s account/accounts.

My family is moving into a new home in a couple months and I’m excited to be able to geek out on new wi-fi tech, smart lighbulbs, connected garage door openers, and all the other fun technology that is appearing these days. However, if I can’t control them from a single interface and they are all living in different worlds, I just don’t know if I’ll take the plunge. I might just settle for a new wi-fi setup and wait a while until some sort of standard settles out. Unfortunately, it might take years to reach this state of equilibrium.

  1. I won’t even get into the possibility that there may not even be a backend for my Nest to talk to before long, given Nest’s current prospects. 

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