Is smart home DOA? No, just Changing [CBS NEWS]


(Bobby) #1

The ‘king’ is dead, long live The King! Is ‘conscious home’ really dead, as STACEY HIGGINBOTHAM of CBS leads you to believe?


Higginbotham generally knows what she’s talking about, she’s one of the industry’s more savvy analysts, and in this case she notes that the smart home concept isn’t dead, but the emphasis is changing. And I think that’s true.

I feel like the retail model just got stuck at the early adopter phase," said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. “Installing these products is hard and expensive, and the value proposition isn’t all that clear.”

The main point goes along with what we were discussing in the Kia thread: that it looks like Apple is aiming for a “smarter” home, not the fully automated smart home the industry had previously been discussing.

That is, you take an existing device like a lightbulb or thermostat or light switch and replace it with something that adds a practical desirable feature, like simple schedules or voice control.

But Apple, and some of the companies profiled in this feature, are not looking at the six layer deep private variable interlocking conditionals that are needed for a truly smart home. But that also trip up a lot of people.

Also note that the feature calls out the monthly subscription plans from the cable and security company. Many people in this forum tend to dismiss those immediately, but the fact is there are literally millions more of those systems installed today then of all the DIY home automation systems put together. Their rules engines are simpler, the device selection is much smaller, and there is a monthly fee of around $40 – – but millions of people are willing to pay for that convenience and reliability.

Apple is betting that the DIY market will pay a premium for a similar level of functionality and simplicity, as long as they get the reliability and security to go along with it.

We’ll have to wait until the end of this year to see if ios 10 and the new home app give HomeKit any traction, but it’s a bet that’s in line with other industry trends as discussed in this article.

It’s not the Jetsons. But maybe it’s the equivalent of a garage door remote. Simplicity has value, too. :wink:

(I got a hair cut from Alexa) #3

Um…so apple is aiming for the dirt instead of the stars?


I think Apple is aiming for this:

Instead of this:

That is, if you just add wheels and a long handle to a suitcase, all of a sudden you get a lot of added functionality in a very intuitive package without a lot of extra cost. And if it’s engineered right, it’s very reliable. :sunglasses:

If you try to jump all the way to the robot assistant level, the adoption rate is likely to be much much lower.

(Bobby) #5

It doesn’t have to be fugly and certainly i don’t need my luggage to brush my teeth, but a little classy, practical and interconnected comes handy…:slight_smile:

(Dan P Parker) #6

With all due respect, the thread title is misleading and is a misrepresentation of what the linked article actually said. In fact the title of the article itself is:

“Is the “smart home” dead? No, just changing”

(Bobby) #7

Since when are we judging a book by its cover? Despite its title, the real message of the article is that the very smart home concept, the “conscious home” is dead and that “companies need to stop selling the smart home”. So the thread’s title is just food for thought, open to discussion and exchange of opinions.

(Dan P Parker) #8

“We”? Do you have a mouse in your pocket? I read the entire article, and based my judgement on that. My previous comment was just pointing out that the title itself was claiming something quite different from what you said. The remainder of the piece is no different. It amounts to nothing more than a suggestion regarding what the industry should be thinking about when the term “smart home” is used. And she’s not wrong that it’s a mistake to associate it with over-the-top (for the present, at least) notions like a “conscious home”.

(Bobby) #9

So why are you arguing with me and not express your opinion as to why the concept of a ‘conscious home’ is ‘over-the-top’. The thread was meant to instigate a debate if (inter)connected home is the future or individual integration is a better approach. I think many would appreciate more your vision on this subject than pointing out that the title of the thread was misleading.

And no I don’t have a mouse in my pocket, I said ‘we’ because you are not the only one who pointed out the title of an article that doesn’t reflect its content, or the interpretation that one might have after reading it. I’ve done it many times, so I didn’t feel it would have been appropiate to say ‘you’ instead. But I can change that if you want.

(Dan P Parker) #10

[quote=“SBDOBRESCU, post:9, topic:51401”]
So why are you arguing with me…[/quote]

I’m not arguing. Your title was misleading. I pointed that out. End of discussion.

I didn’t feel the need to explain that because I assumed most people are familiar with the meaning of the word “conscious”, and why applying it to the technology behind the current (or even near future) state of home automation is ‘over-the-top’.

“Smart” home is a bit of hyperbole as well, but not in the same league as attributing consciousness to these gizmos (or a collection thereof).


The “conscious home” has a specific meaning in this context, one that Nest defined, as follows:

Q So Tony doesn’t like to call it Internet of Things, right?
A We hate it. We never use the term IoT.
Q What do you prefer?
A These are connected products, but we want it to become a little more meaningful than that. It’s almost like a conscious home. It’s doing the right thing. The technology’s enabling it, but it’s really kind of in the background. Customers don’t have to think about programming their devices. It’s really intuitive. They don’t have to think about plugging in a hub just to enable things to actually talk. This is a fantastic thermostat, one of the best if not the best in the market, and you just plug it into your wall. That’s how we imagine the home. Users don’t have to think about programming or technologies or communications protocols.

That was the idea with nest and works with nest – – that it wouldn’t need a rules engine, because the devices themselves would figure out what they were supposed to do next.

As you mention, once you go beyond thermostats it requires very advanced technology and isn’t really available yet.

(Dan P Parker) #12

I get that they were talking about things integrating easily, being intuitive and easy for the layman to use. But that’s not what the word “conscious” implies, and I’m just not a fan of using words to mean something other than what they’re already defined to mean, especially when another existing word will do the job more accurately without more grandiose implications. “Conscious” technology conjures up images of C3PO and other cute self-aware robots, or the wise-cracking house in Eureka. (Of course, if you’re more pessimistic there’s HAL, Proteus from Demon Seed, SkyNet, etc.)

But I think I’m getting a bit far afield of the original question, which is whether or not the concept behind what’s being called the “conscious home” is presently practical. I don’t think it’s too controversial to conclude that it’s not.


I think the point is rather that nest has used that term in a very specific way for about two years, and nest was the company being talked about at that point in the article. Nest distinguished their devices from other smart home devices available at the same time through their concept of “the concious home” which wouldn’t require any programming or rule set up on the part of the customer.

The article specifically calls out the nest definition:

Fadell called it the “conscious home.”

And the article is saying that Fadell’s recent departure from Nest in part is due to the shift away from this concept.

(Bobby) #14

Right, but that’s where I think Stacy was wrong when she said:

"Despite the lack of enthusiasm for Fadell’s core idea about an anticipatory home full of interconnected gadgets, companies are still excited about the benefits of adding connectivity and intelligence to devices. "

She mixed up the the meaning of interconnected home (the very IoT idea) with the concept of a home driven by pseudo AI.

Personally, the article left me thinking about what the future of Home Automation is? Are we heading for an influx of single use case devices, or a “home full of interconnected gadgets”, which she out right called it a dead model.


I believe the critical word in that quote is anticipatory.. Not the others that you bolded.

It was the anticipatory nature of nest that was part of their “conscious home” definition.

(Dan P Parker) #16

Right. They redefine it to mean something other than it’s generally accepted definition, which is not uncommon. I get that.

But they base that concept on a rather overblown notion of what the Nest does, which not only isn’t really artificial intelligence to any significant degree…let alone an example of a “conscious” device…but just isn’t all that impressive. Yeah, it mostly works, and doesn’t require much in the way of setup. But at the same time what it offers is limited by that simplicity, which is a consequence of, among other things, the fact that its input is limited to your initial patterns of setting it to various temperatures. But it can’t automatically “learn” when you’re on vacation, or positively identify when you are/aren’t home, etc (at least, not without you integrating it with one or more external systems), etc.

Really, it just records a series of events over time and makes assumptions about the resulting pattern (if any) repeating itself.


Definitely. I agree with everything you’re saying, it’s just that that was an argument to have with Nest two years ago, not with the author of this particular article now. She’s just using the term as nest has been using it, and commenting on the departure of the executive who invented the term.

(Dan P Parker) #18

I agree, which is why I said, “And she’s not wrong…” when introducing my own feelings about the term.

(Dan P Parker) #19

On the other hand…

We all talk about and seek out applications of IoT/HA/whatever that actually provide some practical benefit to us, and that seems to be our main focus. But I think if we’re being honest with ourselves we’ll recognize that we’re also into this stuff because we’re a bunch of overgrown kids with some disposable income who just think it’s really cool. And I don’t just mean what the technology is really capable of delivering, but also the illusion of “intelligence” that we’re getting from all this. The best example is, of course, the Amazon Echo (and other Alexa-powered devices). We know that there’s no AI behind it, but just the ability to interact with the device/service via the spoken word…and to receive a more-or-less human-sounding natural spoken response (and, as a bonus, get something useful done in the process) causes us to regard “her” as a personality, if only on a subconscious level.

Don’t try to tell me you don’t refer go that metal can as “she”. You know you do. :wink:

My wife still reflexively says, “thank you” to the downstairs lights when they come on at sunset -30 minutes every evening. When I walk into the bedroom after sunset (but before midnight) and the lights come on there’s a thoroughly irrational part of my subconscious that wants to interpret that as the room acknowledging my presence and taking steps to help me out.

So to at least some degree, I think that successfully conveying the illusion of intelligence might be more important…from a marketing and sales perspective, at least…than providing the home with actual intelligence.


It’s a really good point about the illusion of intelligence.

However, some of us choose home automation strictly for practical reasons. It’s not about being cool.

Not, of course, that I am not cool. :sunglasses: