SmartThings company - what is your vision?


(Joe) #1

@Ben @hagins @slagle (or anyone else at SmartThings willing to comment)

Is there any way you would be willing to share your vision for the platform with us? Specifically, what do you have in mind for average (non-programmer, non-hobbyist) people to control and automate their homes. I don’t necessarily mean anything to do with cloud stability or back end robustness. I mean user interface and workflow. I mean the actual process of someone going from an idea for something that they could do, to having that a reality.

Are you thinking about these things for when a smart home is ‘normal’? For when automation and control of the home are being used by 50% of the households in the US?

In general, I’m just wondering if you’d be willing to give us your take on the current state of the platform in terms of UI, ease of use, user workflow, etc. and your vision for what it will need to be in order for a huge percentage of the population to be successful with it. I have some specific questions, but anything you care to share would be great.

Are you all feeling like the Smart App paradigm is holding up? Do you think it even has the potential to scale well in terms of ease of use?

Do you see more of a need for generalized apps rather than very specific apps? Do you feel like the generalized lighting app has been a success? Do you feel like the fact that it is a Smart App is limiting how good it can be? (In my opinion it is a nice step forward, but would still confuse the heck out of my 65 year old mother)

Currently anything used for automation is pretty much text based and menu driven. Do you feel like that will be good enough for the masses? Any plans for something more visual and intuitive?

I think SmartThings is by far the best platform for the money out there right now. It’s hard for me to see it becoming a new ‘normal’ for average households in its current state though. So… do you have a vision for this?

Also, I know posting anything about the future, or even potential future, of the platform on this forum is an invitation for people to get angry about things that don’t happen. Can we all agree that any response from ST is just vision? Not promises, not things you should expect, not something you are owed because someone said something on the internet. Just some ideas for what maybe could be.


(Tim Slagle) #2

Just replying so you know I saw this.

I want to respond and I think we should. Let me circulate this internally for a bit and see if we can come up with a “vision roadmap” of sorts that we can share.


Call To Action: No New Features, Stability First
(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #3

I’m going to follow this closely as I’m looking forward to hearing what had to be said.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #4

Whenever someone asks for non-marketing communication from SmartThings, I always express a particular curiosity back to the asker:

What do you expect of value from the response(s)?

Alex, Jeff, Ben, Tim, Jody, Tyler, etc., etc., have all discussed their “visions” for all or parts of the SmartThings products and platform many times in written posts, developer calls, and semi-private discussions.

Some of these visions were obviously tuned by marketing, and others seem quite genuine, uncensored, and relevant. The latter, however, as far as I can evaluate, are either (a) not particularly “visionary” (i.e., just obvious stuff the product/platform ought to do, is being done by competitors, or is the pie-in-the-sky wishlist the Community has requested anyway), and/or (b) are directions that may of us might not like (hypothetical example: --> “SmartThings will be figuring out how to keep the product affordable by monetizing your data or putting advertisements in the mobile App”).

In either case, as you imply, don’t you consider the responses to be meaningless due to SmartThings failure to deliver on past “visions”?

Consider this:
Any vision of significance that SmartThings is confident that they will be able to deliver (i.e., actual features, design directions, business strategy that are in progress and has real resources applied, …) simply cannot be shared by SmartThings, because: (a) this would give their competitors a strategic advantage, and (b) it is impossible to disassociate a communicated “vision” with the Consumer’s expectations that this vision will be delivered (now, now, now!!!) or else the company is, rightly or wrongly, considered untrustworthy or unreliable, or downright deceptive. The disclaimer “Can we agree that any response from ST is just vision” is a non-sequitur. If something is “just vision”, that means, IMHO, it is worthless. I have “visions” all the time … usually depends on how much I’ve had to drink or if a sleeping pill has induced a particularly good night of dreaming… :wink:.

In fact, (b) is a part of (a) in this situation. For every unique significant vision that SmartThings communicates, competitors can decide how to counter this either by stealing/imitating the feature/strategy, and also use as an attack that SmartThings is, perhaps, a company that is all talk and no substance when it comes to the features that you’ve been waiting for and “we” are delivering.

Both are completely fair-game in business competition. Only corporate espionage and theft of trade secrets and patents is illegal.

In the B2B (business to business) world, I’ve worked with countless high-profile vendors that no longer exist. I’ve gone to user/customer conferences year after year – say, Informix, for example – with thousands of attendees. Watched dozens of marketing presentations and also honest, less guarded educational nitty gritty and visionary presentations. Of course, 100% of the “visions” presented were attractive (doh! … why would a business present an “unattractive vision” to its customers or future customers?). And yet, ~80% of the visions either were never delivered, delivered late or below expectations, or even when perfectly executed… failed to be sustainable or competitive in the market (hence the company being bought out or bankrupted).


###TL;DR
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not disrespecting your request. I “enjoy” hearing what SmartThings’s visions are for the future and it doesn’t hurt to ask and encourage transparency…

But I would like to understand why and what you and other folks actually expect to gain of any real value here; or if you concur with my personal belief that there really is no value to any possible public vision communications: My philosophy is: Show me results. Everything else is just an academic and/or diversionary exercise. Or protected under NDAs (non-disclosure agreements). Or intended as recruiting materials for hiring, PR, employee alignment and motivation, or, obviously, marketing.

Hmmm? :confused:


(Joe) #5

I guess I’d like to get a better sense for if SmartThings has the potential to be a viable solution for many millions of households. I’d like to evaluate if they have the potential to be a viable platform for a developer to have an impact on that scope. As a user I’d like to have some level of confidence that SmartThings has the potential to become the dominant platform for home automation and control.

Without an ambitious vision for what an awesome experience could look like, I don’t believe they can achieve these things.

If SmartThings has a mindset of 'SmartApps as-is work great for most situations, the current user experience is pretty darn good, we’ll keep making incremental improvements to the existing experience and grow this thing to 75 million households’, it would be telling. I don’t believe the platform is currently easy enough or intuitive enough for mass use. If they can articulate a more ambitious vision for a great user experience then there is at least a chance that they will be able to become the things I mentioned. As a developer and user, all of those things matter to me.

Their ability to execute on that vision is another thing completely, there have been plenty of threads on this board about that. On some level, it doesn’t matter what their ability to execute is if they aren’t working toward the right thing. I’d like to get a better sense of what that is for the SmartThings user experience.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #6

Fair enough… But let me frame your wish here in the context I described earlier:

  • SmartThings definitely has the “potential” you describe. Heck, I have the “potential” to be a brain surgeon. Obviously I’m being facetious or pedantic … I know what you mean is: Based on the specifics, level of ambition, credibility, quality / articulation, and/or gut-assessment of SmartThings’s responses to my request for their “vision”, I will assign a score to their potential. (i.e., just like you’d ask me questions about my ambition… do I find brain surgery interesting, have a fear of blood, have money or scholarship quality talent to go to medical school, etc.).

Indeed… that’s what you said:

So my counter argument is…

  1. SmartThings can hire or contract the best PR, marketing, systems architecture, UX design leads, strategic executives to ensure they articulate a tremendously ambitious vision. Based on gut-feel and other subtle factors (e.g., if the message is coming from a C-Level exec, vs. a slick marketer, vs. a trench-level engineer), etc., etc.; the communication may or may not be sufficiently satisfactory.

  2. I contend that if SmartThings communicates their vision sufficiently satisfactory, then that is giving away far too much to their competitors. Their competitors gain all the advantages I mentioned earlier (i.e., head-on race and/or claiming that ST’s vision is inconsistent, uncertain, misleading and untrustworthy, etc.).

  3. Though outside your Topic constraints, I reiterate that talk (even expensive consultant advised, expertly coached, market researched, hand-holding, butt-kissing talk…) is cheap. Customers are really quick to reveal their cards. There’s a tech employee shortage in the USA; but market researchers are much easier to find. If research reveals that your concerns are significant, then it is pretty darn easy to say what you want to hear. In fact, it is even pretty likely for them to communicate some brilliant visionary ideas that blow your mind :heart_eyes: :fireworks:!!!. The fact remains that execution is EVERYTHING (otherwise there’d be a thousand successful Facebooks, Googles, Amazons, Ubers, Apples, …, Shamwow’s, you name any invention or sustainable successful company and you know there are uncountable number of failures of the same – or better! – “vision” …). For the very few cases where the invention, idea, or vision were or are the core to their success, I refer the reader to Point #2.


###Theory? Conclusion?
The are are only two possible outcomes to your inquiry:

A. The communication from SmartThings isn’t satisfactory; they either don’t articulate well, or hold back for competitive reasons. Therefore, you conclude that: “without an ambitious vision for what an awesome experience could look like, [you] don’t believe they can achieve these things.”. i.e., your conclusion is a negative belief in the fit of SmartThings to your needs or even the viability of the product and company in general.

B. The communication from SmartThings is satisfactory; they say all the right things, and you’re willing to accept that their heart and brains are in the right place. They say (with sufficient detail) that “they [are] working toward the right thing”.

Outcome “A” is most likely. SmartThings is very careful not to reveal their plans in any way that could hurt them competitively. They’ve been burned hard in the past.

Outcome “B”, by definition, would make you happy and give a lot of folks optimism and renewed faith.

Faith:

Hebrews 11:1 (Bible, King James Version)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”


I’m not a religious man, but I love the Bible … quite a few useful quotes in there!

Clearly any Consumer and/or Community member that’s been around SmartThings for a while or even novices who spend a few hours digging through the Forum for historic trends and the state-of-the-union, must observe that there are plenty of dashed hopes (i.e., shortage of “substance”) and other “things not seen”. We are thus dependent on faith to provide that substance and evidence.

Do you have faith in SmartThings? – Obviously not yet, or you wouldn’t be asking and hoping for some compelling answers about their vision.

But I guess we just have to see if any responses from SmartThings are sufficient to make you one of the faithful. :angel:, right?


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #7

I’m actually following this thread because I knew the discussion would be interesting…

… Hopes fulfilled! !

My comments…

Based your faith in the company not on words but on the basic fact that a company is a company for one reason only… To make money. And since they already got your $99.00 dollars the obvious priority is not customer satisfaction.

Or… We base our faith in the company based on the realization that the majority of companies are not only willing to, but want to, fulfill the ethical and moral obligation that they promise the consumer.

In other words, the response or lack of response, no matter what it is, is completely irrelevant.

All that matters is that the company makes an attempt to fulfill their role in the consumer - producer contract. If this attempt falls short, then the company will be no more. If it excels in the contact, then the company will flourish.

It basically boils down to free market economics.

We will stay with ST until something better comes along, that we as consumers feel is more worthy of our time and money. Brand loyalty is not something that exist in the real world. At least not by people that work for a living.


(Geko) #8

Market rules can be manipulated for a while, but eventually, yes the market will be the ultimate judge.

The HA market (and IoT in general) has been hyped up in recent years to impossible levels. Everyone and their uncle is involved in IoT these days. Every second Kickstarter project is related to Smart Home. This is a sort of bubble that Wozniak warned last year. It has not burst just yet, but the hi-thech market is clearly showing signs of trouble.

No one has ever made any serious money in Home Automation (now known as “Smart Home”). The “new game” in HA is using it to mine data and sell to advertisers. Everyone, from start-ups to mega corps have their fingers in the pie, but so far no one was able to prove its viability either.

What’s gonna happen next, is in the next market crash (remember 2001?) all weak hands will be wiped out and a handful of strong players will survive. Back in 2001, Amazon.com was the only company out of thousands who survived. That’s how free market (or evolution for that matter) works. Natural selection does not take place during sunny days. You have to wait for a big rock to hit the ground to see who’s the most fit to survive.


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #9

I agree with everything you said.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #10

I guess my biblical quotes should be coming from Revelations if we’re going to be talking about the figurative Apocalypse…


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #11

To not prepare for the end is human nature. Unfortunately, those that do not prepare for the inevitability of the end, can not fully embrace the beauty of the journey.


(Keith) #12

I hope your team’s vision involves a working product because right now, you are not offering that to anyone.


(Joe) #13

Hey Keith, don’t derail my thread please… start your own if you want to complain about something.


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #14

Dude, this thread got detailed before you finished the original posts! Lol


(Keith) #15

I would hope their vision is a working product. If it’s not we are all wasting our time here, doesn’t matter who they are pitching this to.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #16

The point @JoeC is making, is he/we already know that. It’s not helpful to the conversation, dontcha think?

While subject to debate, I respect Joe’s interest in finding out what details and particulars that SmartThings has in their vision.


(Joel) #17

watching closely… i’ve glazed over all the debate above and would like to just hear from smartthings on their vision as well. Great question OP!


(Paul) #18

I was searching for something else and I came across the ST Kickstarter video.

It’s worth a look. The vision that Alex spells out is actually quite inspiring. He said, “we’re creating a platform that’s going to make it possible for anyone in the world to connect everyday things to the internet for monitoring, automation, control, and fun.”

The “anyone in the world” part is the important bit. It’s not even possible for my wife to build an automation right now. Forget about my parents. Even I have trouble most days, and I’m not afraid of writing my own code.

The original vision had three main parts (0:54 in the video).

  1. A system that makes it possible for everyday things to automatically connect to the internet.
  2. An application platform called SmartApps.
  3. A kit for makers and developers.

The way I see it, if part 1 was reliable, part 2 was accessible to everyone, and part 3 was separated out of part 2 and fully supported, this would be a pretty killer platform. Today, there’s not enough division between the stuff that everyday users need to do, and the power that makers and developers need.

In any event, I’ll be watching this thread. I’m really pulling for ST to succeed here… I’m also realistic about how big a mountain it is to climb.


(Geko) #19

Well, apparently that vision did not survive acquisition by Samsung.

BTW, it’s curious that the hub shown in the video does not even remotely resembles the V1 hub. That hub has Sierra wireless modem, XBee module and no Z-Wave.


(Paul) #20

I don’t know… Platform stability/confusing and limited SmartApps/underdocumented developer tools were all around long before Samsung was in the picture.

I guess we’re stuck at the intersection of vision and execution.

EDIT: I should point out that the documentation has actually improved immensely since the Samsung purchase.