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Home automation, what now and what next ?

What now?

The home automation space is in a pickle at the moment. I have reason to believe it is stuck in the Innovators phase for quite some time now and no clear path to become majority.

Photo credit: Jurgen Appelo

Why is this the case?

1. There is still no “standard” communication protocol – the major ones: Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth Low Energy have found it hard to establish itself as the one to be. Matter looks promising but I always have doubts about the productivity of an alliance of the big companies with different ultimate goals. For consumers, this means a requirement to understand how each protocol generally works and if it works with their existing network and setup.

2. There are too many available device producers out there. Compared to the smartphone industry where the majority of market share is dominated by a handful of companies (I personally don’t know anyone who doesn’t use either Apple, Samsung or Pixel), even just for smart lighting there are no less than 5 ( Philip Hue, Ikea, Hive, Wiz, TCP).
Different brands also make their protocol unique meaning you need a hub for each product. So unless you use Zigbee2MQTT or Smartthings you will have to buy many hubs in order to use the product you want. This makes it a huge learning curve when you want to build a smarter home. I’ve made numerous product purchases that only when I try to connect the device, found its not actually compatible with my setup.

3. Making different devices work together is hard. There is a lot of complexity in our lives and static rules tools such as IFTTT just cannot capture. Managing your rules is also difficult when you have almost 20 devices and 20 sensors. It also doesn’t help if your products are from different producers or based on different protocols. The complexity of decision can be defined simply as the number of possible trigger & action rules + complexity from cross platform:

Complexity of decision 
          = Number of devices * Number of sensors + Number of producers * Number of protocols 

What next?

Resolving issue 1 & 2 will depend on a market consolidation phase. In the coming years, only the best producers of smart home tech will survive. This will take time for consumers to figure out who has build the most useful features and the best value for money (IMHO IKEA has the best lighting just because of its price).

Our niche is to tackle the third problem of automation.
The Silly Home‘s grand vision is to automate the home using AI and make your lives easier.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you buy a smart home product and it just works out of the box with zero configuration. No more defining rules.

How do we go from almost-zero automation to full automation?
The answer is machine learning.
In this vision, The Silly Home picks up your usage patterns and builds a prediction model for each of your devices. This is then used to predict whether to turn your devices on or off.

You may think this is a big dream and indeed 100% accuracy will be almost impossible.
However, even if the models assist in 90% of the cases this will already be much better than your average human. This is due to inherent laziness by us. Recall the many times when you’ve left the lights on or the heating on because you forgot. Or the times when you just couldn’t reach the light switch.

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