Eqtr @ SxSW 2015, Day Three – Battering down barriers and building a better battery
So, as you might expect, there’s a lot of chat here at South By about the Internet of Things. The internet-enabled toaster I have always rattled on about is almost a thing – still not sure why it is, but believe me when I say it is! Anyway, there’s a lot of talk about where’s its going and mass adoption and all those sorts of things but there’s two common themes that continue to pop up again and again and it’s something I’ve spoken about before – usability and the battery.
We all know Google has bought Nest – the kooky smart thermostat and is wiring it into Android. People are already excited about that and that’s good. But sticking a Nest in your house when you have an incumbent thermostat is not a straight swap. And what about Bluetooth-enabled door and window locks? Great idea! You can open your house with your phone or with a device in your pocket – just as we’re seeing with hotels and cars. But ripping chunks out of your door and window-frames to install these (currently) clunky devices is not appealing – neither are their form-factors which often remain somewhat ugly and oversized. So usability is a real issue here – by that I mean retro-fitting these “convenience” devices into your home. Most of us, however tech-savvy and early-adopterish that we are, just ain’t gonna get our chisels and routers (the wood-shaping kind) out to do it.
And that leads onto the second problem – most of the on-trend devices out there are battery-powered, just like our smartphone. That goes for Bluetooth door-locks, smart thermostats and so on. So, if you’re the person who’s gouged a new hole in your front door to make it a “smart door” or has wireless remote central heating control, you’re gonna be faced with the fact that one day, these devices will run out of batteries. And who even thinks about the batteries for their front door?
So, whilst I am excited about the smart home, I can’t see it being mainstream except perhaps in pricey new builds – and only really when the maintenance required by the end user is minimal. For everyone else, a lot of home tech just ain’t sufficiently broken. We know how locks work, our thermostats are not rocket-science to manage. Until the benefits outweigh the inconvenience, the average British 2-up-2-down just ain’t going to be the home of the future – at least not for some time.
Image credit: www.mashable.com