In our previous polls, Robohub and ORi focused our poll discussions on robots that will enter our domestic environment. But what about the environment that surrounds us that is increasingly becoming robotic?
In our latest poll, we chose to look at precisely this topic: smart homes.
Giants such as Apple and Google have already invested in this technology. First, Google recently bought Nest Labs, a smart thermostats company. Nest Labs’ Nest Learning Thermostat is a smart home climate system that can be controlled remotely with an app, and Nest Protect is a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector that talks to you. Then Dropcam — a company that produces closed-circuit home security cameras that can be operated remotely through a Wi-Fi connection – joined Google’s smart home technology family tree. Now the Mountain View company is working on putting together the Dropcam and Nest Labs products in one — the smart thermostat’s sensors could be used to turn on motion sensors on the Dropcam when a user leaves home, and Dropcam will start recording if Nest Protect detects a fire or high level of carbon monoxide.
Instead of acquiring companies, Apple has taken on a slightly different approach. Starting from scratch, Apple developed HomeKit, a suite of tools for controlling devices in your home such as thermostats, furnaces, air conditioners, lights, cameras, garage-door openers, and security systems.
Apart from the giants, there are also many interesting startups working on various devices to make your home smart. Take Peep, for example, which is a camera system that snaps and sends a picture to your door when someone knocks on your door.
With the increased number of smart home devices coming into our homes, what are the main reasons people would open their wallets for?
We first asked our readers “If your smart home were to optimize your devices for one of the following, which one would you choose?” Despite the energy savings and environmental friendliness that has often been associated with smart home technologies, the most popular answer from our readers was that they want the home to optimize for their comfort level / preference (45%). Security/Safety and Energy Savings both ranked second (18%). It is probably not a coincidence that the top three most voted choices have direct advantageous for the user, compared to environmental friendliness. This is perhaps not surprising given that people are more likely to be interested in things that benefit them directly when it comes to technological devices such as this.
We were also curious about what kind of smart devices are the most attractive for people. So we also asked our readers which smart devices people would prefer to have at home if they were to choose one.
The answers were all over the map. But the first and second most voted answered are room-temperature and lighting control. One of the reasons for this could be that we already have many implementations, so people are already familiar with them by already having them or having seen them work (e.g., the already mentioned Nest Learning thermostat). Or it could also be that the industry has discovered this market need and have targeted their products well.
Thermostats aside, smart lighting is undoubtedly here, thanks to companies like Philips and General Electric. General Electric, in particular, entered smart lighting market with the introduction of GE Link, a smart LED bulb that consumers can remotely control from anywhere in the world and sync with other connected devices. Smart lighting is also entering the crowd-funding project scene as well. For example, Avi-On is a project that proposes to develop an affordable Bluetooth-based system consisting of a mobile app, a light bulb, and a capacitive-touch light switch.
Most of the available smart devices today can be controlled and synchronized with your smart phone or your tablet, using frameworks such as Apple’s HomeKit or other. But we figured that one of the obvious extensions of home robots would be that it will act as the master control of your home’s smart devices. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a robot that does its own thing – perhaps vacuuming, or perhaps just being social – but also smartly controls your home? In general, our readers seem to be open to having a robot that does the smart controlling (39%), as well as being able to use more recent technologies of using voice and gestures to command the system (32%).
When Jibo and Pepper ships out of its factories next year, maybe they should come with smart home apps.
The results of the poll presented in this post have been analyzed and written by Camilla Bassani, AJung Moon, Mike Van der Loos, Shalaleh Rismani, Joost Hilte, and Julio Vazquez at the Open Roboethics initiative.