Have you ever wished there was a a one-stop place you could go to for reviews, recommendations and other information on smart home automation, devices and apps? Well you’re in luck because smart home pioneer Chun Liew has just this year launched an online platform called SmartHomeDB. The DB, short for database, focuses on customer awareness, product education and smart home adoption solutions with the hopes that their community can begin filling in the blanks for those everyday customers. In a recent interview Liew stated, “Our goal with SmartHomeDB is to basically write the solution to the ‘Smart Home Cube’ puzzle and we hope that many households will over time become interested in solving the ‘Smart Home Cube’ themselves.”
Q: When did SmartHomeDB first launch?
A: January 1, 2015
Q: What is the mission of SmartHomeDB and the objective you had in mind for this undertaking?
A: Our goal is to be the preferred online destination for consumers who are already upgrading or planning to upgrade their home to a smart home.
What this means is that we research and curate a significant amount of information related to smart home products such as but not limited to:
+ all the product specifications (e.g. connectivity protocols, features, dimensions, weight, colors)
+ for how much a specific smart home product is sold at the major online retailers
+ what the social proof is of a product based on product reviews submitted by consumers via various online channels
+ what the product compatibilities are of a specific product (product ‘x’ works or does not work with products ‘y’ and ‘z’)
+ which Operating Systems a product’s app supports (e.g. Android, iOS, Windows Mobile)
+ what the how-to’s are for each smart home product (how-to install, cloud connect, pair products)
+ what the best product alternatives are of a specific smart home product.
Furthermore, we have recently released our Playbook Module via which users can visualize and obtain a complete understanding of their (planned) physical smart home. Similar to how Google Maps Directions gives instructions on how to get from Location A to Location B, the SmartHomeDB Playbook provides instructions on how to upgrade a Home to a Smart Home.
Finally, we foresee that over time we will also become the preferred online destination for smart home hardware, software and service providers / developers as we are in the process of centralizing, standardizing and quality controlling the technical information side of the smart home landscape such as radio protocols, software drivers and application program interfaces (APIs).
To shortly elaborate on this issue, if I am a software engineer at a smart home products company today and am tasked with linking my software with other products/software/APIs it is a bit of a nightmare and a long-term costly endeavor. A huge amount of documentation needs to be processed, a lot of trial and error, a lot of monitoring latest market developments from a technical perspective, basically a lot of time wasted. We are basically in the process of providing the documentation and software tools required to significantly simplify these type of industry challenges.
Q: How would you recommend first introducing someone to smart home automation? Are there any platforms or devices you’d especially advocate for first-timers?
A: So at SmartHomeDB we refer to ‘Simple Playbooks’ and ‘Advanced Playbooks’ and I personally always recommend to start of with a ‘Simple Playbook’ and when a ‘Beginner’ really likes the ‘upgrade’ realized via mainly Wi-Fi Enabled Smart Home Products then it may become interesting for that user to upgrade to an ‘Advanced Playbook’ which is often related to adding a Smart Home Gateway / Hub to a setup via which more radio protocols can be supported besides Wi-Fi, such as but not limited to Z-Wave, ZigBee, Thread and Bluetooth. So with an Advanced Playbook you basically increase the # of products you can consider for your personal setup, due to the fact that you are able to have products communicate via multiple radio protocols besides only Wi-Fi.
Simple Playbooks are those that use a resident’s existing Wi-Fi Router and connect the respective Wi-Fi Router with Wi-Fi Enabled Smart Home Products such as a Philips Hue Starter Kit, Nest Learning Thermostat and/or Belkin WeMo Switch.
Below a quick overview of the key differences between a Simple and Advanced Playbook:
Q: Do you believe that smart home technology is still too high tech for some? Or do you believe it can be adopted by anyone, no matter their demographic, as long as they are open-minded and willing to learn?
A: I believe your question needs to be seen from 2 angles.
The first angle would be the required technical skills, knowledge and patience needed for the usage of smart home technology after it is properly installed and configured.
The second angle would be the required technical skills, knowledge and patience needed for the actual installation and configuration of the smart home technology that is on the market today.
With regards to the first angle, if the smart home technology is properly installed and configured I believe more than 50% of the general population (so the majority) will be able to properly utilize and enjoy it.
With regards to the second angle, of properly installing and configuring the smart home technology that is on the market today, I believe it is still too difficult and ‘high tech’ for more than 90% of the general population.
So for a ‘Simple Playbook’, where a setup mainly consists of Wi-Fi Smart Home Products, the technical prowess we expect our target audience to have is that we would assume that our target users know how to properly setup and configure a Wi-Fi Router from scratch.
For an ‘Advanced Playbook’, where a setup consists of Smart Home Products using 1 or more of the above mentioned radio protocols, my personal test is to question whether a respective user would have the patience and ability to learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube if I would give a messed up Rubik’s Cube and besides it documentation that would explain how to solve the Rubik’s Cube as in my personal opinion the level of difficulty and patience required is very similar when comparing Installing & Configuring an Advanced Smart Home Playbook and learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
Where do you envision the smart home market, and smart technology, heading within the next ten years?
A: So I believe the market will grow gradually and will not have a ‘tsunami’ type of growth development.
My personal forecast will be that within the next 3-5 years, one out of every 10 households in North America and Europe will have at least a single internet-connected smart home product solution in their homes (e.g. lighting, camera, thermostat, sensor, scale) which were installed by either professional installers or Do-it-Yourself consumers.
Within the next 10 years, I expect that 3 out of every 10 households in North America and Europe will have at least a single internet-connected smart home product solution in their homes and that 1 out of every 10 households will have upgraded to three or more installed internet-connected smart home products.
A product category which I believe will have a very important role in the smart home landscape are Voice Command Devices such as the Amazon Echo and ivee. I already see a lot of enthusiasm from early smart home adopters with regards to their experiences with using voice commands to interact with their home and I believe this will become an industry standard with regards to how consumers in general will interact with the smart home products in their homes.
Finally, I personally like to compare the adoption of smart home technology with the adoption of the dishwasher. The first electric dishwasher was released to the market in 1913 and research results related to the topic of ownership of consumers appliances in UK households in 2001 showed the following:
Close to 70% of the highest income households had a dishwasher by 2001 versus only 5% of the lowest income households with an average of 25% of all households having a dishwasher.
I foresee a similar development for smart home technology, where 25% of the highest income households will have 3 or more smart home products by 2025 versus only 5% of the lowest income households with an average of 10% of all households having 3 or more smart home products.