SAN JOSE, Calif. — The smart home is starting to look a little cluttered, and some of the remodelers are getting ahead of themselves, according to one of the more well-known carpenters.
More than a half dozen startups pitched ideas for the consumer Internet of Things at the Demo conference here. Most used Bluetooth Low Energy, and several showed software to link islands of home automation. In an on-stage interview, Matt Rogers, co-founder of Nest (below), took issue both with their choice in networks and strategy.
In the next year or two, we need more point products that solve real problems. When I see things that tie 20 devices together, I think that's premature. Even early adopters only have two or three products in their homes.
Nest just happens to have three products now: security cameras it acquired and smoke alarms and thermostats it designed itself. The company also has launched a program to let third parties work with its devices using the Thread protocol it is making an open spec.
We won't build everything ourselves. That's maniacally egotistical. To get a conscious home built, it will take a long time and a lot of great companies. The term “smart home” is too geeky, and the home shouldn't be smarter than you.
We think about… how the home can take care of you, and not make you take care of it. You have smartphones and tablets and are deluged with information. We don't want the home to be like that. Most of the time, it should be taking care of itself.
Though Bluetooth LE is gaining traction rapidly, it “was never designed for long-range use through the home the way it's being used now. It's being stretched,” he said. “For phone-centric apps, it's OK, but when you leave home, Bluetooth goes with you, so there's no communication left in the home.” His company uses a mix of WiFi and the 6LoWPAN-based Thread protocol.
Rodgers did sympathize with the challenges of startups, and he shared some encouraging advice. Nest, acquired by Google in January, remains an independent company with its own board meetings, he said.
For startups, it's just as hard as it's always been, but there's a lot more propensity to launch startups these days. With our connections, we could call the CEO of TI, but even with that, it's still hard.
We had a full-time team in China our first year, and still, it was hard. Our manufacturing director was carrying suitcases of metal parts through airports, because FedEx was too slow. We never anticipated that.
I usually advise startups to not do Kickstarter. It's hard to commit to delivery dates. We had a seasoned team with 70 people by our launch, and we still didn't hit our exact schedule. There is a lot of availability of capital, and great ideas get funded. A lot of companies don't have great networks, but in one or two introductions, you can get a whole company funded.
To read more of this external content and view more slides of consumer IoT and home automation concepts, go to “12 startups I saw at Demo.”