“Why Is My Smart Home So Stupid?”

A marketing professor gives an answer to this simple question:

One popular answer is that the Internet of Things is still in its infancy and that better technology and standards are within reach and will lead to greater integration, and thus, greater smartness in the not too distant future.

There is some value in this explanation. Everyone who has ever tried to get an IP camera to work on a cell phone will probably agree. But this answer is also entirely steeped in a technological mindset and the naive belief that better technology will automatically improve our lives.

An alternative explanation may be that popular tropes such as the “Internet of Things” not only inspire but also constrain our imagination as innovators and as consumers. Designing greater customer experiences and, thus, extracting greater economic value may be a matter of avoiding this trope altogether…

One managerial implication we can derive from Epp, Schau, and Price is that different smart home definitions are possible. And Nest’s definition seems much more powerful than Plum’s. Plum adds yet another layer to the Internet of Things, and the result is often a home where everything is connected but nothing adds up. In sharp contrast, Nest succeeds by putting its technology in service of a much higher sociological goal: the age-old quest to create and sustain a happy family

The suggestion here is that new technology is only as good as the improvements in social interactions that it brings. Way before the smart home, modern consumers have been promised all sorts of benefits from new technology but the created items don’t always lead to the desired social outcomes. Cars enabled easier transportation but led to more private existences and increasing sprawl. Similarly, more single-family homes gave people space but helped spread them out. The radio and later television delivered mass media, theoretically connecting people, but also led to people sitting around these items. Modern appliances were to save labor. The Internet allows unprecedented customized access to information yet can lead to echo chambers and isolated interactions. Autonomous vehicles will create more free time or more time to work?

Perhaps this should be a challenge for smart home innovators: how can new devices both help in their particular area (say heating or lighting or saving energy) and foster social interaction? This may actually be the harder part.

One thought on ““Why Is My Smart Home So Stupid?”

  1. Pingback: An official definition for a “smart home” | Legally Sociable

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