Smart Home Meets Smart Design

Design is not just about how something looks. It is also about how something functions. It is/ about how a part fits into the overall whole. Few things can be properly designed without regard to other things.

A meticulously designed coffee mug is useless if it can’t keep your coffee hot, stay upright on a typical desk, fit in a typical automobile cupholder, or fit under the spout of a coffee dispenser. No matter how beautiful it is, in no way can you say that it is well-designed. Makers of household furnishings and home decor often fall into this kind of trap.

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The latest trend in home design is the smart home internet of things (IoT). Initially, these items were designed in isolation of how they would look and function in an actual home. Slowly but steadily, smart homes are being introduced to smart design. Here is how to make your home smarter while avoiding not so smart design:

For the Sake of Technology

You are likely making a big mistake if you find yourself adding smart home items simply for the sake of technology. There should be a clear benefit. But when we ad tech for the sake of tech, it often results in new problems.

This frequently happens in the kitchen. Those of us who grew up on the Jetsons fantasize about a robot maid that does all the work. Unfortunately, IoT designers grew up with the same fantasy. As a result, they often design things that look at home on the set of a Star Trek movie, and not so much at home, well, at home.

This smart faucet that dispenses personalized water, plus email is the perfect example of this imperfect trend. No one with refined design sensibilities would ever put this monstrosity in a classic kitchen outfitted with commercial sinks designed for real work.

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You have meticulously chosen stainless steel appliances, classic cookware, a four compartment sink, and a prep table to create a certain look and feel. You don’t want to ruin home decor all that with something that looks like tech that belongs to another place and time simply because it has some unique bells and whistles. Your industrial kitchen or bathroom is smarter without the tech. Avoid the trap of doing things for technology’s sake.

Unsolving Problems

You already know how to turn on a light switch. It’s a solved problem. The moment you hook up a smart light, the problem is immediately unsolved. In a smart light review from CIO, the reviewer notes:

On the flip side, if I turn off our office light using the TCP Lighting app, and then someone wants to turn that light back on using the light switch on the wall, she’s out of luck; if the bulb is turned off by the app, the light switch won’t work.

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This is just one of the problems they noted that is common to smart lights in general. What happens when you enter a dark room and realize you left your smartphone in another part of the house? The whole smart light work flow is busted that easy. Avoid smart tech that unsolves more problems than they solve.

Ecosystem Silos

Most people starting out with smart home technology don’t realize that they are not just choosing a piece of tech. They are choosing an ecosystem. One of the things slowing smart home adoption is the fact that everything is in an ecosystem silo. Products do not work well together when they are from different companies using different standards.

OpenHab, HomeKit, Thread, ZigBee, Z-Wave: These are just some of the standards for smart home things. When you buy a product, it is intended to work with one of these standards. Buy a different product, and it likely will not cooperate with what you have already set up.

For now, you have to choose a team and stick with it. You can’t be both a Sox and a Yankees fan. This will be the state of the smart home for the foreseeable future.

When designing a smarter home, ask these smarter questions: Does it work with other design choices? Does it solve or unsolve problems? And does it fit in your current ecosystem silo?