Making Smart Things – reflections on Le Web

I tuned in to the live feed of Le Web today to listen to the CTO of SmartThings. A company that successfully raised over a million USD on Kickstarter and who’s vision is to “add intelligence to everyday things in your world, so that your life can be more awesome”. Not too dissimilar to the research project (ELIS) I’m currently working in. Except, we try to make everyone’s life more awesome and not only your own.

This post was originally published on my blog

Watch the talk below.

I haven’t written much about my new work yet, but in short: I make software happen in a research project looking at how we can use connected devices and (great) software to optimise our energy consumption in existing buildings. The project is informally called Elis.

There are some interesting takeaways from the talk (and its enjoyable to watch as well):

  • Community awareness: it is not enough to just develop cool technology, people have to use it as well if you’re to succeed. If you dwelve into the research of smart home and ubiquitous computing in general, too often you will find that research forget what the user really wants and needs. The life-logging company Memoto is also great at community building.
  • Speaking to all stakeholders: the consumers, the makers, and the developers. It has to solve a problem for the user. Hobbyist and manufacturers must be able to integrate with SmartThings (i.e buildling a hardware and software eco-system), and in addition, giving developers access to create their own applications and adaptations. Now you can finally add that connected fridge of yours. Their, admirable, goal is that it should be as easy to install an application on your connected devices as it is to install an application on your iPhone.
  • The physical graph: a term that seems to become more and more frequent in the Internet of Things community. Evrythng, a Swiss/Brittish company, is attempting a similar stand: to become the Facebook for connected devices. As PhD student @fohlin said “I’m not sure where I stand on this.” Neither am I since many architectures from a communication standpoint tend to involve a fixed, proprietary, centre. This brings me to the next point.
  • Creating lock-in: it is apparent that SmartThings want their consumers, makers and developers to contribute to the SmartThing cloud. But what if I want to extract data from it? Or more likely, integrate SmartThings with other devices in my home? We’re back to the question of federation and standards. This lock-in question is something we’re particularly interested in our research work when considering the platform upon which services are built. Might get back to that in a later blog post.
  • Running a live-demo: AWESOME! That takes courage and shows their stuff work. I love it!

I’m impressed with what SmartThings are doing and how they are engaging the community. Their work is important to open up for future businesses so that we may unleash the full potential of connected devices. It’ll make it easier for consumers to accept devices that help optimise our energy consumption.