There is a classic “Smart Home” scenario that you’ve all likely heard: my calendar talks to my alarm clock, allowing me to sleep in an extra 30 minutes. When I finally do get up, the alarm clock starts the coffee maker so as I walk into the kitchen, I’m greeted by fresh brewed coffee.

I hate this scenario with the heat of a thousand suns.

Reason 1: Humans aren’t algorithmic
22 year old single engineers may have a very predictable life but any parent will laugh at this scenario: their kids just aren’t going to sleep in. Even if you are single, there are a gazillion reasons to get up that have nothing to do with your calendar. And even if you had a regular schedule, there are always those random meetings, put in by others, which a human can easily ignore, yet would trigger an early unwanted alarm. It may not happen often but even if it triggers just once a month, it would still drive you crazy. Finally, let’s not forget those mornings when you’re in a rush and don’t have time for coffee. But don’t worry, the alarm clock will still doggedly make it for you…

It’s easy to get excited by the potential of automated devices but just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. As a UX designer, two things has been drilled into me throughout my career:

  • Most humans are messy balls of chaos (this is a good thing)
  • Even if you’re wrong just 10% of the time, your customers will hate you

Good UX design isn’t just about making things work, it’s also about making things not fail. Unfortunately, most home automation vendors are just thrilled that things sort of work.

Reason 2: Don’t apply digital rules to analog tasks
Yes, the alarm clock can ‘turn on’ the coffee maker, that’s technically not that hard. But who replaces the filter, loads up the coffee, refills the water, and most importantly, puts a pot under the spout? The majority of the work on the coffee machine isn’t the digital ‘turn on’ command but the very analog ‘refill’ command. It’s far too easy for the coffee (or the pot!) to not materialize through human error and I can promise you, the human won’t be blaming themselves when they wake up to a coffee puddle on the floor.

Reason 3: The value just isn’t there
With all this technology at our disposal, is our big dream actually saving a few minutes brewing coffee? This seems like a profoundly modest goal. We can shoot much higher.

Jeeves must go
We are so smitten with the idea of an old school butler that we want a digital one. This service envy is the core driving force of most home automation scenarios. Having the low level tech to make things turn on remotely is a fine start, but we seem to forgetting a teeny tiny little point: we haven’t invented practical AI yet. I know, I know, it is coming: but it’s not here now. My point is that people seem to think simplistic if/then rules are somehow going to be enough.

Our preoccupation with creating our own personal “Jeeves” must go. It’s blinding us from thinking bigger and more interesting thoughts. Most home automation systems are hopelessly rigid and while they will give a great demo these systems are unfortunately doomed to fail too often. You can only say “Sorry honey, that shouldn’t have happened” so many times before the entire system is banished from the home.

I’m actually very bullish on the ultimate potential of the smart home, I’m just saying we need to look beyond Jeeves. Here are a few are simple and valuable things we could be doing right now that are not servant motivated.

Value Exploration 1: Simple status
Devices that come with their own connectivity, such as GSM modems, allow devices to upload status information to servers with zero configuration and no interaction with the customer at all. GE is already doing this with their ‘industrial internet of things’ and the valuable insights gained from this approach will come into the home as the cost inevitably falls. There are a range of solutions possible with this approach:

  • Internal Company Insights
    This would allow a company to gather data on their products and learn how they are used and perform in various environments. I realize you’re rolling your eyes at me but honestly, this is a big deal and companies would love to have this information if they could get it cheaply.
  • Consumer relationship
    The next step is to share this status information with the consumer, warning them of pending failures and basic maintenance (such as replacing filters) Of course, there is a risk that companies will abuse this power, trying to push replacements too often but that’s basic UX design and companies that get that right will gain far more than filter replacements, they’ll gain trust and brand loyalty.
  • Automated repair
    If the consumer agrees, the manufacturer can warn a repair company nearby that your water heater is starting to fail and can proactively call to schedule a repair before a catastrophe happens. This has been previously discussed by Jonathan Stark as “Setting the Whack”.
  • Quantified House
    Assuming we can get this status data for all my devices into a single centralized location (I know that’s a big ask), we could start having a quantified house, measuring electricity, heating, and appliance use. As Tesla’s Powerwall gains wider use, consumers will be VERY interested in where their power is going and a house wide audit will allow easy analysis and savings on electrical power. However, there is likely much more we can learn about how people use the home, what affects air quality, and ways to improve heating. These are all a bit analytical and not nearly as exciting as ‘attentive devices’ but there are some deeply valuable things hiding in this data.

Value Exploration 2: Lighting
I’ve explored lighting before in a previous post but it’s worth pointing out the range of possibilities that lighting enables and it’s far more interesting than the Jeeves inspired ‘turning on the lights when you enter a room” scenario which is not only a bit boring but also problematic (it’s far too easy to wake people up with automatic lights).

  • Just lowering costs
    A home lighting system using mesh networking will be much more flexible and less expensive to build. I realize this feels very dull but money is a big motivator and having a system that allows you to have much more flexible yet lower cost installation can be a strong product driver.
  • Simple targeted solutions
    Instead of monolithic systems that control the entire house, simple stand alone solutions are useful. For example, Ikea sells a battery powered closet light for just a few dollars. The problem is that you must manually turn it on/off each time you open the closet door. Just by adding a simple wireless door sensor, you could easily set up one (or even 20!) of these things to turn on/off when the door opens/closes. This is a simple, clean value that doesn’t over reach but solves a clear need. If this example doesn’t seem that valuable to you, just imagine if you had to manually turn the light in the refrigerator on and off every time you opened the door…
  • Impossible lighting
    It will be possible to have dozens of lights controlled with a single wireless switch. The ability to just plug in a new lamp and have it auto register to ‘the room’ so the switch can turn it on and off is one of those tiny things that can change the way we use lighting.
  • Safety Lighting vs Task Lighting
    I’m looking forward to a home with unobtrusive baseboard lighting that turns on and off entirely based on simple motion sensors. That is indeed a simple if/then rule but as it’s such a harmless consequence, that can be automated. The big bright ceiling lights will still be controlled by wall switches as that still gives me predictable control. However, these switches will be wireless ones which can be placed anywhere and more liberally around the house. In addition, I can still use my phone to remotely control everything if I need to but that would be a more exceptional use.

Valuable isn’t sexy

These examples are very valuable but, honestly, they just don’t demo as well as a magical digital servant. While a system that magically anticipates my every need is a lovely idea that will always aspire, it’s a bit TOO exciting actually, distracting us from the pragmatic things right in front of us. We’ll only discover more creative solutions if we drop our obsession with servant style automation. There are lots of simple but powerful concepts we can explore, build, and use today.

It’s time to let Jeeves go.

 

 

Special thanks to @jonathanstark for reviewing early drafts

322 thoughts on “Jeeves Must Go

  1. coffee

    […]here are some links to web sites that we link to due to the fact we think they are really worth visiting[…]

  2. coffee

    […]here are some hyperlinks to internet sites that we link to since we feel they may be worth visiting[…]

  3. bantningspiller

    […]we prefer to honor quite a few other world-wide-web web-sites on the net, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Beneath are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  4. iPhone

    […]that would be the end of this write-up. Right here you will locate some sites that we assume you will appreciate, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  5. peaberry coffee

    […]that may be the end of this report. Here you will find some web sites that we assume you’ll appreciate, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  6. check it out

    […]very few web sites that transpire to become in depth beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly nicely worth checking out[…]

  7. buy a home

    […]although internet sites we backlink to below are considerably not related to ours, we really feel they are really really worth a go as a result of, so possess a look[…]

  8. Cracked iPhone

    […]we prefer to honor numerous other net websites on the net, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Underneath are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  9. my company

    […]although internet sites we backlink to beneath are considerably not related to ours, we really feel they may be basically really worth a go through, so have a look[…]

  10. IM 体育

    […]although internet websites we backlink to beneath are considerably not associated to ours, we really feel they may be in fact worth a go by means of, so have a look[…]

  11. escortsinorlando.com

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine some unrelated information, nonetheless truly really worth taking a search, whoa did 1 discover about Mid East has got far more problerms as well […]

  12. ücretsiz indir

    […]that could be the end of this report. Here you’ll discover some websites that we believe you will appreciate, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  13. got paid

    […]very handful of web sites that take place to be detailed beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly properly worth checking out[…]

  14. womens apparel

    […]we like to honor many other world wide web web sites around the internet, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Below are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  15. kona coffee bean

    […]although web sites we backlink to beneath are considerably not related to ours, we feel they are truly really worth a go as a result of, so possess a look[…]

  16. dry rock

    […]although web-sites we backlink to below are considerably not related to ours, we feel they may be truly worth a go through, so possess a look[…]

  17. gratis descargar

    […]that would be the finish of this report. Right here you’ll obtain some websites that we consider you’ll enjoy, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  18. zip code

    […]very couple of internet websites that come about to become in depth beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly nicely really worth checking out[…]

  19. find this

    […]we prefer to honor several other internet web pages on the internet, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Below are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  20. pet

    […]here are some links to web pages that we link to due to the fact we consider they are really worth visiting[…]

  21. World news

    […]we like to honor a lot of other web web sites on the internet, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Beneath are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  22. navigate here

    […]we prefer to honor a lot of other net websites on the internet, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Beneath are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  23. gambling

    […]Every when in a while we pick out blogs that we read. Listed beneath are the newest web-sites that we choose […]

  24. corporation

    […]we like to honor many other online sites around the web, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Beneath are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  25. The Roundhouse

    […]although internet websites we backlink to beneath are considerably not associated to ours, we really feel they may be really really worth a go as a result of, so possess a look[…]

  26. افلام

    […]check beneath, are some totally unrelated websites to ours, having said that, they may be most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  27. rechargeable flashlight

    […]we like to honor quite a few other internet websites around the net, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Below are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  28. Turen

    […]please take a look at the web sites we comply with, which includes this one, because it represents our picks in the web[…]

  29. kush

    […]very few websites that come about to become detailed below, from our point of view are undoubtedly well really worth checking out[…]

  30. gourmet hawaiian coffee

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a handful of unrelated information, nevertheless truly worth taking a search, whoa did a single learn about Mid East has got much more problerms too […]

  31. viagra

    […]Every once in a although we pick out blogs that we study. Listed below are the most recent web sites that we pick out […]

  32. itedunews

    […]very handful of sites that happen to become in depth beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly effectively really worth checking out[…]

  33. Bridal

    […]that would be the finish of this write-up. Here you will find some web-sites that we feel you’ll value, just click the links over[…]

  34. black magic

    […]although web sites we backlink to below are considerably not associated to ours, we feel they’re really really worth a go by way of, so possess a look[…]

  35. Options Unlimited

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a number of unrelated information, nevertheless genuinely worth taking a appear, whoa did one find out about Mid East has got more problerms at the same time […]

  36. wood clamps

    […]very handful of web-sites that happen to become comprehensive below, from our point of view are undoubtedly very well worth checking out[…]

  37. Pinganillo

    […]although internet sites we backlink to below are considerably not connected to ours, we feel they’re truly really worth a go by, so have a look[…]

  38. book of ra game

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine some unrelated data, nevertheless truly worth taking a look, whoa did 1 find out about Mid East has got more problerms also […]

  39. kala jadu

    […]very few internet websites that come about to be comprehensive beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly nicely worth checking out[…]

  40. stay at home mom jobs

    […]we like to honor several other web web pages around the net, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Beneath are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  41. cats

    […]Every as soon as in a when we choose blogs that we study. Listed beneath are the latest sites that we decide on […]

  42. anal toys

    […]that could be the finish of this post. Here you will come across some web-sites that we assume you will appreciate, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  43. buttplug

    […]that will be the finish of this report. Right here you’ll find some web-sites that we assume you will enjoy, just click the links over[…]

  44. Humans

    […]please go to the websites we adhere to, which includes this one particular, because it represents our picks in the web[…]

  45. Be Happy

    […]check below, are some totally unrelated web sites to ours, on the other hand, they may be most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  46. porn

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a number of unrelated data, nonetheless definitely really worth taking a search, whoa did 1 study about Mid East has got more problerms too […]

  47. sisters of the north

    […]we like to honor a lot of other web websites around the net, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Beneath are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  48. new york best sellers

    […]we prefer to honor quite a few other internet sites around the net, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Below are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  49. …For further Information click here

    […] What web host are you the usage of? Can I get affiliate hyperlink to your host? I wish web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol[…]

  50. Toned In Ten Review

    […]although web-sites we backlink to below are considerably not related to ours, we really feel they may be essentially really worth a go via, so possess a look[…]

  51. Hotel booking sites

    […]although internet websites we backlink to below are considerably not connected to ours, we really feel they may be basically really worth a go by, so have a look[…]

  52. love quote

    […]very couple of internet sites that take place to be in depth below, from our point of view are undoubtedly very well worth checking out[…]

Comments are closed.