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Currently most home automation products are geared towards family fathers who want to control every aspect of their families lives - control freaks. This is a market that does not scale. Apple therefore has to present an entirely new perspective. I have led several projects in this space and the one service that has been the most promising and was accepted by several family members was the anthropomorphization of the technology by presenting an addressable assistant that takes care of your home while you're away.

This seems to be a bit of a deep assumption, no? There are lots of advantages to home automation besides "fathers wanting to control every aspect of their families lives."

The Nest Thermostat, for instance is about energy savings and not having to think too much about the thermostat. Lockitron about the convenience about never having to worry about keys again...

My comment may have sounded cynical, but I have been responsible for this space at Vodafone R&D and we had led several focus groups with entire families and psychologists, where most products that one side wanted to control light switches and heat met big opposition from the rest of the family, since they felt it took control away from them. Nest is a different proposition and is doing well for good reasons. But for home automation the right prop has yet to be found.

I just want lights to turn on when I enter the room, and turn off if I'm the last to leave. If Apple can turn the argument from 'control' to presence, then it would be interesting.

I have two wireless light globes that are infinitely more painful than just using a light switch.

Ya, I've been pretty skeptical of most products in this space to date. Sure, it's neat that you can control every light in your home from a tablet but who really cares? Is that really any better than regular old light switches?

Saying this makes me feel old or something, but I just don't get it?

I think you need to look beyond the idea that home automation = only turning on/off light bulbs.

I had a friend with a cottage and they had a system hooked up to their AC. When they were leaving home to drive to the cottage, they would call the cottage phone number, the AC system would intercept the call and after a few buttons later (ex #485*) the AC would be up and running. By they time they arrived, the cottage was a cool 19C.

OK, ya, I get it for heating and cooling. But is there anything else beyond that that isn't automation for automation's sake?

What's the point of any luxury? Isn't a nice sofa just furniture for furniture's sake? And a home theater is just entertainment for entertainment's sake. If your opposition to automation is rooted in asceticism, that's perfectly fine, but then why are you on HN?

Home automation provides convenience (not having to drive all the way home to close the garage you accidentally left open), integration (being able to control and monitor your lighting, HVAC, sound, video, pool/spa, landscaping fountains/lights, etc. from a single remote with a single UI), and customization (pre-programmed actions, timed sequences, and unique designs that make a house uniquely suited to its occupants) that are not otherwise available.

Edit to add: there are also accessibility benefits to automation.

I guess I'm just saying that I think that most people won't find this sort of automation actually useful. Nerds will love it for the sheer nerdey pleasure of controlling every aspect of their world from a touchscreen, but I'm skeptical that it will go beyond that.

Most people won't want to monitor their lighting, HVAC, sound, video, pool/spa, landscaping fountains/lights, etc.

I'm not going to deny that there's a ton of geekery involved. But there are several things my non-geek wife loves about our home automation system, including:

* Never coming home to a dark house (minimal lights automatically come on at sunset, and tapping one button immediately inside the entry door turns on several lights in the area you're walking in to). * Watching a movie in complete darkness, but hitting 'pause' and having the necessary lights to get to the bathroom or kitchen come on (at a dim level so you're not suddenly blinded). * Having "believable" automated operation of lights and other things when we're on vacation, giving a better appearance of someone being home. * Being able to adjust the temperature when we're not home (helpful when we've been gone a while and want the house pre-warmed/cooled).


This certainly ALL falls into the luxury category, but it's quite nice. I don't think the issue in this market is that people who aren't geeks wouldn't enjoy the benefits. It's a combination of a lack of proper marketing, high cost, and the interfaces for these things not being where they need to be for average users. Maybe Apple can address at least some of those factors.

I would be keen to see all door locks controllable by remote device. Then it could alert me to doors left unlocked late in the evening or if we were out of the house.

Garden automation (lighting, irrigation and monitoring).

Better window treatments like controlled awnings and blinds or window opacity in the future.

Most people opposed the very idea of a TV remote control when wireless remotes were first introduced (Tog on Software Design by Tognazzini). Given the right system, features, and sales pitch, consumer attitudes can change.

Locks, security systems, garage doors, PV inverters? Plus I think it would be useful for major appliances like refrigerators and electric ranges and water heaters to output their power usage since you can't just plug those into a Kill-A-Watt.

Security is a big one. Setting all your zones and being able to set alarms and see cameras. Additionally the ability to give out lock codes that only work at specific times of the day and are revokable.

Most of it does seem pretty unnecessary. Things like shades that adjust automatically throughout the day definitely seem more like luxuries than even conveniences or necessities.

I've gotten much use out of a simple remote control dimmer [1] in the living room, but that's not automation, and most people would probably consider even something that simple as an unnecessary luxury, much less want whole-home automation.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Lutron-MRF2-600MTHW-WH-Multi-Location-...

The problem is it's a thousand little things not just one big thing.

The real power is that every item can be improved a little with automation. Your dryer starts an hour before you wake up so that your clothes are dry, your underwear is warm and toasty to face that cold winter's day. You can check from the supermarket if there was anything you don't have at home for the cake you're baking. The lights slowly dim to get your brain thinking it's ready for bed. Your lights change colour to make the room feel warmer or colder. The blinds slowly open just before you're supposed to wake up so that you can be woken by light rather than an alarm clock. Your oven begins cooking the roast to work around your schedule. Stopping the microwave from continuing to nuke the popcorn from the other room so you can wait for it to cool without getting up.

None of these are particularly brilliant and maybe you would look at it and ask why spend an extra thousand on a fridge for this? An extra 50 a light-bulb... A few thousand for installation of a base system just to have the privilege. Another 500 for motors for blinds. And each of those is just for one nice hardly noticeable difference in your day.

Maybe the cost for the value doesn't make sense. It won't for a lot of people. Having said that it seems to me that what we're talking about here is automating some of the duties of a butler/body servant type job, at a lower cost than employing one for something that will be in place longer.

I'll also add some good old anecdotal stuff at the end about some of the silly little contraptions I've found in my apartment in Japan and the difference they make. I've got an automatic bath tub push a button and it fills to an appropriate level at a temperature you set. It seems so silly to spend the money to save yourself two minutes of faffing about with taps for something you might do every other week or once a month. But without that two minutes and without the pressure to not let it overflow I have nice relaxing baths much more often because all I need to do is push a button and finish whatever I'm doing before grabbing a book. There are also remotes for the lights. It's great to walk in the door grab the one remote and walk through the place turning on and off the lights on my way to the lounge to settle down all without having to go slightly off towards one wall or another, this seems small (or ridiculously lazy) but I honestly think I'll spend the money when I move to keep this tiny freedom. Being able to turn the lights on and off from bed and freely rearrange rooms without worrying about light-switches is an added bonus as well as dimming by remote are all great and have made ever day slightly more pleasant. There are a few other contrived convenience around (there are others that I was used to that are missing here though) and I can honestly say that quite a few of them are something that have made necessities slightly easier or enjoyable things more accessible. I'll definitely be hunting out these little conveniences when I've left. So there's my two cents.

I'd definitely like to be able to to tell if I have all the ingredients I need for that cake I'm baking while I'm at the supermarket. I own, literally, four bottles of paprika right now because several times I just couldn't remember so I said "better safe than sorry."

Can we do that yet though? Some sort of smart inventory taking cabinet?

Sure that wasn't a metaphor? With all the "little things" that we can get individually, we have a bunch of ingredients that aren't really satisfying on their own. But if they could be combined in many ways, they can be useful enough to stock up on. But...

> The problem is it's a thousand little things not just one big thing.

Absolutely right. But we start with things that justify a purchase because they complete a worthwhile task on their own. That reduces the barrier to entry.

Yes and no, you can buy some solutions but the daily extra effort associated with using them doesn't outweigh the occasional effort/annoyance of the mistake at this point.

It's one of those things that would take a large amount of work for a company to get it to the point where the ease of use is the same as the current system, I'm sure we'll eventually see a usable system (as it seems that computer vision and object classification techniques being developed in other areas will be applicable here).


Simplicity of setup/operation is probably all it will take to make home automation products popular. Most of the existing products seem to be geared towards those control freak types who demand lots of options/customization but the real mass market is lazy people who need a one-size-fits-all solution.

Why the down votes? Parent is not saying the only reason to like home automation is if you're a control freak, he/she is saying that that's how these things have been marketed to date. I think it's a great point.

I'm still scarred from those super-creepy X10 ads that blanketed the web about a decade ago.

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