Home automation isn't just a neologism, it's the future. Just take a look around. Apple recently introduced the HomeKit at its World Wide Developer's Conference. Earlier this year, Google spent $3.2 billion on home automation company, Nest Labs, which is best known for its learning thermostat.
Quirky, the New York-based crowd-invention platform, is also hoping to make major inroads in this market. Through Wink, a spin-off of its crowd-invention business, users can adjust their smart-home devices remotely at the swipe of a finger. At launch, on July 7, Wink expects that'll include roughly 60 products.
To showcase the new initiative, this week Wink showed off its products and the work of about 15 other partner vendors at a souped-up apartment that would make Judy Jetson drool. The place was teaming with devices that appeared to open, close and gyrate automagically.
Among other connected devices within Wink, the company demoed a garage door opener from Chamberlain, light dimmers from Lutron, and light bulbs from GE. Wink's goal is to become a platform by which many of your smart-home devices can commune. Currently, smart devices speak different "languages" including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and Zigbee. So getting them to chat and toe the line has been tough.
From July 7th through Labor Day, the Wink Hub will be available for $49.99 in 2,000 Home Depot stores. After Labor Day, users can buy the hardware for $79.99. If customers buy two products such as smart switches and blinds, they'll pay just 99 cents for the Hub. The launch will also be accompanied by a 24/7 service team.
So what can you expect to see in homes of the future? Here are five trends on the horizon:
1. Tell your home what to do anytime, anywhere.
Want to take a shower when you get home? You'll be able to program your smart water heater to start heating up while you're still at work. You might even preheat your oven while you're on your way home. Moral of the story is, you won't need to be home to turn on your devices. Of course, you will still need to buy those smart home devices.
2. Excuse me, my house is calling.
Is the door locked? Did I turn off the lights? Did I shut off the gas stove? Right now, everyone has had a moment like that. But in the house of the future, your home will check in with you. You will know immediately when your smoke detector rings or your door was left open. Better yet, if the door suddenly opens after it was securely closed, you might even forestall a breakin. Talk about a security system.
3. Customize your home according to your life.
We all have our routines. Get up, jog, shower, make coffee. Any number of these steps might require technology. In your home of the future, all of your devices can be programed to work in unison--making your AM routine less taxing. When you turn on the lights in the morning, you might also like to open the blinds, and probably open the garage door as well. Or you can time it all. If you wake up at 6 a.m. while it's still dark, the lights might flip on and then flip off automatically after the sun rises.
4. Talking to your home won't be weird.
Talking to yourself will take on a whole new meaning. In connected homes, you'll be able to speak to your oven or light bulbs and not sound crazy. For its part, Wink sees big brands' endorsement of smart homes as an opportunity to bring awareness to the world of connected homes. And who knows, in the future Siri may do more than give you directions in a British accent.
5. Dangers will lurk (but that's always true).
All technology can to some degree pose dangers. One concern that comes naturally with an app that controls everything in your smart home is: what if it gets hacked? Now the hackers could unlock your door, open your garage, cause such a mess at your home simply by taking control of your phone. And, don't forget that information like your water usage is now also in a "cloud" system. Wink says that the only data that the company gets is user's email address and the password they create to log in to the app. Plus, all communications between devices are strictly encrypted. Well, let's assume it works for now.