K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Scott Koehler

Scott Koehler

Apr 08 2018

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Talking About and Getting Started with Smart Tech


Get Up to Speed

  1. Install a smart lock on your door. If you’re not handy with tools, bring in someone who is and experiment. I installed an August Smart Lock Pro, and I’m controlling it by voice from Siri on my iPhone. The cool thing about this device is that it only replaces the deadbolt and not the door knob, so you have two independent options for locking and unlocking your home.
  2. Contract with professionals who are already installing smart things in homes like the experts from the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA). You might include their proposal in your contract or suggest that your homeowner pay them directly. Either way, you will learn something and get involved in smart technology.
  3. Take a class online or in person to learn the basics about smart technology. If you already have a smartphone, you’re halfway there. If you have some mechanical aptitude and like figuring out how things work, then this a new opportunity for new expertise and income that’s worth considering.

 

Talking About Smart Technology
Technology gets new vocabulary and definitions often, so here are some of the frequently used words and definitions for discussing smart homes and smart kitchens with your clients.

  • Smart. Currently smart means online in the kitchen industry. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with artificial intelligence.
  • Local Network. Typically this is a single office or a home, where a smart device does not have to be online to operate. For example, a temperature or moisture sensor can let your clients know when conditions change in their home. The downside is they won’t know about those until they return home.
  • Hub. A hub is a machine that collects and distributes data to and from and between smart devices in the home.
  • Smart Speaker. This is a voice device that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to learn and communicate online via the cloud or built into a computer chip (local) like in a smartphone or even in an appliance.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI). The ability of a machine to do tasks that previously required human skill or human intelligence, including learning and problem solving. Examples: voice and image recognition.
  • IOT (Internet of Things). Smart things talking to smart things with no human involved. Example, a moisture sensor on the kitchen floor telling your client’s smartphone that there’s a leak in the house.
  • Machine Learning. Algorithms (computer code) that cause a machine, like a smartphone, to learn. Example, your smartphone voice assistant (Siri/Alexa) learns from input without being explicitly programmed by a human.

 

Voice Control in Smart Homes and Kitchens
Voice technology for home automation is evolving rapidly but not without some bumps in the road. Here are some things to consider.

1. Voice control of smart devices is top of mind for everyone, but home automation systems with manual switches can be voice enabled as an option that I would recommend to my clients.

2. Some smart devices are close to being voice controllable but are not quite ready yet. For example, an appliance manufacturer hasn’t been approved for use with Apple HomeKit but is working on it.

3. Some systems like Apple HomeKit are better at controlling many devices in multiple rooms and can automate actions among devices. For example, a system can automatically turn on a kitchen light when a smartlock is unlocked. Some systems like Amazon Alexa, for example, are better at ordering and buying food and scheduling deliveries to your client’s home. Voice systems have niches, and the concept of a unified ecosystem for all home automation may not be the best solution for every home.

Mar 23 2018

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Smart Home Transparency and Trust

If you have smart devices in your home like a speaker or an appliance, then you have given permission to a tech company to share your data. Consumers have given a level of trust to tech companies up until now, but that may all be changing. The loss of trust and lack of transparency by Facebook will likely have far-reaching effects – maybe none more than in the home automation and smart technology industry – which is just in its infancy.

Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Siri and Samsung Bixby smart assistants all share personal data with app developers; it’s part of their user agreements. Some user agreements like Houzz give ownership rights of your data to themselves – forever. Appliance companies like Samsung mine personal data from your smart devices like your refrigerator, washer/dryer and TV. In 2015, Samsung warned its SmartTV customers that every word they say in the same room as their SmartTV is being captured and sent over the Internet.

Facebook and Instagram and other social media companies pass your personal data on to other entities, such as app developers, and you agreed to this in the user agreement. In some cases, an honor system is in place between the software company and the app developer about sharing users’ data.

We now know that the self-monitoring system isn’t working out, and tech companies’ sharing of personal data needs to be regulated. Facebook and their “partner” Cambridge Analytica, a data mining company, have misused personal data of 50 million Facebook users. Facebook has known about this issue for a long time but didn’t share it until this past weekend. This lack of transparency has compounded the negativity of the misuse of personal data, and Facebook today is in crisis mode.

This Facebook debacle will hopefully shine a light on the need for a personal data bill of rights in the U.S. This is particularly important for home automation and smart kitchens, since this data is about our most personal and intimate details of home life.

Mark Zuckerberg is being asked to appear in the U.S. and the U.K. to answer for the misuse in sharing of the personal data of 50 million people. The European Union has a law on the books that will take effect on May 25, 2018. The U.S. has no one law – instead we have many laws, and some conflict others.

Without up-to-date laws in place to guarantee the rights of individuals regarding their own personal data, the home automation industry might find itself in a situation like the one Facebook finds itself in today. It’s time to open up dialogues about user rights and user agreements. It’s time to talk about and do something about trust and transparency in the home automation industry.

By Scott Koehler, Dream Kitchen Builders