HBR: Designing Smart-Home Products That People Will Actually Use

I came across an article in the Harvard Business Review that I thought might interest some in the community. It remarks that the Smart Home is "caught in the early-adopter phase and struggling to move to mass-market adoption." It provides 8 personas for smart home users and suggests ways to expand smart home adoption. It also talks about privacy concerns which fits perfectly into the Hubitat story.

I thought it is an interesting discussion - on the one hand some in the community here are true technophiles running a closet of Pis and Node.js processes. Others may just want to automate and simplify their home experience. Trying to meet the needs of each can be a challenge. It will be interesting to see how things evolve in the future.


Current adopters of home automation remind me of those who like to restore old cars. They enjoy the tinkering and frustration but ultimately they want to drive their creation and get waves as people drive by. But that is not how most people get a car. They don’t assemble it, source the parts, feel the pain of it not working and having to start over. They go to a dealership, buy the finished product, and just want it to work, with so little user effort in fact that getting a flat tire is covered under roadside assistance.

Simple dichotomies like… “Smart Bulb vs. Smart Switch” can turn off a first time adopter and create frustration. Someone buys a Hue bulb and can’t wait to use it to only figure out after the fact, wait… I can’t use the switch. Or a consumer buys 20 WiFi bulbs because they’re cheap and they want app control. But no one told them they wouldn’t work so well while streaming Netflix. That’s why they wanted smart bulbs to begin with, so they could change the lights at movie time. It gets worse though, the company goes out of business and didn’t pay their cloud bill. Now what?

I have a vivid recollection of installing my first HP USB printer. I plugged it in, it auto discovered, installed the driver, and was ready to print in 60 seconds. I touched nothing and literally put both hands in the air and shouted a big “Woohoo”. No dip switches, no configuring com ports, no floppy installation disks, it was like magic.

This is where the industry needs to be and until it gets there, the sector will be limited to enthusiasts and hobbyist. Fortunately my kids have no idea what a dip switch is, so I have faith it will get there.


That is a really great analogy. It fits perfectly.

This is going to significantly alter the landscape. By sheer volume alone. HomeKit is about as average consumer friendly as SmartHome gets these days.

I have the current version of their HomeKit enabled hub. The Mi Home software is garbage, but the Aqara Home software is pretty decent. HomeKit is for sure the best experience, once you figure out that certain things must be set in the Aqara Home app. Still it's a significant shot in the arm for the consumer smart home. Good sales numbers in China will keep manufacturing costs low, and that will roll out this type of product to the rest of the world as the same affordable prices. The trickle down effect will reshape things as Zigbee grows in popularity and the products become more accessible to families that don't understand the value in paying high prices for a frustrating experience, but then see this in a kit for $100 or so. It's similar to IKEA Trådfri concept, but with more useful devices and IF-THEN capabilities on a local level.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that IKEA, with their new partnership is advising them how to position and market their devices.