Ours is the era of Novum—“science fiction becoming science fact.” The possibilities for how we might live day-to-day are expanding rapidly. Folks are hacking DNA, ordering driverless Übers, 3D printing prosthetic limbs and drones, man… drones. While technology is making all sorts of wild, sci-fi musings possible, the intersection of wearables and connected home technologies—or controlling your home from your wrist or glasses—is right up there with NASA flying past Pluto.

Apple showed us how to do this in March’s watch demo, when VP of Technology, Kevin Lynch, received a message from his daughter who was locked out of their home (78:00-79:15). Lynch dictated a response text, opened his Alarm.com app, and in a flash, his device displayed a live feed of his garage door opening to allow his daughter and a friend inside the home.

In a single minute, Apple demonstrated how to connect the versatility and intimacy of wearable technology to everyday home automation. This connection resonates for at least two reasons: First, the cottage industry of connected home technology is becoming full-fledged preparing to soon double or quadruple in size and, in addition, wearables are in a period of rapid growth. Second, the dawn of wearables as a new access point is likely to make an impact in how people live their lives. 

Your Technology is Talking About You: How Wearables Can (& Will) Interface

Thinking like Apple, we open up exciting, innovative, and yes, sometimes slightly creepy, possibilities for how we can live. We are zooming past the age of FitBit and LifeAlert and into an era only previously seen on Hanna-Barbera. Here are 12 developments from the emerging and adapting smart-connected home industry that, when paired with a wearable, will usher in the Jetsons’ era.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL:

From managing your home’s temp remotely, to turning off lights you accidentally left on—these new applications are creating exciting ways for homeowners to check-in when they’re away.

Connected Air Conditioning

Connected A/C has outgrown most connected home applications in the last few years, generally seen as a way to prep the home environment on the drive home. Imagine instead of rummaging through a purse or backpack to find an iPhone, issuing a simple voice command through your wearable: an easier, safer option. Leaders like GE’s Quirky Aros and Sensibo would do well to develop an interface that accommodates this “driving home” scenario, as well as others: turning off A/C after leaving, or controlling the temp for a pet during a heat wave.

Nest & Dropcam

Dropcam is a Wi-Fi-enabled HD spy camera that can stream video to a myriad of devices, while Nest is a company that sells a self-programming thermostat, connected smoke and CO3 (Carbon Monoxoide) alarms, and switches that can all be controlled via apps. Nest works in tandem with Dropcam during emergencies (fire, CO3, break-in), by automatically recording video footage from your Dropcam and storing that important data safely in the Cloud.

For now, Nest doesn’t show any signs of adapting to a smartwatch interface, though simple interactions, such as adjusting the thermostat or turning lights on/off might be best suited for wearables. One can bet on Dropcam evolving to the watchkit platform with time, when a glance to your wrist will answer questions like, Is the baby awake? Which pet is currently peeing on the curtains? or Have any of my fermenting projects exploded yet? Future applications, especially those that include glass technology, could venture elsewhere: imagine a dad viewing a live stream of his daughter’s soccer game from Tokyo.

HOME AUTOMATION:

Keeping your home safe from potential break-ins used to feel like something only the 1 percent could afford. But times, they are a-changin’… Discover all the potential ways you can keep your home safe, all through the flick of your wrist.

Netgear

Netgear’s Wi-Fi-ready home monitoring and automation devices have the added convenience of working through your Netgear router for perennial connection, and their touch panel display is a great organizer for home monitoring—but what if this interface was translated to a watch platform? A “watch panel” smartwatch app, interfacing through the best-selling category of wearable, would offer both a way to control the home remotely and become instantly notified of emergencies. 

Lowe’s Iris Home Monitoring

Iris Home Monitoring is sold through Lowe’s as an option for “convenience, lowered energy bills, not to mention the peace of mind.” Iris got its underlying platform from the people at AlertMe, and it shares its smooth UX (this is rare at this stage in the connected home game). An interesting feature in their premium package is that all Iris devices—lights, locks, garage—can be controlled by voice. Coupled with the voice compatibility of most smartwatches, a great Iris watch app would coordinate home monitoring, adjustment, and voice control from your wrist.

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AT&T’s Home Automation

Home Automation from AT&T builds on their current offerings for home security. Of note is their dad-friendly connected faucet technology (in tandem with the “Water Cop”), which enables switching off water flow whenever a leak is detected. Including camera, garage and thermostat control, AT&T’s options may be the most comprehensive. What’s missing is a central control center. If this plus a killer wearable app were developed, it could put users in control instantly, from anywhere.

Qualcomm’s Connected Home

Qualcomm believes that a “Connected Home” means coordinating all Wi-Fi devices (including video game systems, laptops, cars), and not just those linked to energy usage and security. Their “Smart Gateway” is a smart home hub—right now, that means a unified app and device control platform, but in the future, it will let your home “think like you” by adjusting to your habits and anticipating what’s next. From when you turn on the lights to when you open the drapes… you live: it learns. The comfortable-yet-slightly-disturbing future is now.

Qualcomm’s emphasis on “learning” is an interesting development. Rather than placing control in the hands of those with devices, it does away with control, and the environment instead intuits users’ preferences. In this kind of connected home, wearables may prove vital, not as a way to control, but as a way for the environment to gather data (blood pressure, pulse, temperature) on users, that in turn changes the surroundings.

Single-Action:

Who says you need to be home to cook your meal? No, really, there’s a future looming where you literally can cook, clean and wash your laundry from afar. June Cleaver, eat your heart out.

Chamberlain MyQ Garage

As with connected A/C, opening your garage door would be operated from inside the car, and it would probably work best from the wrist or glasses. As well, many versions (like Chamberlain MyQ Garage) comply with all garage openers manufactured in the last 20 years. This product does away with using another device (sometime lost or broken).

Smart TVs

Smart TVs from Vizio, Apple TV and best-selling Samsung all have integrated apps that can control sound, what channel you are watching and what you want to record. In many cases, using these apps on devices with a large screen (as with tablets or some smartphones) may be preferred for controlling the TV. However, when the TV suddenly turns on full blast in the next room during an important phone call, using a voice command to instantly turn down the sound via a wearable app might save the day.

Down the road, TVs and other visual media will be the ideal proving ground for emerging wearables, especially virtual reality headsets. Currently, HTC ReVive, Sony’s Project Morpheus, Microsoft HoloLens, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift sit on the horizon and are approaching at speed. Immersive home media experiences—like this guy playing MineCraft via HoloLens—may soon be in our livingrooms .

Whirlpool Washing Machines

Not sure if you have time to head to the store before your load needs to be folded? Just check your wrist, muchacho!

With the estimated large-scale adoption of connected appliances, such as lighting and A/C, one can assume washing machines will fit the trend. Ideally, Whirlpool’s apps will not bug users with superfluous alerts or reminders, as washing machines revolve around a fairly straightforward task.

DT Concepts: 12 Apple Watch Apps That Could Change Your Life

LG’s Hom-Bot

The classic iRobot Roomba has more recently become app-controllable and joined by LG’s Hom-Bot. LG’s version comes with two cameras that can be accessed and controlled via text messages and an app, so your vacuum can double as a security drone. The thought of cueing in on those cameras via a wearable (“suck vision” perhaps?) may further diversify the possibilities of a connected home.

Belkin’s Crock-Pot

This year Belkin released the first device-controllable cookware. Users can operate it via a WeMo iOS or Android smartphone app, but this may prove yet another provocative innovation if developed on the Apple watchkit platform. You can adjust the crock pot’s settings, receive reminders, change the cook time, adjust the cooking temperature, use the timer to calculate cook times and process, or check the status of your dish so as to be certain you are coming home to a perfectly cooked meal (in your automatically well-lit, air-conditioned, newly vacuumed, robot overlord-ridden connected home).

Bill Gates’ Home … Our Future?

America’s richest bridge player, Bill Gates, may have signalled the future when he designed his ultra-connected, Seattle-area home (yes, there’s a Wikipedia page for his house) back in 1988. Every aspect, from lighting and security, to climate and sound absorption, can be controlled by guests via worn tags that convey personal preference. Digitally displayed artworks even change room-to-room depending on the preferences of guests.

In the case of Gates’ home, the wearable is less compelling: donning a purpose-specific chip may work for tours of a modern Xanadu, but doesn’t make sense for daily living. Yet the spirit of controlling one’s environment from something on the body is adapted to a comprehensive network, taking the connected home concept to a new extreme.

At the same time, might Gates’ home represent an over-automated future? Are we all headed toward a similar model of home life? Is an art gallery that changes with our moods really what we need in our humble abodes?

What DT Thinks About Wearables and UX:

We asked ourselves, what will be the most significant impact ​that wearables have on UX?

Brad Soroka, Sr. UX Designer 

“I went to An Event Apart last week and heard Josh Clark speak on the subject: ‘Perhaps, in the future, it will be less about wearables and more about thereables,’ he stated.

Basically, we don’t—or won’t, in the future—want an interface that is in our face…we will want wearables that are beneficial, but not obnoxious.”

Dan Trenkner, Art Director

“Eventually with the connected home, I feel like the desire will be toward less interfacing with technology, more automation, getting technology out of the way.”

“I would like to see technology affecting the bigger picture. Currently, the connected home is all about personal convenience and maybe saving a couple bucks on my energy bill, I would like to see how it can benefit neighborhoods, cities and eventually the globe.”

Guy Meyer, UX Designer

“Right now, there might be too many interfaces vying in the market. For instance, I use the Philips HUE system, but I don’t use the Philips app; a couple weeks ago I found a better working 3rd party app. That goes to show…”

In Conclusion

At every level—from marketers, to CEOs, developers and users—people are thinking through the new range of opportunities that wearable devices give users, and also taking time to rethink the scope of these devices. Is the goal for users to have comprehensive control over their homes and media via complex devices, or is the goal to do away with technology as much as possible?

Comments
  • I really like Dan’s comment, “I would like to see how it can benefit neighborhoods, cities and eventually the globe.”

    I wish the emphasis was more on community infrastructures benefiting many people in lieu of personal comforts and convenience. It’ll be interacting to see how all this new tech will pay out with so many players entering the arena.

    Home network security is going to take on a whole new life real soon…

    • Joseph Concannon

      I think you’re right on both fronts, Christopher. Moving from questions of market adoption to the greater impact of technology, social betterment, is hopefully where the conversation will head next. Thanks for the comment!

      • Word. I suppose that part of the process is the general market adoption and testing/refinement of new technologies, and that might be the path of least resistance (and most lucrative?). But being a wishful thinker, I’d like to see more of the converse to be true 😀

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