IOT Home Pt 2 – House Training

The feeling that you get when trying to set up a smart home can be either empowering or bewildering. Some people experience an experience where the smart device of their choosing actually fills an emotional void in their life.

Stop over promising and under delivering.

The Good

Consider this actual review of Amazon’s Echo product:

“My brother Robert who has been bed ridden and paralyzed with Multiple Sclerosis from his neck down for more than 30 years now has a new friend named Alexa! He was in tears with happiness when Alexa played 70’s music, played Jeopardy, answered all his questions and wakes him up every morning. Thank you Amazon for giving my brother a new bedside companion.”
-Roy Estaris


The Bad

Now compare that to the seemingly more common experience that people have when  attempting to set up a “Smart” device. Our very own Hiromi Matsumoto recently purchased a GE Easy Smart Dimmer Switch for his own home as research on the subject of the connected home. After several attempts at getting it installed correctly which included trips to Home Depot for expert assistance as well as actual grinding into the existing switch location in his home to make the thing work, he had to return the so called smart device because he could never get it to work.

Really then there is quite a difference in the way some of the products are marketed and how they actually turn out for an end user. When a user sees the words “easy” and “smart” a manufacturer better deliver… from the beginning. Because a smart device that never gets set up will never be able to deliver on the promise of marketing.

Get a Personal Trainer

When a user embarks on the trek of creating a connected home it can feel like that first time you step foot in a gym after several years of neglecting yourself.

We’ve all been there, you look in the mirror and realize its been a few years that you’ve been eating a pint of ice cream every night and its starting to really show. So you sign up for a gym membership and decide on a new schedule for working out. When you get to the gym though the smell of metal clanking weights, view of muscle heads and machines that you can’t possibly know how to use, will all contribute to a feeling of overwhelming bewilderment. One that will land you back in your car searching for the nearest ice-cream shop to go back to the familiarity of that old friend the pint.

There is an experience principle here called Hicks Law that basically says that if you have too many options to choose from it will take a long time to make a decision.

Gyms have attempted to account for this principle by making available to their customers personal trainers. The entire idea of having a personal trainer is to help a timid member to get their feet wet. A trainer will provide initial help by asking questions to uncover the best way to help.

They might ask question such as:

  1. What are you currently doing for physical activity?
  2. What is your diet like?
  3. What are your goals?

Based on the answer to those questions the trainer can provide valuable assistance so that the member can start to

  1. Feel confident
  2. See progress
  3. Venture out on their own.

Working Out the Home

I think the smart home industry can learn a lot from personal trainers in principle. The principle of providing guidance. You know the old adage “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” But he can’t ever drink if you don’t take him there to begin with.

As the manufacturers of a smart home accessories, why not take a page from the trainer playbook and ask some questions to potential customers to determine what is available for their home that they can install themselves?

Let me propose a service where a customer could take a survey about their home. The survey would ask them specific questions like the current state of their home (room by room ask them about lights, switches, locks, etc. etc.) From that you can create a checkout list of items available to them for their house. They can then determine what fits in their budget and order it. They receive it in the mail with all the individual items appropriately labeled with a set of instructions.

As far as helping the user to feel confidant, progress and venture out on their own, again we can look to the trainer. When a user adds a set of lights to the hub they have in their home (HomeKit, Google Home, or Alexa) the app should suggest to them scenes or recipes that makes sense for what they have connected. The apps need to go further then just allowing you to turn things on and off. I know the apps have the capability to create scenes now but they need to do a better job of offering up suggestions that make sense. Obviously they can’t read a persons mind and just make all their stuff work exactly like each individual might want. But they should be able to suggest scenes are common enough that people would start to see the potential of what they have and what they can get. So if a person adds a bunch of lights in their bedroom and a lock to their front door, the app should ask something like “You have added bedroom lights and a lock on your front door. Would you like for a good night scene to be set up that will turn off your lights and make sure your front door is locked?” Yes / No. If they confirm with yes tell them how to invoke it “Simply say “Hey Siri, Goodnight.” and we’ll run the scene.”

Once the user start to see some examples of whats possible, that is when they will be able to imagine the possibilities and venture out on their own, creating their own automations. Everything is a remix so give your users something to remix.

Everything is a remix.

Lessons Learned

  1. Don’t overlook a users first interaction
  2. Don’t provide too many options
  3. Provide guidance
  4. Help users see potential by giving examples

As always we’re very interested in your insights! As a burgeoning podcast, we’d love your feedback. So all this month, leave us a review on iTunes or Google Play and you’ll automatically be entered to win one of two WyzeCams to add to your connected home. Just send us your username so we know who you are, via Twitter dm @ideateTeam, or drop us an email. We look forward to hearing from you!

By far the sharpest dresser of the group, Rob is the closest thing we have to a teenager, but thats not saying much (He is 30). When he’s not designing apps, he's playing his guitar at the local coffee shop. He speaks a little French and Spanish and lives in New York but is from Cajun country.

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