A vision for the connected home

26 Aug 2003|Darrel Rhea

The convergence of media, computing, communications, audio, home theater, gaming and security devices is starting to happen as predicted, but boy, are we a long way off from having a compelling experience of their integration. Shopping, purchasing, installing and using these products together is a nightmare or just impossible. But many of us really want it, in fact, we’re dying for it. But unless you are a wealthy nerd button tweaker, yer out of luck, buddy.

Home Decorators are from Venus, Consumer Electronics are from Mars

The products are made separately by different companies and it really shows. The cliché for the breakdowns are the pile of 6 or more remote control devices on the coffee table, but it goes sooo much deeper. It is clear no one is designing the whole enchilada, the whole experience. But what a business opportunity!! Imagine one integrated system of components…

1) Start with a beautiful architectural space that was design for the consumption of media and entertainment, with many of the functions built into the envelope of the home. Windows that become flat screens, walls that become projection surfaces and speakers. Light control, ventilation, security all designed together with how the user will actually use the space in mind.

2) Then add space planning that works for your life style. Not a space filled with tech products — a space that is comfortable, functional and social.

3) Add furniture and accessories designed specifically for these uses — with aesthetics that match your personal taste. Cup holders, tables, outlets, task and reading light, storage cubbies, printers are all built-in. Not cold repurposed office ergo-wear, but home decor with style…your style… regardless if it is tech or American traditional.

4) Now (and only now) add the capabilities for media and entertainment with ONE intuitive interface. The components are invisible (unless you need to worship the tech alter and stare into stacks of black boxes with sexy glowing LEDs). Wireless connectivity is just there.

5) And consider that you went to one store to buy this experience, perhaps even one brand of products and installation service. One brand of design services, electronic hardware products, cable/satellite/broadband, communications, furnishing, accessories, installation and maintenance.

Is there an Analog?

What is the existing analog for this? The automobile. I just bought and Infinity FX. There is a tremendous amount of complex technology (home theater, GPS, satellite radio, video cameras, distance sensors, etc.) that is all integrated, with an interface that is simple. The experience is NOT about a network of individual components sharing technical standards. It is about the driving experience, including the social aspects of what a family wants to do on a trip. Architecture, space planning, furnishing, accessories, media, integrated interface, purchase experience….all integrated and accessible.

What’s it going to take?

When home design gets designed from the ground up as a packaged experience (like a car), we stand a chance of having a connected home that will fundamentally change our experience of “home.” Who could do this? A marketer that can lead a group of talented designers, architects, engineers, technologists, and design researchers. While I love the work we do for the leading global component makers, designing the home experience is what I long for.

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