Smart home tech – the big lie


Would you pay $250 more for a microwave because it was internet-enabled?

According to Ian Aitken, recently appointed CEO of AI tech firm Unisono and former chief technical officer at Samsung Australia, the reality is the value of a microwave connected to the internet doesn’t make it any more useful than an ordinary product that still needs to be stuffed with food.

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“Programming it on a smartphone to tell you to cook it for five minutes when you’re right in front of the thing seems silly and the reality is everybody is racing [and thinking] ‘we need to internet-enable everything’ but that creates a problem,” he said. 

“On one side, you’re creating a solution for a problem you have not yet identified and ultimately the smart home market is a solution to a problem…of what? What is the problem we are trying to solve at home?” 

Speaking at the recent Frost and Sullivan summit on growth, innovation, and leadership, Aitken said the Internet of Things (IoT) space has attempted to take off, similar to “a little engine failing to get up a hill, but not quite getting there”. 

“The interesting thing about smart home technology today is that it’s not smart,” he said. “It is a lie… the reality is that technology isn’t smart and the only person that is smart is the person who bought it because they have to spend usually hours setting it up, plugging it in and making it work.” 

Promises made by companies extolling the management of energy within homes are also false, according to Aitken. 

“One of the key promises made is that smart home technology is going to give insight as to what power consumption you’ve got and therefore that information will enable you to shape your behaviours – it doesn’t. 

“I have every form of power reader consumption in my house and you know what the interesting thing is? I can do absolutely nothing about it because I am not in control of all the devices in that house. 

“The hot water turns on and the fridge turns on, the reality is it’s very little ROI. Yes, I know what power I am consuming but I don’t have the control over that power.” 

Turning his attention to businesses’ justification for using cloud-based technology and services, Aitken said the cloud is wonderful – if you can find a business reason for it. 

“If you haven’t got a reason to monetise the cloud, then you should ask the question ‘Should I put it in the cloud?’ I put this out to you today…cloud isn’t for everyone. 

“There are big ticket issues with it – you must pay for it on a month-by-month basis…Amazon provides a great service and we use them in the back-end of what we do but we also have a monthly bill to pay.” 

Aitken said if there is no income coming in from the service, platform or product that pays for the cloud that there is a serious issue. 

“Nobody yet has been able to crack the secret source of what service people at home would be comfortable paying for on a monthly basis – what is the business reason why I should pay for something on a month-by-month basis? 

As a consequence, he said, nine per cent of all smart home companies today fail the cloud test due to not being economically viable.

According to Aitken, it’s time the industry woke up and implemented good business logic. 

“If you can’t pass the business test for going to the cloud, then don’t go to the cloud. If you’re going to put data onto the cloud, then work out who’s going to buy that data in the smart home space.” 

Meanwhile during an earlier panel discussion at the event, Glen Rabie, CEO and co-founder of global business intelligence company Yellowfin, said e-commerce giant Amazon uses technology that purposely suggests completely wrong suggestions when people are browsing its platform, in order to remove the suspicion that it knows too much about a customer’s personal data.

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