Being Judged by the Company they Keep

Why Connectivity Shouldn’t Mean Complexity
February 27, 2012
2012 AlwaysOn OnDemand 100 Top Private Companies
April 6, 2012
Show all

Connected devices owe a lot of their popularity to exquisitely well-designed products like the iPhone. That means consumers will soon be holding all the devices in their home to the same high standards.

 

Gadgets reviews are a staple of the Web. There are places like Gizmodo that do nothing but review the latest smart phone or gaming console; even mainstream sites like the New York Times add in a heap of tech coverage to their mix, since the public seems to have an insatiable appetite for it.

Attentive readers may have noticed than in recent weeks, gadget reviewers have turned their attention to a new device, one that most people would consider too pedestrian for anyone to care about. It’s a thermostat; specifically, a thermostat designed by Nest Labs, a Silicon Valley start-up formed, appropriately enough, by veterans of Apple’s iPod team.

The reason for the hubbub is that like the iPhone, the Nest Labs product sports eye-catching industrial, along with behind-the-scenes software that re-imagines the entire “user experience” of controlling a household temperature. It’s common for these reviewers to contrast operating the Nest Lab product, which is usually described as painless and intuitive, with trying to figure out a traditional thermostat, which invariably suffer greatly in comparison.

Suddenly, it seems, thermostats are a sexy tech gadget. In becoming so, they are being held by journalists and others to just about the highest design standards imaginable, those of Steve Jobs and Apple Computer. The humble plastic devices that had been good enough for decades of dependable home use are suddenly being dismissed as cheap, clunky and impossible to use. Traditional thermostat makers probably don’t know what hit them.

Welcome to the new world of Web-connected devices, where the DNA is entirely different than it is in the traditional electronics world of thermostats — not to mention garage door openers, security alarms, irrigation systems and just about every other device that manufacturers are trying to make Web-aware.

Right now, products like the Nest Labs sell at a significant premium to the thermostats on the shelves at the average big box hardware store. But even low-cost manufacturers are going to have to start upping their design game as consumers get used to sleek and cool products like Nest Labs’.

This won’t be easy, since great design is both difficult and expensive. But manufacturers can make the job easier on themselves by leaving tasks that are outside their specialty to others.

In the world of connected devices, building communications infrastructure is the best example. There is nothing easy about setting up an internet connection for gadget that doesn’t have a key board to enter passwords, or sending a command from your iPhone at work to open your garage door for a delivery man. There are any numbers of companies that have seen great products languish in-house because they couldn’t handle the communication part of the design process and could thus never go to market.

At Arrayent, though, communications is what we do. Our solution is both hardware and software, and does everything that needs doing to get a product connected to applications. That means your designers and engineers can spend the time on the things that are going to make your product stand out in the market. And increasingly, that is going to mean world-class design.

By: Shane Dyer, President of Arrayent