Parce, pariot, and home-ix

In the last couple of days at least three German startups have made it into the news: parce pitched on Die Höhle der Löwen Pariot started their Kickstarter campaign Porsche invested in home-iX Parce During the Die Höhle der Löwen (DHDL) parce pitched their smart socket Parce Plus. It costs €49.90 and devices connected to it can be controlled through an app or Siri. They also have two smart light switches announced to ship March 2018 in the portfolio.parce’s products from left to right: light switch Parce M1, light switch Parce L1, and socket Parce Plus (Sources: Parce M1, Parce L1, Parce Plus) The socket, which was the focus of the pitch, has pretty standard features; integration into HomeKit (no Android support, however), an accompanying app and power consumption logging. According to the TV pitch, their main differentiator is „Made in Germany“ and WLAN as the connection technology. However, on Indiegogo, where they raised money for their first socket Parce, they advertised more functions which centre around analytics. The Parce turns off devices based on usage or schedules, has price comparison for electricity included and recommends you ways how you can save money. But according to their website these features are

An Alexa-enabled salt shaker and automated kitchens, home voice assistants and food tracking

An Alexa-enabled salt shaker called “SMALT” is currently looking for funding on indiegogo. Although I am unsure how much sense an Alexa-enabled salt shaker makes, there are a few things I like to consider.   As a general note, I think people are confusing “Alexa” (or any other smart speaker) with devices. To me, smart homes speakers such as Alexa, are the first step towards a voice-controlled home. Therefore, I think that adding Alexa to other products makes sense only in the short term because I expect voice to become an infrastructure in our homes as essential as electricity or water. Besides that: Is SMALT pointing us in the direction of an automated kitchen? Sure, automating salt is not a gigantic field for automation, but it might be one of many products that will help us automate cooking. Nevertheless, one must consider whether automating salt intake (or whatever other small manual task) will be necessary in the future at all (it is like building a robot for washing the dishes instead of a dish washer). Are we heading into an “X with Alexa” trend (X being any product you can think of)? This reminds me of the time where we

Alexa effect and smart speaker’s narrow helpfulness

While analyzing comments about Google Home shortly after its release in Germany I came across the following fascinating thought from one user: “And will users become content not knowing? (when the assistant does not have the answer to a question)? The device does not recommend any sources for further research” [1] There are two themes in this comment I find worth-exploring; criticism of the smart speaker’s narrow helpfulness and what I will call Alexa effect. Alexa effect I will define the Alexa effect as the tendency towards contentedness with nescience about a topic if information about said topic cannot be obtained immediately or easily [2] In some way, we can already observe this “not knowing phenomena” in our online and offline behavior. For example, in how we google: If it isn't on the first page of Google, it doesn't exist. — Not Will Ferrell (@itsWillyFerrell) October 27, 2013 depend on our mothers: or the Google effect. This cognitive bias refers to the phenomenon that we tend to forget information that is easily obtainable through search engines. Alexa makes us childish by asking it questions that we wouldn’t have googled [3] Looking back on my Alexa-usage I can indeed remember being “ok

Google Home’s most important feature is …surveillance

…at least according to the comments on zeit.de I looked at about 180 comments (on August 10th) published below a Google Home review on the German news website Zeit.de. This lead to 262 classifications of which eight were positive, 25 neutral, 102 negative and 126 irrelevant. Positive expressions: features, but gimmick People’s attitude towards it was positve mostly because of its features. However, some do see its potential but do not believe that it will evolve beyond a gimmick. Neutral expressions: concerns about data privacy are unjustified As seen below in the negative expressions, people were highly concerned with data privacy. However, some argued that it does not matter whether we allow Google Home to collect data in our houses, as Google (& Co.) already know everything about us through other sources. These other sources are not only the “usual suspects” (GAFA, official institutions, etc.) but also more “unobvious” instances like neighbors (😳). In this context (“they already know everything”) people’s hypocrite attitude was criticized; on the one side they are against Google Home but use all kinds of other related devices and services. Negative expressions Concerns: Surveillance, social isolation, government responsibility, device ecosystem Google Home as self-imposed surveillance, connected to the

Digital assistants and app in apps might be the future of smartphone apps

During Oculus Connect 3 Opening Keynote Mark Zuckerberg criticized that our smartphones are organized around apps and not how we actually process the world. For example, imagine sitting in a restaurant: If you want to talk to somebody or take a picture do not have to change the room (which translates — according to Zuckerberg — to switching to another app). You can talk, eat and take pictures in the same place. On you phone, you would need a different app for these actions. (You can watch Zuckerberg’s explanation here.) Oculus wants to change that and a possible future of smartphone apps with its platform Social VR.  Social VR puts people first and you do not have to switch apps to get different tasks done. With Social VR, you can, for instance, watch a movie, talk to people, take a picture, etc. all at the same place without changing the app. Desks before the smartphone (Source) If we look at how MP3 players, maps, and digital cameras have merged into your smartphone and personal computer we can see an analogy in the hardware world. While a smartphone is not perfectly suitable for everything (see here for some examples) having one device for everything

Overview of smart home remotes

Logitech Logitech has had universal remotes before the smart home was as much a topic as it is now. The firm has several versions in its portfolio such as the Harmony Elite or the Harmony Companion. Harmony Pro (Source) Also, similarly to the flic (see below) Logitech has a square-cut remote-button in its portfolio. It is called the Pop which can, for example, toggle the lights in your smart home by pressing the button. The Logitech Pop (Source) NEEO Neeo, a Swiss company founded in 2014, offers a remote controlled “Remote”. The remote itself and the “NEEO Brain” (the hub that connects all your smart home devices so that you can control them via the remote) cost $399. It was was founded through a Kickstarter was supposed to ship in the first half of 2015. However, shipping has not yet started. The NEEO Remote (Source) Savant The Savant remote costs $499 and comes, same as the NEEO, with a hub. In contrast to NEEO it is already available, but only ships to the U.S. The Savant remote and host (Source) sevenhugs The sevenhugs remote is a touch-screen only remote. What makes it unique is its position-based functionality. Instead of choosing which device you want to control you point at it with the remote. It is

The reasons why Echo and Google are winning over HUE and Nest

I have recently looked through more than 30 smart home providers and realized that there are four groups: Mass product providers: Companies like Samsung SmartThings that ofer all kinds of smart devices. Niche product providers: Companies focusing on one or two products. Like Philiphs with its HUE light bulbs or Rachio with a wifi-controlled sprinkler. Central units: Products like Homee with serve as a bridge between devices from different manufacturers and with different technologies. SaaS platforms: Software companies like qivicon offering cloud solutions for the management, integration and combination of smart devices. Interface provider: There are two broad distinctions in this sectors: Software solutions like the Magenta SmartHome app and hardware providers like the Senic smart controller or Flic, a smart wireless button. The idea of smart homes has been around for over 80 years (here you can find a video of a robot made in 1932) and I honestly think the biggest impact originates from Google’s and Amazon’s introduction of their home assistants (Amazon Echo and Google Home). Their established distribution channels are only of their impact. I believe there are three more reasons: Immediate gratification: Compared to a window sensor or smart doorbell getting a question answered by Echo or a summary of my day is immediately useful. A smart doorbell which helps me talk to postman is certainly