Insights From a Smart House Innovator, article in Forbes

January 07, 2014
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by Peter High, published on


Much has been written about the “Internet of Things”, and the promise of smart devices making our lives better and more efficient. One of the places most logical for this reality to transform our daily lives is in the home. There are a number of entrepreneurs who have devoted considerable time and attention to the possibility, like Nest CEO Tony Fadell who has been dubbed “a father of the iPod” dating back to his days at Apple, and who is now focused on home automation, designing and manufacturing sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled, self-learning, programmable thermostats and smoke detectors.

Another entrepreneur devoted to smart home technology is Ion Cuervas-Mons, CEO of Think Big Factory, a Madrid-based product and strategic design consultancy that creates opportunities at the intersection between digital and physical realities. Think Big Factory is part of a group of companies called Barrabes Smart Cluster. I recently caught up with Cuervas-Mons in Hong Kong, and I had a chance to get his perspectives on the smart house technology, to glean examples from his company and others who are thought leaders in this space, and to understand the differences in forms that smart technology might take in places like China and India versus the West.

Peter High: What are the barriers to this new reality? What will determine the pace of development of smart houses?

Ion Cuervas-Mons: The development of a dedicated network will be one of the keys: it will mean that there is a standard network. I don’t think that individual networks like ZigBee (smartthings) will work in the future; it is more complicated to make it compatible with every device. And 3G or Wi-Fi networks for example are too expensive in terms of the hardware and waste too much battery.

Additional topics covered in the article include:

  • How do you see the balance between touch technology versus voice-activated technology?
  • Which companies will bring this to life?
  • Will there be companies that aggregate it for us, or will we have to purchase the relevant services from different companies piecemeal?
  • What will house design change based on this vision?
  • This suggests a significant hardware change away from televisions and traditional computing. Do you see the manufacturers of these products getting involved to a greater extent?
  • What are the hardware versus the software implications, and what other steps are part of the process to build this?

How long do you think will it be until some meaningful percentage of us live our lives this way?

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