Decluttering the Smart Home

by David Conroy - &D Lab Engineer, NAR Center for Realtor® Technology | Jun 29, 2016
With smart devices becoming more prevalent and more companies entering the market, consumers are now often subjected to a very complicated user experience. A smart homeowner today could potentially need three different mobile apps to control the lights, thermostats, and smart locks.
While it could be argued that mobile phones are the reason smart homes exist today, solutions to improving this experience are trending away from the phone and more towards the concept of Zero User Interface (Zero UI).

Zero UI is a design model that aims to remove any barriers between a user and technology. The goal is to provide consumers with a new way to interact with devices beyond the touchscreen, using voice and gestures to control the devices in their homes. This shift toward Zero UI is not change for the sake of change; rather, it gives residents with disabilities the ability to control their smart environment, and it addresses the confusion that can occur when family members try to control smart home devices from different phones and tablets. 

The most relevant example of Zero UI in the home is the Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled, hands-free speaker. More than a Bluetooth or WiFi speaker that plays music, the Echo allows you to switch on a lamp without getting out of bed, dim the lights from the couch, or turn on a fan using only your voice. Google recently announced it will be launching a competing voice controlled home assistant called Google Home that will be available by the end of year.  Amazon has an 18-month head start and a very successful open platform, but Google’s entry into the voice-controlled device category signals this part of Zero UI is here to stay.

While many companies are focusing on voice for home control, Fibaro is taking a different approach. Their latest product, the Swipe, is a picture frame that can recognize gestures and, in turn, control other smart home devices. These gestures, made without even touching the picture frame, allow the user to do things like move their hand upward up near the control panel to open roller shades, or move their hand down to turn off the lights.  

Learn More

For more information about smart homes, including a useful Smart Home Glossary and FAQ, please visit the CRT Labs blog ( https://crtlabs.org ). CRT Labs is the National Association of Realtors® new laboratory focusing on emerging technology in order to understand the impact on our industry.