Make Things Scriptable
Imagine what homes will begin to look like in the next five years: filling up with smart stuff. Connected devices like the Nest Thermostat, Philips Hue lights, and August Smart Locks are already flying off of shelves. And there’s every reason to believe that the number of connected devices installed in the home will continue to rise. Analysts at Business Insider forecast that by 2019 there will be annual global sales of upwards of 1.8 billion units in the connected devices space.
From a user experience perspective, this growth is good and bad. The good news is that people are getting things they like — new technologies that make their home more useable, add convenience to their lives, and are just plain fun. The bad news is that today’s connected devices feature a disturbing lack of transparency, are impossible to fully customize to our needs, and are dependent upon online service that may or may not continue to exist in the long run.
Transparency is perhaps the greatest threat to the future of the connected devices industry. Devices are collecting a terrifying amount of data on us (or at least have the potential to do so), and we have no real visibility into what they do with it. The public is rightly concerned about stories like this one where Samsung acknowledged that consumers should avoid discussing private information in front of their televisions. Similar concerns exist with Amazon’s Echo platform, wellness/fitness trackers, and more. Users want to know how their data is being collected and need the ability to change how it is being used and distributed.
Customizability is a given in most of today’s technology. An example: imagine that you dislike the alarm clock that came installed on your smart phone. To fix this problem, you simply fire up your phone’s app store, find a better solution, download the app, and immediately use it. If you were so inclined, you could even build a better app yourself. Unfortunately, connected devices have not yet adopted this model. If you don’t like how your smart thermostat works you cannot simply replace its brains with a new app.
Independence from cloud services is a growing issue in connected devices. The fundamental concern is this: what happens to your connected device if the company that made it goes out of business, decides to kill off a service after sales slow, or simply makes a technical error that interrupts service? Often, your connected device will just stop working. Examples abound: the Aether Cone stopped working after Aether and Rdio went out of business; Sony killed the DASH service effectively abandoning thousands of devices; and the Wink platform of smart locks and security devices went dark when an update to security certificates went awry. More recently, Nest announced its intentions to remotely disable its Revolv Hub, leaving customers with a useless piece of plastic. Consumers need to know that it will be possible to keep their devices up and running even when the original manufacturer fails.
Why are these limitations of connected devices accepted by the same people who would not stand for such limitations from their smartphones?
Kinoma Create is our full-featured prototyping kit. It is a Linux system running on an ARM SOC to provide a full computing experience for developers, with KinomaJS running on top. It includes a capacitive touchscreen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE), speaker, microphone, USB port, SD card slot, and a robust enclosure. Additionally, it has 66 expansion pins so that you can plug in your own sensors and components. It is designed to get you up and running quickly, and then stick with you from prototype through to production.
It is our hope that this collection of resources will enable a future of product designers and consumers working together to make better connected devices. The status quo is not sustainable — connected devices cannot remain isolated, opaque, locked down silos indefinitely. The path forward is to achieve the goals of transparency, customizability, and service independence by making things scriptable.