How To Design A More Intuitive Home [Future Of Home Living]

How To Design A More Intuitive Home [Future Of Home Living]

The founder of Zonoff discusses how new creative solutions are delivering a more useful experience in the living space.

  • 11 august 2013

As part of our Future of Home Living Series, PSFK Labs reached out to experts to get their take on the changes we’ve identified that are driving the evolution of the home. We recently caught up with Mike Harris, Founder and CEO of Zonoff, Inc., which is committed to designing intuitive solutions that help homeowners. Read our chat with Mike below to learn more about how new design solutions are delivering a more intuitive experience in the home.

What are the big technology shifts that will change the way entertainment and information will be shared throughout the home? How far away are we from cutting the cord?

We’re living in an exciting time with many smart devices coming to the market. The next big shift will be when we figure out a way for all of this fragmented technology to work together seamlessly in the home. Once the average person can control all of the various entertainment and technology systems in the house, a new smart home lifestyle will emerge.

In many ways, the cord has already been cut. Today’s consumer expects the ability to control systems in the home from their smartphone and tablets. Owning the living room will become with next frontier. Big cable companies are fighting off threats from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and others that are creating new ways to deliver content into the home. We’ll see this battle heat up as technology continues to improve.

With the explosion of sensor-embedded objects that have moved from simple wearables to products for the home, how does that impact our daily life and routines? What are the benefits of all that data?

Wearable computing is one of the most exciting emerging markets, and things like Google Glass, Fitbit, and Apple’s focus on the space are familiarizing the mainstream consumer with the possibilities. At the same time, connected home products that use data to improve the ownership experience are also poised to hit the mainstream. What will have the most profound effect for consumers over the next 6-12 months are new technologies that connect all of the varying connected devices in the home into one cohesive system.

In the near future you won’t be worried about which devices connect to what app; instead they’ll all be part of one central system that automatically knows your preferences. For example, weather data can be used to automatically start manage your sprinkler system based on when and how much it is going to rain. Or the washing machine can be connected with the power company to only run during off-peak times when energy costs are the lowest. These are just a couple of examples of the profound effect smarter homes will have on both our lifestyle and our pocketbooks.

When technology becomes more anticipatory and responsive, how does that change our relationship to our homes? What is the balance between human input and HAL from 2001?

Technology that is smart enough to anticipate our needs is the next wave of innovation that will improve our relationships with our homes. Connected blinds that automatically lower themselves when you turn on the TV on a sunny day is just one simple example of the tangible lifestyle enhancements more anticipatory and responsive technology will have on our lives.

Of course there is a fine line that brands need to be aware of when using data to improve the connected home experience. We will never see human input completely disappear, however, and as consumers become more familiar with the benefits that connected technology can drive in the home, it will become an essential component of the experience.

What do you see as the next big trend(s) urban living and why is this important?

We see an overall trend of “doing more with less” that applies in particular to urban living. This means using less energy and resources, while also saving our most precious personal resource: time. In the past, kitchen and household appliances saved us time by automating tasks like cleaning a rug or washing dishes. Today, technology has developed to a point where a lot of other devices in our homes can be automated, which can save us even more time. Plus, these devices cost less, have convenient wireless connectivity, and run on batteries that can last a year or more.

When you combine these technological advances with the massive growth of mobile computing, you have a synergistic effect that opens up even more cost and time savings. Historically, we have had a “homepage” serve as our portal to the Web. But now, your home itself will have a homepage – or dashboard – that will give you immediate access and control to any device or subsystem in your home, whether you are physically there or a thousand miles away on a beach.

What are three things you’d put in your perfect home or apartment?

Today, you can start off small with a few devices and then add additional device as needed or desired. To get started, you need a hub or controller that can can talk to a wide variety of wireless protocols. Next, you should have a smart door lock from one of the reputable lock companies because these offer so many flexible benefits. For lighting and comfort, you should add wireless dimmer light switches, battery-powered window coverings and a couple motion sensors to trigger lights when people enter or leave the room. To help save money on your energy bills, add a smart thermostat that knows when to raise or lower the temperature based on your preferences.

To help keep tabs on kids, pets or others, add a few low-cost IP cameras around the home. Many TVs today come with the ability to be turned on and controlled via WiFi, which also opens up new opportunities. And finally, there are items called wall modules that can turn on or off those “not smart” items in your home. So in essence, your antique table lamp now becomes part of the connected home eco-system. Plus, these modules can sit between a power strip and your outlet to eliminate vampire power from a wide variety of consumer electronic items that still draw trickle power even though they may be switched off.

Beyond these basic items, there are currently over 1,500 products that are certified to be wireless compatible for the connected home. Depending on your particular interests or hobbies, you can get devices that will control or automate your hot tub, entertain your pets, monitor your lawn’s moisture and a wide variety of other applications.


Thanks Mike!

PSFK has announced the latest in a series of trend reports. Following studies into retailsocial mediagamingwork and mobile, the PSFK Labs consulting team have generated the Future of Home Living report. That report manifests as a free summary presentation, an in-depth downloadable PDF and an exhibition in New York City that runs to August 16.

RSVP below to take a tour of the exhibition at 101W15th.


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