“Unfortunately, many smart home product propositions are still based on technical functionality, not on use cases.” Thijs Olthof, Co-Founder, Innovation in Motion

Europe’s leading Smart Home Summit returns on the 19th and 20th September at the Business Design Centre in London.

The summit will see a number of companies coming together to explore the opportunities and innovations that technology is bringing to the home. One company, Innovation in Motion is the start-up behind Slide, the world's first retrofit smart curtain system. Innovation In Motion (IIM) was founded in 2016 by Kaj Beetstra and Thijs Olthof. The company aims to develop a series of new products that will make the smart home accessible to everyone. Slide is the first product developed and prepared for a global market launch.

Thijs, who will be discussing ‘Addressing Pain Points in Consumer Living’ completed our Smart Home Speaker Q&A:

Which do you consider to be the most popular Smart Home services/solutions currently?

I see two types of smart home solutions that are rapidly mainstreaming right now. On the one hand, voice control assistants such as the Google Home and Amazon Echo are gaining popularity, especially in the US markets. They're potentially great hubs to control other smart home devices, but this is not what they're typically bought for. On the other hand, the market for relatively 'dumb' control devices, such as those low-cost smart plugs with remotes sold at discount stores, is growing at a huge pace. Interestingly, however, these products are typically not sold as part of the 'smart home' but rather as stand-alone solutions. As an industry, we tend to treat both these product categories as part of the 'smart home', but the consumer does not.
What could be done to increase mass market take-up of Smart Home solutions?

As an industry we have to tremendously shift our focus outward, and start building user experiences, not products. In terms of consumer hardware, there's a strong lack of radical innovation in our industry, with too much focus on iterating on existing product categories. Just creating more affordable smart light bulbs or adding new wireless protocols to smart plugs is not enough to reach the multi-billion dollar smart home market that some forecasts are projecting. Any industry, in order to be successful, needs a combination of both market maturing as well as continued, radical innovation in the long tail. For the smart home industry, radical innovation needs to focus on creating integrated user experiences that immediately showcase the added value of 'a smart home'. If we can't simplify the messaging around our products, we will never reach adoption rates at mass market scale.
How is voice evolving the smart home experience?

In terms of the user experience in controlling the smart home, we expect two important trends to manifest within the next few years. First, we'll see a quick move beyond the current "one device/brand, one app" paralysis, towards a centralised control interface. Secondly, the idea of scenes/routines/scenarios will mature, in part thanks to the incorporation of Machine Learning, to minimise the amount of required interaction between a user and his/her smart home on a given day. Voice will play a crucial role when a user wants to deviate from these pre-set routines. In the majority of situations, voice will be the fastest and most natural form of interaction between a user and his/her smart home. 
Focusing on the pain points – how to determine exactly what will make a difference to the customer’s life?

The answer is already contained in the question itself: focus on pain points. Unfortunately, many smart home product propositions are still based on technical functionality, not on use cases. When we created Slide, the focus was not to create a product that allows you to motorise your curtains - although that may be part of the core technical functionality of the device. The reason is simple: very few people care about motorising curtains. Many people, however, are super excited to start waking up to natural sunlight. And it just so happens to be that with Slide, a user's bedroom curtains can automatically open a few minutes before their alarm clock is set to go off, thanks to our smart proprietary hardware-software integration. 'Waking up with sunlight' is one in a range of use cases we created using multiple iterations of design thinking, panelling and A/B testing, as well as crowdfunding to validate which propositions matter most. Slide is a great example of how we develop a technical product proposition on one and, but ultimately reach out to the consumer with a use case they can very much relate to, that solves a real pain point in their lives. In the end-user messaging we skip 90% of what the Slide product does, and focus on what matters for the consumer. Unfortunately, this approach remains heavily underutilised in the smart home industry.
Does the smart home industry need universal open standards?

"Yes, but". This industry, as well as the wider IoT industry, has been very successful at creating new standards, open and closed, that are supposedly faster, smarter or lighter than existing standards. The industry has not been very good, however, at actual standardisation. In spite of heavy investments, over the past decade, in Z-Wave, Zigbee, Thread, 802.15/LoWPAN and BLE - among others - the much older WiFi remains prevalent. Even the technically obsolete 433Mhz communication (and its regional counterparts) is used in millions of smart home devices sold this year. All this to say that the standards are already there - now it's time to actually start standardising around one of them.
What impact are security concerns having on the growth of smart home sales and how can security be enhanced?

Security of smart home devices and infrastructures is crucial. Not only because of public perception, but because of the evident absolute risk as proven by recent breaches. Government regulation of security standards for IoT is imminent and will be in place in most key markets within the next two years. As an industry, we only stand to gain from working with regulatory bodies to create standards that make sense and are implementable. Right now we are at the point where strong security is a product asset for which consumers may still be willing to pay a premium, but we will quickly move to the point where this is considered a base requirement for any IoT device. 
What lies ahead for the Smart Home industry? 

If we look at the next five years, there is a general expectation that the smart home industry will move towards the early mass market point. In order for this to happen, we need to pivot our products and services to meet the demands of this new market segment and achieve a functional fit. What this functional fit requires and looks like will differ from one product category to another. Nonetheless, drawing on other mass-market movements in similar industries, we expect two trends across the board: (1) more simplicity in messaging around smart home concepts and products and (2) smart home products becoming more invisible in daily life. 
Early smart home products have tended to focus on early adopters and innovators, a group that typically appreciates complexity, a range of customisation and heavy product interaction. To reach mass market, we will see more products that are simpler to use, with a more narrow but therefore easier to understand core value proposition. In addition, here at Innovation in Motion we think smart home tech rapidly needs to become more invisible. It's time for the blinking LEDs, obtrusive product designs and over-animated interfaces to disappear. The mainstream audience want technology that works for them, rather than the other way around. 

About Smart Summit London

Smart Summit is a 2 day conference and exhibition covering the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem and its impact on the digital society.

Now in its 3rd year, the event features Europe's leading Smart Home Summit and a further 5 tracks all designed to compliment each other.

With over 180 visionary speakers, gain a unique insight from industry heavyweights and hear case study examples from major contributors.

Make sure you are present in London on the 19th and 20th September for THE Smart IoT event of 2017.