Home kit is finally launching but what problem is being solved?

 

I’m an early adopter. I’ve had connected home products for almost 10 years some that have required professional installation and some more recently that I’ve installed and updated myself. 

As MacRumors notes … 

HomeKit provides a standardized framework for manufacturers that develop home automation products, letting them interface with the Apple ecosystem and with each other. Through HomeKit, connected devices like lights, thermostats, speakers, smart plugs, and more can be controlled by Siri. For example, HomeKit enables commands like “Siri, turn off my lights,” or “Siri, turn the temperature up before I get home.” 

Though HomeKit was announced in 2014, it has taken nearly a year for companies to complete Apple’s certification process and get products ready for store shelves. Several companies like iDevices, Schlage, and Elgato have previously announced plans for HomeKit-compatible products, but until today, no products were ready to launch. 

The first three companies to announce completed HomeKit-compatible products that will be available for purchase shortly are Lutron, iHome, and Elgato. Lutron is debuting its Caséta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit with Smart Bridge, while iHome is announcing its iSP5 SmartPlug, and Elgato is launching its “Eve” connected home sensors. Ecobee and Insteon also announced new HomeKit-compatible products today. 

Sounds pretty cool on the surface, right? Wait until you get this stuff into your house. Have a partner or some kids?  Many activities aside from lighting timers are generally more complex and slower than simply taking a simple physical action. Recipes and macros are certainly interesting but tend to be a bit too complex for the average bear. 

And the kicker is that things fail and get out of sync pretty easily. A binary switch that’s been flipped because someone in your house has already intuitively known how to turn lights on and off immediately kills your smartphone superpower. And get ready to re-sync devices on the network as things misfire. 

Don’t get me wrong I love this stuff. I’m actually quite excited for a more open standard and believe that Google’s Brillo and Weave will assist here. Presumably Homekit devices will also work across protocol as many smart home products do today but again this stuff is far from bulletproof. I haven’t  seen anything from Apple that shows they’ve got the software and services chops to fix an array of devices hanging on the network. I’m certainly ready to be impressed …

Google’s sense of design for the future

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It seems almost crazy to see a massive piece on Google design given the history but if you’ve been using Android recently you’ve probably noticed some great things. I’ve discussed the differences between iOS and Android quite a few times and the more you use things on both platforms the more things that might seem like small details start to add up …

Examples like these happen everywhere in iOS, and they’re painfully obvious when compared to Lollipop, the latest version of Android. There, your notifications appear in a drawer, again from the top of the phone. But every one takes you directly to an action inside an app, making it foolproof to get into maps or Uber or Facebook. There’s intelligence behind what you see: A algorithm that invisibly figures out what notifications are most important to you, and serves those up first. There are hardly any chances to swipe wrong. You won’t end up in a place you hadn’t expected. In so many places, Android is so much more logical, the details so much more alive. Tapping any button sends a wash of color across the screen, like a ripple across a pond—a smart way of underscoring your taps, while hiding the teensy bit of lag that occurs as you wait for app to response.

Such attention to detail used to be Apple’s thing. Today, that distinction falls to Google. Unveiled last year, Material Design—Google’s evolving design language for phones, tablets, and desktop—offers relentless consistency in interactions; invisible rules that govern everything, so that every app feels familiar; and beauty in the service of function. It’s why so many designers will tell you, as they’ve told me, “I just like Android better.” Whereas iOS is still inching along without improving much, Google is creating a coherent, unified language that easily scales across phones, with enough flexibility to jump to watches and cars. “It’s not even about composing a UI in one place,” says Nicholas Jitkoff, who helped lead the creation of Material Design. “It’s about composing interactions from one device to the next.”

FastCo Design

When I woke up this morning there were over 100 notifications on my iPhone lockscreen from Google Photos which is processing the 90,000+ photos uploading from our home computer.  There were quite a few additional bits from other apps like email and news I use but a single action of opening / unlocking the device and they are all gone … Forever. On android things are nicely packaged together and importantly are not destroyed if I swipe in or act upon a single piece.

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The considerations that have evolved in Material Design and that consider to evolve are very clearly focused on the ever changing waybin which we use our devices. It’s easy to say there is copying going on between the two key platforms but that misses the important nuances that really highlight the focus Android has on enhancing the real user experience.

Nokia. If you can’t beat ’em …

Clone them.

The Nokia N1 is a pretty gorgeous looking Android version of the iPad mini and something Nokia should have done a while back – both as a tablet and as a phone. Android is something that could have easily enabled Nokia to extend themselves well into Apple led smartphone universe of today. But that friends, is water under the bridge.

Of note here are the new USB type-C connector which works in both directions (like lightning) and that manufacturing resides with Foxconn. Could this be a new more nimble Nokia?

Should be interesting to see what happens when this launches in China in February. I’d probably choose this over the Nexus 9 if I was looking at Android tablets …

via The Verge

Unnecessary use of location services

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Fandango is looking to track us ..: or at least that’s the impression this implementation of location services suggests. The “while using” option would be totally fine and expected and is what Movie Tickets has opted to do. Apple pushed the reminder about location being used in the background which is what suggested I even look …

I’m sure there’s a built in response for that’s how we can deliver “at theater” value but the main use case here is drop the tickets into passbook.

Quick update … Just got another notice for Apple’s Trailers app which also uses the same mechanism for location. Maybe I’m over thinking this but it really seems like overkill.

The future of payments and loyalty is here now

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Imagine a world in which you easily pay without having to carry your wallet. You can manage who has rights to pay within your family and manage preferences easily from your mobile or web. Imagine the surprise and delight of being recognized automatically as you are  rewarded with personal content that regularly enhances your daily experiences.

All of this is available today, but so far only exists within Walt Disney World.  I’ve just returned from a family trip and the Disney Magic+ band was an amazing aspect of the trip.  The bands are linked to your account which tracks hotel and restaurant reservations, members of your traveling party and preferences you’ve set for things like FastPass+ or access to special events.  Once you are on site, the band serves as your room key, ticket to the park and FastPass+ gates as well as payment for just about anything you might consider.  I’ll get to the one (ok two) exception(s) I found in a moment …

My family arrived on Thursday and that day I carried my wallet as I always do along with phone.  It became clear very quickly though that the wallet was simply redundant and I left it in our room for the days that followed.  Entering the park is a simple tap on the sensor touchpoint which after a few seconds glows green to confirm you are clear to go.  Band wearers with payment capability are also asked to confirm their identity via a quick finger print touch for ID.  What’s interesting about that piece is that you haven’t previously conceded your print (unless you’ve been to the park previously though I doubt that’s used).  I’m guessing it’s used as a backup for a fraud check as you’d have a biometric print on file to review.

Inside the park, you can use the band to pay for anything you need or want along the way.  Food and souvenirs can be paid for with a simple tap and confirmation via PIN.  If a photographer snaps a pic of your family they can tap the band to map the image to your account. I noticed that the images were available within about an hour which is pretty amazing (and a bit unnecessary even) given the volume of traffic and level of activity the typical party has going on.  In restaurants with table service each server and many of the hosts have iPod touch or iPads with scanners mounted on the underside of the cases in which they sit.  When it’s time to pay / be ID’d the process is quick, painless and frankly a pleasure.

One of the more interesting aspects of the bands though is how you are identified while enjoying a ride.  At the end of many of the more exciting sites there’s a picture wall which shows you enjoying things … these images are automagically synced to your account as well!  While pretty much everyone runs over to enjoy the pictures, Magic+ users are informed the images are already waiting for them which is pretty amazing since there’s no action required.  The bands are RFID which allows them to be scanned from a bit of a distance … I’m not sure what frequency they run on, but it’s enough of a distance that you have no sense the scanner is nearby.  They enhances the impact of the images auto-syncing to your account.  While I did not witness this firsthand, I believe it would also enable Disney Cast Members (park and resort staff) to seamless wish people a happy birthday, anniversary etc which today is largely managed through buttons people proudly wear.

All in the experience was pretty excellent.  I did however run into two small glitches in the matrix.  The first was in a vending machine in our hotel.  The machine accepted bills and NFC payments, but not the Magic+ band which feels like a miss given the use in 99.99% of the rest of the park.  The other was when I had the concierge adjust and change a dinner reservation and was asked for my credit card to hold things.  This one was a surprise frankly as there was a card on file for our bands and rooms and really felt unnecessary – especially since payment for the meal out be managed through the band!

Quick note on the vending machine as well … As it offered NFC, I tried MANY times to get Apple Pay to work, but it failed and eventually took the NFC function offline (literally deactivated) after a few tries.  The machine actually suggested I use a softcard (ISIS) which was the first I’ve seen in the wild … after a trip back to the room for my wallet I was finally able to buy a bottle of water – with cash.

The Disney implementation of Magic+ bands shows how proper consideration can really deliver a high value, low friction experience regularly across quite a few use cases and is something I hope others will learn from.  When you can control the end-to-end it’s certainly easy by comparison, but it did cost Disney around $1 Billion to roll-out.  The best part was it was very clear that everyone around was able to use it, not just techie types.  Additionally and perhaps even more importantly while there’s a lot of complex technology in place, the experience was not technical but rather more personal and allowed more positive human interaction.