The Automated Home. Why it Matters to us.

Home automation is coming.  The computer, the smart phone, and the Internet connection were just the start.  Within the next couple of years, we are going to see a blizzard of products on the market that promise home automation.

Here’s an example.  It’s from a company called SmartThings that just raised $13 m to sell packages of home automation like this (stuff to turn on off items you plug into it, people trackers via a keychain sensor, moisture and smoke alarms, etc.):


Devices that can be controlled by a sleek app like this:


The reason for all of this development?  It’s simple.  The expectation is that these products might become the precursors to the Internet of Things and the that market is going to be huge.

How big?  Cisco estimates it will be a new market worth over $14 trillion by 2022 and that 99.4% of all man made objects will be connected to the Internet through it.  In relative terms, that market is about as big as the US economy is today.

So, how does this market get started?  With home automation.  The same way the Internet took off.

Why is this interesting to us?  I wanted to make sure you understood that what we are doing is part of a technological trend.  Technology that we can use to achieve the American Dream in ways that weren’t possible even a couple of years ago.


PS:  My good friends at Las Indias have relaunched their site.  That’s great.  They combine ethical smarts, technological insight, and P2P organizational structures to catalyze meaningful change in the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world.  This relaunch gets them back in the game.

Join the movement to restore America's prosperity

Discussion — 14 Responses

  • David de Ugarte November 22, 2013 on 2:53 pm

    Thanks John!!
    And, by they way Steve is feeding again our blog in English with translations too! :-)
    Big hug!!

    • Javier David de Ugarte November 22, 2013 on 8:43 pm

      And yes, we speak English too,
      since you dont Speak Spanish

      • John Robb Javier November 24, 2013 on 3:39 pm

        It should work most places, including most of the US, but I’m focusing mostly on what I know best, the USA.

  • Dan Lyke November 22, 2013 on 3:12 pm

    I’ve been involved in a lot of conversations about home automation and the “Internet of Things” recently, and I’m the sort of home tinkerer who has a doorbell that runs Linux and various other hackery.

    Two things are slowing me down right now.

    First, wherever possible, I’m trying to make all repairs and enhancements to my house have a design life of 50 years (or about the outside that I expect to live). I’ve got a lot of upgrades scheduled, and it’s hard to look at things like cell phone technology with a 18 month design turnover and think “I’m going to spend a Saturday re-wiring that device into place to have it be obsolete in two years? Hell no.”

    Second, if the home of the future has a touch screen, count me out. I don’t want to have to grope around for my phone to turn on the lights, but I do want my bathroom light switch smart enough to default to the nightlight mode if it’s the middle of the night and nothing else is on. And there are a gazillion other ways where I already waste a ton of information on existing interfaces, where I want the house to respond smarter to what I’m already doing, not increase the cognitive load on me.

    But for this to happen, smart home component manufacturers have to one big strong thing: Stop designing closed ecosystem devices and start designing for interoperable networking from the very start.

    Haven’t seen that happen yet, so I’ll continue to wait. Even though I’d spend a couple of hundred bucks this evening if I could have a solution to my bathroom light problem.

    • John Robb Dan Lyke November 24, 2013 on 3:42 pm

      Dan, Wireless seems to be the end game. Device + battery/solar works for remote end points. Finally, most of the stuff that people are trying to automate today, gains little from the effort. More automated leisure is the last thing we need. JR

  • Alan November 22, 2013 on 9:06 pm


    What about we (us?) apartment dwellers. The concept of a smarthome helping with retirement by being productive is a great concept. Any ideas for those of us (46% of Americans) who live in apartments?


    • John Robb Alan November 24, 2013 on 3:38 pm

      Apartments offer fewer opportunities to turn space into production. They usually are in places with more people, which opens up other opportunities (and the space you do have is worth more, as the founder of airbnb found). Makes sure you are allowed some flexibility on your lease. Homes that restrict what you can do with them, aren’t worth owning. Those barriers might have preserved value in the past (standards), they destroy value (creative work/networking) in the future. JR

  • djysrv November 22, 2013 on 9:49 pm

    I’m skeptical this will start out as a bunch of high end electronic tinker toys for the rich and nearly rich (ok, upwardly mobile) of which there are fewer every year. I do not see it as a mass or consumer market.

    Reasons –

    1. Too many interfaces and not enough commonality among them Home owners will become frustrated by conflicts among devices, systems, and interfaces. Abandonment of investments in home automation will limit market penetration. How would you like to try to sell a home full of “internet of things” that don’t work?

    2. Divergent technology and business strategies among vendors will force home owners to become system integrators. Few have the skills, time or inclination to be early adopters on a grand scale.

    3. We already have device proliferation in our homes and it isn’t pretty. Plus, we are spending way too much discretionary income on media devices such as smart phones, tablets, DVRs, etc. It is spiraling out of control like health care costs.

    Just not convinced of it.

    • John Robb djysrv November 24, 2013 on 3:34 pm

      The solution (above) doesn’t solve much. However, there are things that automation can provide that have tangible value. As those emerge, and people will get over the complexity issues/hassles as quickly as they did with connecting to the Internet and buying cell/smart phones (both of which, looked at from the outside, are extremely complex). Given that networking is involved, there will either be few big providers once the dust settles. JR

      • djysrv John Robb November 25, 2013 on 2:58 pm

        Perhaps an illustration from the Internet will help explain my point. Take for instance the level of mastery necessary to use Google’s Chromecast device to watch Netflix on your TV.

        1. You must arrange for an Internet account and be able to surf the web to Google, the Play Store, and Netflix

        2. You must set up and successfully use a home wireless network.

        3. You must install the Chromecast device and the software from the Google Play Store simultaneously on your laptop / tablet AND the device on your TV. Your TV must be new enough to have an available port of the right configuration.

        4. The install program from Chromecast must be able to recognize your home wireless network.

        5. You must learn how to use the Chromecast APP inside the Google Chrome web browser. It does not work with other browsers.

        6. You must have a Netflix streaming account and be able to access it on your laptop / tablet.,

        I could go on, but my bet is the Geek Squad from Best Buy makes some serious money installing these things for customers.

        That said perhaps that’s where the market is – a third party provider of smart APPS for the home so the hapless home owner doesn’t have to contend with them

        • John Robb djysrv November 25, 2013 on 3:04 pm

          Some tech is hard to use. Definitely true. However, if 5 billion people can get the hang of a cell phone, some hope is warranted. JR

        • Phil Jones djysrv December 5, 2013 on 10:57 pm


          I’d suggest the problem is not that those things are hard. Any adult serious enough should be willing to get their head around it.

          It’s that they are useless. They aren’t a practical, or even conceptual, skill for being an empowered agent in the world. They’re just codes for getting locked-in to a particular set of consumer relationships with a set of suppliers.

          That, seems to me to be crucial point. No one can expect to achieve independence without taking some responsibility to learn new things. But the crucial thing will be to identify which bodies of knowledge are genuine skills and which are “pseudo-skills”. Things that actually make you more dependent and less resilient.

          • Phil Jones Phil Jones December 5, 2013 on 10:58 pm

            Another thought. Maybe “garden automation” is more useful than “home automation”

  • Cassandra Rose December 4, 2013 on 5:05 pm

    Anousheh Ansari – Home‎
    Anousheh Ansari – First Female Private Space Explorer ~ Female who also started the Xprize’s is CEO of this company in TX
    That is in lines what you are talking about ~

    Prodea Systems is an emerging private company formed by the Ansari family to address the challenges of today’s increasingly complex digital home and connected small business environment. Having a strong legacy steeped in developing solutions for the service provider community,

    Prodea Systems is uniquely positioned to both understand and solve the complex task of delivering multiple carrier-class, Internet-based applications and services to the consumer. The Prodea Systems platform, for the first time, provides the foundation of a presence network in the home, all created by a Community Engineâ„¢ which connects and enables sharing of content, experiences and applications among peer subscribers, with an ease and simplicity that does not exist today.

    The Prodea Systems Digital Lifestyle Command Center™ is the first end-to-end services delivery platform of its kind – one that comprehends the service providers’ goals to increase subscriber stickiness and ARPU, while at the same time driving a reduction in churn. This enables the delivery of services to subscribers in a manner consistent with their expectations of quality.

    The Prodea Systems platform will uniquely enable carrier-grade services to be delivered directly to a variety of fixed appliances in the home or automobile, as well as mobile lifestyle devices including smart phones, portable media players (PMPs) or laptops.