People who live in smart-houses, shouldn’t throw parties

by @edent | # # # | 7 comments | Read ~486 times.

I have friends. More than one! I also have a home full of smart-gadgets which are controlled by apps. The two don’t mix.

This is yet another complaint about solipsistic app design.

Let’s take my Lifx bulbs. I have a friend staying for a few days, and he needs to be able to turn lights on and off. Lifx make this functionally impossible. The available options are…

Bleugh. Neither is a good solution. Luckily I have an Amazon Alexa hooked up to the lights. But because Alexa’s “AI” is barely above the level of a speak-n-spell, that’s also unsatisfactory.

My guest tried to turn off the hall lights. Only he used the wrong invocation. “Alexa, turn off the landing light” just doesn’t cut it. Such AI, much recognition, big data mood.

In a fit of pique, he asked Alexa what devices it had attached. The response was typical of Alexa’s usefulness:
Alexa app displaying a list of NASA devices in deep space.
What a load of bollocks!

There’s an obvious solution to this. Guest accounts.

I know it is a cliche – but Silicon Valley geeks who are too anti-social to have friends and family is a right pain in the arse for everyone else.

Note to commenters

If your solution is “just buy this new bit of kit” or “configure this half-finished library from GitHub” – then you are part of the problem.

7 thoughts on “People who live in smart-houses, shouldn’t throw parties

  1. I have a similar problem in that I have (a) large numbers of smart gadgets and (b) a wife who (almost) never carries a smartphone and would be scared to ask Alexa to do anything.

    My solution is to install only those systems that also have a non-app physical control. I bought lots of Hue lights once they started making Zigbee switches. I bought an Evohome system because it has a controller on the wall and can be adjusted from the radiators too.

    This wouldn’t quite work for everything and doesn’t negate your very valid complaints! But it means our guests can turn the lights on and off and change the temperature in their room!

  2. Alex says:

    I completely agree this is a huge barrier to mainstream adoption of smart devices. I think that there are lot of fundamental UX challenges that aren’t being addressed in smart devices at the moment probably due to the demographic designing them.

    Hopefully this doesn’t mark me as “part of the problem” in suggesting different solutions, but accessibility for children and guests was part of my buying decisions for my smart home devices. I’ve preferred to have solutions that have physical controllers which are augmented by app control rather than pure app controlled devices. Hence I’ve chosen smart switches (LightwaveRF) over smart bulbs and Evohome for heating which as Quentin points out has physical controllers at each radiator (and a base unit). The TV has a physical remote which will turn the volume up and down on the Sonos playbar and we leave an old unlocked iPad kicking around to control the wider Sonos system in the house – this isn’t ideal but few of our guests really need to access the Sonos system anyway.

    Guest accounts would be a good feature, but I think they would be insufficient to address a lot of the usability challenges I encounter.

  3. Dan says:

    I have hue lights, I brought their weird light switch things to cover the issue of folk in the flat who don’t have the app…

    Now I have two light switches on the wall, both working independently of each other, the poor house keeper still hasn’t figured them out a year on…

    1. Ah yes, the other thing I did when installing Hue was to replace all the old switches with blank plates 🙂

  4. Luke says:

    Apple Home allows this function.

    I actually have it both Alexa and Siri/Home controlling a domoticz instance which in turn controls everything else such as Hur, 433.92Mhz based devices, a lot of code I’ve written…etc

    However Apples entry into this is via a AppleTV which functions as a hub in my network.

    I can invite anyone else to join the home, and their commands and interface is all back with apple directly. That of course has its own issues for some people.

    You can also say things like speakers can be controlled if on the same network. Whilst even the flatmate and I don’t share the same networks. You can get over this with running a mdns reflector and having the needed firewall rules between guest/media networks.

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