One of the most intriguing corners of this year’s CES is the dedicated SuperSession on ‘IoT Business Strategies: Partnerships for the Sharing Economy’. After all, while almost anyone in Las Vegas this January will be able to tell you that IoT will (surely) have a huge part to play in the future of consumer tech, very few people will be able to tell you exactly how…
The main current consumer thrust in IoT, for example, remains home automation, and specifically security. Yet there is often little really inspiring about this proposed application of IoT. In part, this is because it arguably fails to offer us anything really new. A secure home is a secure home is a secure home, however this is achieved, and if home automation currently offers greater control and security, it does so at significantly more expense.
Much more interesting is the USP of home automation innovator August. Co-Founder & CEO Jason Johnson, who’ll be appearing at the SuperSession panel in Vegas next month, took the time to tell us precisely what distinguishes August’s approach to home automation from all the other contending companies.
“We definitely make products that fall under the security category,” he says. “But we have a kind of unique philosophy. We’ve looked at the front door, and asked, if you can give control over that part of the home in a new way, what could that do for consumers?”
August concluded that the answer to this question lay was in combination of home automation with the booming sharing economy in particular and ecommerce in general – both of which an automated front door could make much more seamless and better integrated into users’ lives.
“Traditionally the lock on our doors has been designed to keep people out. We have a philosophy that, if we can make a really good access system, a different kind of lock and security for the front door, it could be used not just to keep people out but to let them in – a kind of different paradigm to what a lock is. Our vision is, if we do that really well, then when I get home from work tonight, my dog will have been walked, my groceries delivered, my UPS packages delivered, my house cleaned – maybe there’s fresh flowers on my dining room table, my dry cleaning has been delivered and it’s hanging in my closet, my dirty clothes have been taken away.”
The ideal behind August is that, for all of those service providers requiring access to the home to deliver (a requirement presently resulting in a chaos of keys, calls and clashing schedules), instant, temporary access could be delivered the second the arrangement is made. Johnson offers an example from personal experience.
“I have a vacation rental home up in Napa, this little tiny shack,” he says. “I made it available on Airbnb and right away I had to deal with the keys. So, first, we had to hide a key somewhere on the property. Later, of course, I started issuing keys from within the August app. And you can do that. You go to the app, you type in the person’s name, their phone number, the days, the hours they have access and I issue the keys from the app and they show up and can get access to the house.”
However, the experience became that much more seamless (and therefore satisfying) following a software integration between the two services. “Now, literally as I’m talking to you, someone could be doing an Airbnb booking for my place: and the August app will automatically provision a temporary key to that guest. I’ve done nothing.”
The opportunity for such a provision to facilitate e-commerce per se is striking.
“One of the things that cause us most to think twice about ordering something online is the challenge of, ‘how am I going to physically get that?’ At our office, we have a lot of employees that get packages delivered here, and they stack up and then they got to haul the packages home on the bus or they ride a bicycle and have to haul the packages home on their bikes. So people think twice about ordering things online! Nobody wants to come home and have that little sticker on the wall saying missed delivery.”
You could be forgiven for thinking that, indeed, home automation and the internet of services look made for one another. Indeed, technologies often seem to complement one another. It is presumably this manner of symbiosis that will allow IoT to flourish in the years to come, to offer consumers new experiences. Objects will not merely be connected and that’s it – rather, through that connectivity, new combinations and opportunities come to light.
There will be few more explicit examples of this approach on display at this year’s CES than at the ‘IoT Business Strategies’ SuperSession. Attendance is certainly a key part in August’s plans for 2016.
“The idea of a smart lock and a smart video doorbell is still a new concept. The challenge for us in 2016 – and starting at CES – is to move into the mainstream. How do you get, not just early tech adopters, but mainstream consumers to embrace these technologies and put them in our homes? That’s what we need to do over the course of 2016.”