Home Automation Sucks 3

by Colin Berkshire

Have I been unkind to the Home Automation people?

Unkind that their programming systems look like they were designed in 1985. Unkind that their devices are incompatible with each other. Unkind that the devices have a real-world range of about 30 feet. Unkind that the leading home control hub does not have “AND” as an available logic (you can only “OR” events together.) I am especially unkind that they invented Z-wave which is incompatible with the internet and computers and which doesn’t use WiFi that is present in every home.

You may think I am being unkind.

So let me visually illustrate a product by these brainiacs…

AeoTec makes a nice, solid, attractive power strip. It speaks Z-Wave (the most popular of the incompatible protocols.) Four of the outlets can be individually switched on and off (but only if you have a hub that supports Z-Wave and only if it had a driver for this particular power strip and only if you are within 30 feet of another device on the Z-Wave network.

On the surface this looks like a really nice piece of plastics. It’s beautiful and heavy.

Why this device even has notches on the back so that you can mount it to the wall in a semi-permanent way:

What is that black thing on the back? It’s a circuit breaker!? That’s really thoughtful – a quality power strip, notches, and a circuit breaker — I’ll take a dozen.

Oops. When you mount it to the wall using the provided hooks, you cannot see the circuit breaker. So you don’t know if it has tripped. In fact, you cannot even know that there IS a circuit breaker.

I wonder how many hours of people’s time will be spent wondering why their power strip won’t turn on. (Does it need to be re-synchronized? Do I need to re-enroll it into the network? Is it outside the 30-foot range of the device?) When the problem is simply that there is a tripped circuit breaker on the back that you cannot see because it has been mounted to the wall using the mounting clips the manufacturer provided.

It is this level of incredibly poor thinking that is dooming Home Automation to the same fate that the telecommunications industry has suffered…the customer’s needs are not front and center. The customer is not the most important person in these companies.