Nobody knows when we’ll connect every object in our homes to the Internet and live in a world the Jetsons would’ve written science-fiction about, but many agree that the Internet of Things is coming nonetheless. Now the only thing that remains is figuring out how it’s going to arrive — and more importantly, how it’s going to be explained to the masses.
Earlier this month, connected home startup SmartThings updated its iPhone app with a new design meant to make it easier for non-geeks to use its service. [Disclosure: SmartThings and PandoDaily are both backed by Lerer Ventures, SV Angel, CrunchFund, Chris Dixon, and First Round Capital.] Besides boasting a prettier interface, the update also shows just how limiting the app-based model can be.
In addition to making it easier to connect sensors to the company’s “hub,” the update also made it easier to create and activate certain tasks by separating them from its app store. Instead of having to search for an app that sends a text message whenever the back door is opened, for example, users can simply activate that feature within the main interface. They can search for more complicated apps once they understand the basics, but simple tasks have been brought out from behind the app curtain, as it were.
Before the update was released, SmartThings users had installed 30,000 apps through the service. By the end of last week that number jumped to 130,000 — and the update hasn’t yet been released on Android. Asking what people would like to accomplish with the service instead of which app they’re looking for has allowed SmartThings’ users to better understand what the service is capable of.
SmartThings is hardly the only company struggling to teach consumers about the Internet of Things’ many supposed wonders. Zonoff released a report in November stating that many consumers are interested in what the Internet of Things can offer them, but a fair number (24.9 percent) think that it’s too confusing and are unclear on where they should start. That’s one of the main reasons why consumers hesitate to purchase connected devices:
Teaching consumers about the many devices they can use to connect their appliances, doors, and other mundanities to the Internet is a challenge. Teaching them about the software that allows all of that information to become something more than a mass invasion of privacy is a whole other gauntlet, and it seems that moving beyond an app-based model might allow SmartThings to do just that.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for PandoDaily]