That’s why Samsung (and Apple, Google, and
Amazon) now is focusing on ways to control what
Lee calls the “smart home ecosystem.” In 2014,
Samsung acquired the startup Smart Things,
which has developed a kit of software and
hardware that unites all of a home’s smart
devices into a single-app control system. An open
application programming interface allows outside
device makers to enable their smart gadgets to
communicate with the hub—and more than 100
now can. Lee says the single app can effectively
act as the control panel for the entire smart
home. And, adding sensors means that, without
opening an app or tapping a screen, users could
simply walk up to their front door and have it
automatically unlock, turn on lights in the rooms
with pre-sets, turn down the thermostat to a level
appropriate for the temperature at the moment,
and turn off the video cameras the user has
installed to check on pets. Key to making all these
smart home technologies more useful to people,
Lee says, is making them easier to use.
That also means making them easier to install.
Sonos, the home audio and speaker company, has
become one of the go-to providers of smart home
streaming audio devices. Part of the reason is its
almost singular focus on delivering optimal sound
quality. However, it’s also because the company
has made installing its products hassle-free.
Audiophiles of the past once took pride in the
multiple boxes and gadgets and cords it took to give
their homes studio-quality sound, but they don’t
have to any more. “People still want that quality, but
they don’t want to deal with the hassle of it,” says
Lizzie Manganiello, a communications manager at
Sonos. “They don’t want all those cables or to have
to drill a bunch of holes in their walls.”
The variety of smart home
products now available means
that the people buying them fall
across a wide spectrum—from
“prosumers” interested in every
spec to young couples looking to
outfit a new apartment to baby
boomers trying to streamline
This has, incidentally, made things easier for the
interior designers implementing these types
of smart home technologies in their projects.
“In the past, you’d have these huge TVs or huge
home ventilation systems, but these new devices
are the size of a wallet or an iPad,” says Dennis.
“They’re just not getting in my way at all.”
The design of smart home products is becoming
almost as important as what the products can do.
Peggy Ang, senior director for home appliances
for the appliances and electronics maker LG
Electronics, says how a product is designed is
becoming one of the key buying factors for the
company’s customers. “Price is always first, but
design is creeping up,” she explains. “Technology,
at the end of the day, has to delight people.”
As new smart home devices become capable of
new skills, it will seem less odd, less sci-fi to hand
over our tasks to them—to let them control our
temperature and lights, and to trust them when
they put in another order for frozen dumplings.
They’ll become intimately integrated not only
with our homes, but also with our everyday lives.
That future has already begun.
Nate Berg is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who covers cities,
design, and technology. His work has appeared in The Guardian,
Architect, and Landscape Architecture Magazine.
TOP: Smart home streaming audio devices, like these
from Sonos, are easy to install and provide optimal
ABOVE RIGHT: This LG Signature Series refrigerator
features an innovative InstaView window, allowing users
to see what’s inside without opening the door.
RIGHT: The self-cleaning All-in-One Air Purifier and
Humidifier air from LG senses and identifies particulates,
as well as disperses atomized water to create a
comfortable humidity level.