November 20, 2015
Anybody who watches college basketball knows who Coach K is. He wrote a book about Duke’s 2001 National Championship journey, and in it he has a brilliant quote:
“There are five fundamental points that can help make a team great: communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring, and pride. I like to think of each as a separate finger on the fist. Any one individually is important. But all of them together are formidable.”
That is, if you strike an opponent with an open hand it might sting. Should you combine all five fingers to make one fist, you can do some serious damage. Unifying many strong entities into one, singular force is an incredibly powerful sentiment.
When I met Kent Dickson at Denver Startup Week, I knew I had to circle back and talk to him more about the company he helped build, Yonomi. You see, they thrive on this same principle that Coach K is talking about, except Yonomi’s focus isn’t basketball. They rather focus on the connected home and bringing all of the metaphorical fingers together into one fist: Yonomi is unifying all of the connected devices in your smart home.
Dickson and his cofounders all had some experience in the smart home market, and they all recognized a glaring issue holding the potential for success back. About four years ago, mass market connected home products like Nest started showing up everywhere. The problem was that they were left standing alone and apart.
“There was no common standard being adopted, and there was no common user experience among these devices. There needs to be a unifying layer,” says Dickson.
Sure, there were people attempting to unify smart home devices, but they were pretty exclusive to DIY enthusiasts. According to Dickson, these scenarios were lousy for the average consumer that lacks a robust, technical know how.
In that light, Yonomi was built specifically as that unifying layer Dickson references. Not only does it bring your smart devices together for easier and more enjoyable routines, it also does everything in the background so you can focus on what matters in your life.
“The mass market user doesn’t want to think about this stuff on a daily basis,” says Dickson. “If you’re spending time thinking and interacting with your connected gadgets, then the point is moot. Tech should fade into the background as you live your life.”
Dickson and the team wanted everything to hinge on a dynamite user experience, and a central pillar holding it up is Yonomi’s device discover. When you install the app it will automatically detect every smart home device on your network and sets up the first few automations.
You don’t really need to do anything else: all of your products that, minutes ago, didn’t work together now do. Of course, if you want to build custom triggers you can. For example, you could have NPR start playing when you walk into your house at the end of the day.
“It has to be really easy and almost mindless for users. It’s got to be so easy my mom can use it, and she’s not tech savvy,” says Dickson.
The question Yonomi is focusing on now isn’t how to better unify all the devices – they’ve got that locked down. Rather, they’re working to tell the story of smart home unification by partnering with a handful of companies who have a vested interest in enlightening consumers.
For example, Yonomi worked with Target this past summer to build a connected home showcase store in San Francisco. Through that partnership they’re able to tell the story about how the connected home is going to make the lives of a mass market audience better.
“If we can make the user experience really great, then the acquisition cycle of new devices into the home will accelerate over time,” says Dickson. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to work together.”
I would go one step further than Dickson here: it’s imperative for everybody to work together in this sector, especially when it comes to security. Everybody involved in the smart home arena has a role to perform to ensure that everything remains secure, all the way down to the people making the hardware chips.
To run with another metaphor, it’s an example of the chain only being as strong as its weakest link. Yonomi is simply one link in this chain, one layer of the smart home solution. And while they might not affect the entire chain, they’re working to ensure that they’re not the weak link. To that end, Dickson and the Yonomi team go out of their way to make sure everything they do embraces best practices for strong data protection.
“Neither the NSA nor anybody else can guarantee that there won’t be a breach,” says Dickso. “But you can build so that, if it occurs, the damage being done is limited.”
There’s also a crucial link in the chain that people invested in the connected home can’t overlook: the consumers. They need to learn best practices as well. Your home network needs to be secure, and that’s something that Yonomi can’t do, like teaching good password management.
Regardless, I think that without a dedicated platform like Yonomi in the smart home space, the chain might not be able to support the weight of mass market adoption. And at the end of the day, that’s what everybody wants to see. Or, as Dickson said earlier, it truly is in everybody’s best interest to work together.
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