A lot of the technology that we encounter today was built with one thing in mind — stickiness. Most companies design apps and products to make sure their users are hooked, addicted and constantly engaged. We love technology, but we began building our company Senic because we want to create products that focus on improving people’s wellbeing. Our mission was and still is to create technological experiences that promote things like more human interaction, relaxation and great conversation.
When we designed our first product Nuimo — a controller for smart devices — we had the goal of making interaction with technology more simple and seamless. As with most companies launching their first product, we learned a lot from our early supporters. Thousands of these early users told us exactly what they loved, disliked and wanted over Skype sessions, phone calls and coffee dates. We even visited a few dozen of them at their homes — where we talked about how they live, what they love about their home and how they envision the future of technology.
Based on what we learned, we’ve incorporated our findings directly into our next product release which we are excited to tell you about today. But first, the back story.
What’s Happened So Far
Nuimo’s development was led by a community. Since our first crowdfunding campaign, the early backers of Nuimo have had a big say in the product. The software, functions and features we built were suggested and prioritized directly from this feedback — the idea being that we wanted to make something that really mattered for our supporters.
We have been excited to hear about how much people love Nuimo, but are equally interested to hear what could be improved in our product and smart home products in general. Given the shear amount of feedback we’ve gotten from people around the world, it has become clear that there are still so many things we want to do with Nuimo and channel into the next stage of the journey.
Critical Issues in Smart Home
When we initially started working on Nuimo, our intention was to launch it with an entire array of integrations, from the obvious (music and light) to the more obscure. But even with a lot of experience, it’s hard to estimate time for something that is so new — an issue that many IoT startups and large companies face. We have become very well acquainted with the industry-wide issue of few standardizations and low interoperability that all companies deal with when trying to build themselves into a wider ecosystem of smart devices.
We found the majority of our backers and customers are users of an iOS or Android device — however there are several different key platforms for smart home users. The issue with platforms is that for each integration, a company must also build the integration for several platforms (here at Senic, we just focused on iOS and Android). This requires multiplying the size of your software team by the number of platforms you support — as well as doubling the number of issues, bugs and apps you must maintain.
This is one of the key challenges for us because we’ve needed to heavily prioritize and add platforms only after serious consideration. Unfortunately, this means that some people cannot use Nuimo with the freedom they would like.
Adding a platform also means that updating integrations across said platforms is literally double the work because it must be down for each device on each platform. We chose to focus on improving the integrations we do have so far, rather than integrate as many things as possible while compromising on quality.
To add further complexity to the platform topic, Android specifically has some quirks that you need to confront when you’re developing. A major challenge that we’ve faced is the connectivity for Bluetooth Low Energy (which is different than the classic Bluetooth often used for audio streaming), specifically on Android devices. Not all Android hardware works the same, meaning that it is hard to ensure stable connectivity across different devices from different vendors. This problem is not likely to disappear — making excellent support for Android as a bridge a difficult issue for small or large companies to tackle.
While our supporters love that Nuimo’s battery lasts more than a month on a single charge thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy, one of the biggest frustrations has been that it cannot connect directly to all devices and requires a ‘bridge’ or an intermediary. This is due to an existence of many different ‘protocols’ for smart home . Protocols are a bit like spoken languages — meaning a device that speaks WiFi cannot talk directly to a device that speaks Bluetooth. To get around this issue, many people use a bridge to connect all of their devices — e.g. a device that has several protocols and can translate between devices.
For many Nuimo users, their iPhone or iPad acts as the bridge. However, we want to streamline this system so that we can provide the best possible user experience — as we have stated in our vision from the very beginning.
A Problem For Us… and the Smart Home Industry
While we need to grapple with all of these issues as we continue to work on Nuimo — we’re not alone. These problems involving protocols, connectivity and platforms are huge issues for other startups, big companies like Apple and Google and consumers alike. We’ve talked to a lot of people working in the IoT space about this and we think that for the industry as a whole, changes need to take place in order for IoT and Smart Home to see mass adoption and provide true value to the users.
So What’s Next?
Given the feedback from our users, friends and supporters, we have been working really hard to find a way to provide better connectivity, more integrations and technology that will not get bricked in a software update from corporations.
We have discussed several ways to do this and in order to provide the best experience for you guys, we have decided to launch a smart home hub that is built on an open platform.
With the first version of the hub, we want to take the next step towards creating a system around Nuimo that allows for integration and interaction, not only with big brands that people love, such as Sonos, SmartThings and Hue, but also with the more industrial providers, like KNX and Crestron amongst others. We will still need the support of other companies in some ways — but it will expand the capabilities of Nuimo and the next products from Senic significantly.
In short, this will be a way for us to open up hundreds of new integrations, be open for developers and companies to build on top of our platform and improve the connectivity of Nuimo without requiring a phone or tablet acting as the middle man. This hub will open up not only a lot of new possibilities for what Senic can become, but also many ways we can integrate, automate and interface with technology — getting us one step closer to fulfilling our vision for a seamless smart home.
Beta Testing The Hub
The number one reason we’re releasing the hub is because we want to solve the challenges for people who are using Nuimo right now. We would also like to work more closely with a small group of beta testers in the last mile of this development — in return we will happily provide a free hub to these ‘beta-testers’. If you are interested in providing feedback to us over the next months as we finish the hub, please apply here.
We’re almost done with the hardware and the first commercial version of the software. Our goal is to make the device available for pre-order in June and ready ship this summer. We will be sharing our experience over the course of this development process openly — and hope you take it as an invitation to share back with us.
One More Thing…
In addition to the launch of the hub, we are also developing an even more revolutionary second product that will be unveiled this summer at the same time. We will not be providing any details yet, but we believe it is a major step in the smart home category and we are very excited for you to see the next phases of Senic. Stay tuned for more updates on this product — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about the big news.
If you have any questions, please comment or send us a direct email to [email protected]
Thanks so much!
Tobias and Team Senic