Why robots and smart tech will soon be the norm

Smart products and robots have progressed from the realms of sci-fi movies and will soon become an integral part of our everyday lives, says Neato Robotics senior director Maureen Mellon

In recent years, we’ve seen the introduction of numerous connected devices that all aim to improve living environments or help consumers save time.

Many have been proprietary solutions tied to a specific vendor, but this is evolving quickly. Big players like Nest, Philips [Hue], Belkin [Wemo] and major appliance companies are offering DIY technology that homeowners can control remotely from existing devices.

These companies, in a bid to encourage and enable widespread adoption of smart products, are ensuring their products adhere to industry standards. This includes integration with wi-fi and Bluetooth, as well as wider consumer IT infrastructure and smart devices.

Ultimately, adoption will be driven by a number of factors:

  • Smart-home devices are no longer considered hard to install and can be bought from high-street retailers or online and set up instantaneously;
  • Thanks to improved connectivity in the home, via robust wi-fi networks, smart-home devices have the ability to interoperate with each other;
  • Heightened technology adoption has resulted in lower price points. Consumers also have more choice of connected devices they can integrate into their current ecosystems.

Enhanced technology and development of AI has helped lower barriers to adoption. The wider industry must stay focused on the user experience for this to continue, as devices and systems need to remain easy to interact with.

Maureen Mellon
Maureen Mellon

When things are made simple, consumers flock to brands and usage explodes. Apple is a prime example, as we’ve seen the exponential growth of the smartphone. Technology was made simple and put into people’s hands.

The human interface

In addition to simple installation and easy-to-navigate functionality, another driver for adoption is how the interface is becoming more human.

This was kick-started with systems like Amazon’s Alexa on its Echo and Dot speakers and Google’s Assistant on its Home product. We no longer have to type, swipe or click – we can command technology with our voice. This made people realise they could interact with technology in a much simpler way – even tech novices.

Voice-activated systems, such as Alexa and Google Assistant, have deepened the relationship between humans and robots, creating a trusted interface that naturally adapts to nuances of language. This has made them more attractive for people to try, and ultimately use in their homes.

It could also be argued that our relationship with robots is just the next evolution of tech adoption. There was a time when smartphones seemed alien to us and touch-screens were something right out of sci-fi movies. These days, many people are obsessed with their handsets.

Smartphones have become an extension of the person and an integral part of work and home life. They also offer an alternative to other older, more traditional devices, like a camera, camcorder and portable music players. I predict, the use of robots in the home, or life in general, will evolve in a similarly seamless manner and become truly ubiquitous.

Creative programming

Neato app
Neato app

As adoption continues to increase, so does the technology that sits behind it. We are starting to see a variety of devices being made available to the homeowner. People are benefiting from home appliances such as Neato, which vacuums your home remotely, and Nest – a learning thermostat that controls your heating and cooling. This will only continue.

Tech leaders are expanding their developer networks, opening up their APIs [application program interface] to allow other companies to write rules to control or utilise their smart technology. Writing new software for devices manufactured by other brands will only add further value for consumers, as devices will be able to be linked together in new, creative ways. The Neato Developer Network enables just that.

If a home security system identifies a possible intruder with its motion sensors, it could activate a Neato robot vacuum, which would use its laser technology to confirm if an intruder was on the premises, even in the dark. This shows how devices might work together. This will continue and we will see a number of incredibly creative solutions to problems we didn’t know existed.

The future of the smart home is all about convenience and seamless integration with our lives. As devices become more established, they will assist homeowners and help them claim back their free time. They will work seamlessly together, eradicating menial chores and improving the quality of life for all. Soon, we will wonder how we got on without them.