A couple of interesting but very telling events happened in the world of smart home this week.
First, X-10, the zombie-remainders of the once legendary company that kicked off the entire home automation industry filed for bankruptcy. While the company was just a website now bearing the name of the 70s era powerline automation company, it marks what may be the final merciful end for a once iconic brand in this space.
The second news of import this week was the announcement by Nest of their new intelligent smoke detector. The new device is the sophomore effort by the sexy smart home startup launched by Tony Fadell, the creative force behind the original iPod.
The new smoke detector has all the hallmarks of the Nest thermometer, like beautiful design, loads of intelligence and a high price tag. Of course, the high price tag – high for a smoke detector that is, at $129 (typical smoke detectors go for $20 to $30) – is a result of Nest’s belief that mundane device categories where there has been very little innovation can be reinvented and people will pay for such innovation.
And as has been proven the early success of Nest with its smart thermometer, people will in fact pay.
So how are these events connected?
Not really in any way other than it shows how the world of smart home has moved well beyond the early roots of basic powerline automation to a world where innovation in sensors, open hardware and smart home software has finally coalesced to deliver on the promise of smart home in a way that was never possible before. And as the Staples Connect initiative that was announced a few weeks ago illustrates, the big retailers are seeing opportunity here as well.
This wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if there hadn’t been hundreds of companies and hundreds of millions of dollars wasted while tryng to create a new vision of the smart home since the 70s when X-10 first introduced the idea, but there have. Probably more in fact.
From someone who remembers when Sun and Cisco tried to enter the space during the first dot-com boom only to watch them retreat, it’s an exciting time to finally seeing the necessary combination of innovation, design and real-world benefits that consumers will pay for finally making its way to market that will deliver on the promise of an industry that X-10 started four decades ago.