Inside the restaurant at the Mercer Hotel in Manhattan, Yves Behar is scrolling through his iPhone, showing off the latest version of August, the smart tech-enabled locking system he designed that launched in 2014. As the famed industrial designer rolls past different venues on the apps' interface—including his home, "snow hut," and West Marin surf shack—and shows when friends, family and staff entered and exited, he talks about the ease with which he can use the app to activate the add-on lock device. He clicks an icon, unlocking and locking his front door in San Francisco, to demonstrate. The Swiss-born product designer and noted surfer gets Zen about the "keyless, codeless, and completely secure" system. It's not just about security, it's made to be friendly and approachable, making the smart home concept anything but Big Brother. In the same way that Behar touts his smart lock system as more about interconnectedness than protection, the philosophy of August entails a larger vision of a high-tech home than just a simple lock-and-key.
Behar, who has been keyless himself for the better part of a year and actively seeks out Airbnb venues with August systems while on the road, would argue the app screen, while fun, isn't really the point. The most important part of the design, created in his design studio, fuseproject, is the interaction, how the Bluetooth-enabled device unlocks your door when you approach without requiring any action. Every time he hears the device's chime, symbolizing an unlocked door, he still gets a thrill. He compares the system to the doors in Star Trek. Those don't have big interfaces asking your name, they just work.
Behar sees August as part of a larger smart home ecosystem, filled with "magical interactions that are discreet" and technology that runs in the background. It's not just about running the trains on time, he says, but being sophisticated without interrupting. "Consumers now expect every experience in life to be as resolved as the products that they like," he says. "There needs to be a strong reason for a product to exist."
These technologies are part of a sea change in how we view our homes that will occur over the next decade, says Behar, analogous to the shift we saw in offices in the late '90s due to widespread technological adoption and evolution. Fuseproject is working on expanding August, which just announced a partnership with Comcast to work via the company's Xfinity Home system, and examining the entire concept of the entryway, considering interfaces and screens, what information you would and wouldn't need to see, and how to communicate vital information at a glance. It's a continued vision of building a better, yet more invisible, interface.
Behar's focus on interiors isn't surprising considering his background in architecture. The renowned product designer—whose first internship was with an architect in Lausanne, reveres the Eames Case Study house, and shares a New York City office space with architect David Adjaye—once said architecture is his sandbox. It's still his escape. He spends weekends sketching interiors and working on personal furniture products with local craftsmen in San Francisco, occasionally playing around with integrating technology into these experiments.
"I still think architects are very progressive in their ideas of their philosophy and the meaning of architecture in society," he says, "and on some level, extremely Luddite when it comes to creating experiences that respond to individuals within their buildings. Especially responses via technology."
Behar said the building that most influences him was Jean Nouvel's Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, which uses light-sensitive diaphragms to regulate the daylight coming into the building. "How many examples of this kind of responsive architecture have we seen since?" he says. "We've barely scratched the surface of this yet."
While he's currently engaged in numerous designs and projects from August and Edyn, a smart gardening monitor, to the Sodastream Mix beverage system (he says carbonated tequila goes down especially smooth), Behar also looking at more projects involving the built environment. He's currently working on Centro, a new garage-less apartment complex in Miami, and said he hopes to work on a hotel project and design interiors in the future. When talking about the future of smart home technology, Behar said that there are "idiosyncrasies of modern home life that we're not questioning." With the increasing overlap of home design and technology, a designer with both an industrial and architectural background may be the only one positioned to envision how we interact with our homes.
·The Maker's Mark: Yves Behar profile [Verge]
·Previous Yves Behar coverage [Curbed]
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