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New App Can Control Your Entire Smart Home, No Hardware Needed

A solution for those who already have a slew of devices

Two-and-a-half-year-old home tech company Yonomi (a slant-homonym of sorts for "you know me") wants to accomplish an elusive goal: getting all the smart home gadgetry homeowners have purchased, from WiFi-enabled audio systems to lights and locks, to communicate. It just so happens that this is the seemingly insurmountable goal of the entire home tech sector. What sets Yonomi apart from the many other companies attempting similar feats of technological diplomacy, says its Boulder, Colorado-based CEO, Kent Dickson, is that it's just an app.

"Nearly all of the other companies out there are providing a piece of hardware" to act as a 'hub' for all of a user's devices, Dickson says, by way of expressing some incredulity at the state of the Internet of Things. "We thought that was a fine solution for early adopters and for home automation geeks, but it's really not a solution for the mass market."

Well, why not? First off, homeowners don't have the components of their tech systems installed all at once. Instead, they purchase things piecemeal: a WiFi-enabled sound system here, a thermostat there, and maybe smart bulbs if they're feeling particularly ambitious. When asked about devices that don't communicate via WiFi, but instead rely on options like Bluetooth and Z-Wave, Dickson noted that those devices—and certainly the ones supported by Yonomi—come with hubs of their own, which communicate with the Yonomi app.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, so many systems leave casual users confused. Yonomi "discovers" all of the devices that a user has on a WiFi network and then goes about setting up communication between those devices and the user's phone.

So, what's the future of the connected home? Will your average Jane or Jamal really find themselves living with automated sequences that, for example, open shades, start the coffee maker, and turn on news radio in the morning? Dickson is optimistic, despite the undeniably slow rate of mass adoption.

"When you look at everyday use products like thermostats or door locks, there will soon be a time when you won’t be able to buy one of those things that isn’t wirelessly communicating," Dickson says. "When the price comes down, and the technology and reliability improves enough, it absolutely will happen."

Voice activation and interaction technology is also on the horizon, Dickson says, at Yonomi. In this realm, Yonomi facilitates some novel features in your existing system, creating, for example, a way to air announcements about the weather or appointment reminders over your wireless speaker system. Voice technology in smart home tech is on the rise, with big companies like Amazon jumping into the fray. The convenience of hearing and talking to your tech, rather than having to whip out your phone to interact with it, is a huge boon, according to Dickson.

As for the uncanniness of talking to machines, and whether that can be overcome, Dickson says you do get used to it (he speaks from personal experience). Though we're healthily skeptical, the pendulum does seem to be swinging in the direction of a more tech-enabled home.

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CES 2016: 5 Smart Home Tech Trends to Watch [Curbed]

Amazon's voice-controlled Echo is now available to anyone that wants it [The Verge]

All Home Tech coverage [Curbed]