Last night Andy Rubin got on stage with Walt Mossberg at the Code Conference to discuss his new company.
The two spent a good chunk of the conversation talking about the Essential Phone, but when they finally got to the Essential Home, they didn’t disappoint.
I wrote yesterday about what we already knew about the Essential Home smart home product, but Andy’s discussion with Walt gave us a better understanding of the company’s strategy for the device.
Rubin and his team have (correctly) identified the main problem of the smart home as one of too many competing ecosystems. The main goal of the Essential Home is to solve for that.
Per Rubin: “One of the problems in the home is the UI problem. There are too many things you have to interact with in your home.”
While we often use that term UI to describe the various consumer interaction layers such as voice, touch or motion, Rubin is using the term more broadly here. He points to a fragmented smart home world with too many competing apps, smart home protocols, and technologies. And, as the guy behind Android, Rubin admitted that in many ways he helped create the problem.
“I feel somewhat responsible. One of things Android helped do make really easy to write a mobile app. the guy building your IoT doorbell, he’s going to write an app.”
According to Rubin, the problem with so many apps and technologies is each time a consumer walks through their smart home, they are walking through a series of competing apps and ecosystems.
“In certain ways,” said Rubin “the industry has recognized what the problem is, which is you don’t want to launch someone’s app when you walk up to your front door to unlock it, where they have their own UI, their own login credentials, and when you finally get through front door and its time to turn on your lights, do the same thing with the guy that built your light bulb.”
He’s right in saying the industry knows fragmentation is the main problem in consumer adoption. In our survey of over 100 smart home execs last December, the number one hurdle to adoption of smart home products identified by industry insiders is confusion over too many smart home platforms.
In other words, fragmentation. Or, as Rubin puts it, “a UI problem.”
Rubin said the solution to the problem of UI fragmentation is to bridge all of these competing ecosystems by working to integrate as many of them as possible together.
“You have to think of it as a UI problem,” said Rubin, “and you have to solve the UI for the home as an interoperability and integration issue. You can’t just support ten devices; you have to support one hundred thousand devices.”
That’s a lot of devices, but Rubin plans to get there by bridging the various ecosystems across the world of Apple, Amazon, Google and more. In other words, he doesn’t want to compete with the giants, but instead wants to connect them to one another.
“You can think of this as everyone is creating an island by creating their own ecosystem, so building bridges is the best way to describe what we’re doing. It has to talk to all these ecosystems, whether it’s Smart Things, HomeKit, or Google Home, or Thread or Weave.”
Rubin didn’t go into the specifics of how he plans to solve the fragmentation issue, other than to say they think they’ve found a way to do it. Whatever the approach is, it sounds like one built from the operating system on up with a focus on security.
“We had to build a new operating system so it can speak all those protocols and it can do it security and privately.”
That operating system is called Ambient OS. It will be part of the new Essential Home which is rumored to ship in late summer.
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