As the idea of the all-connected home becomes an increasingly pertinent one, it’s only natural that Dyson – like many of its rivals – is investing in the smartness of its products.
To try to ensure it doesn’t become just another smart home company in the cluttered connected market, the British technology company took itself off to the Big Apple this week to prove this very point, holding an event dubbed its “biggest launch, ever”.
This launch wasn’t about making its products more connected and integrated to smartphones, though. It was more focused on making the machines it develops both smarter in a mechanical way, and more automated.
Alongside the announcement that all its future vacuum cleaners will be cordless, Dyson unveiled a further push into the smart home space with its new line of air purifiers/fans, the Pure Cool. These are looking to tackle – not just track – indoor air pollution and make the world’s homes cleaner and safer. While these are smarter than before, it’s not in the way you’d expect.
Dyson has indeed added Alexa voice controls to the new line of Pure Cool fans – "Alexa, ask Dyson to start purifying" – but it remains focused on as little interaction from the user as possible.
Read this: Amazon Alexa ultimate guide
The Pure Cool is said to capture trapped gases in the home, as well as 99.95% of ultrafine particles as small as 0.1 microns, to “clean a whole family room properly”. Dyson claims this is important because not only is most of the air we consume indoors, but it's an environment which can contain potentially dangerous microscopic particles invisible to the human eye. It claims that modern homes are becoming "better sealed" in order to meet energy efficiency requirements but that, as a result, "pollutants can be trapped inside and circulation of airflow can become compromised."
But the British company believes that the smart thing in its home air purification tech isn’t about connecting the product to an app. Instead, it’s about having a machine that doesn't need the consumer to interact with it. So when it senses air pollution, it simply acts upon it automatically, as opposed to warning you – like some devices do – then going no further.
Dyson’s launch was all geared towards showing how the true smartness in a home appliance could be sensing and reacting automatically, and alerting you afterwards via a connected app (which isn’t required in order for the device to work) that it was successful in doing so.
Dyson's home automation future
So why exactly is Dyson uninterested in making all of its devices app-controlled like everyone else? The brains behind the company, founder and CEO Sir James Dyson, said he believes this route is not sustainable.
“I think it’s necessary for some products,” he said during a Q&A at the New York event. “Talking to the web is easier, having an app is easier, but in my own view, I’m not quite sure that’s the future.”
He argued that it’s better to have the smarts inside the devices, rather than asking the consumer to do control it through an app.
“I think it’s quite important that some of the mundane products that we make do all of these things automatically,” he added, “without you having to get out an app or get a hold of your controller. So we’re into automation.”
While he didn’t say connected functionality isn’t important, and did highlight that it offers users more control and insight into their products, Dyson said that it’s better to simply build that directly into the device itself.
“The purifier reacts and deals with [air pollutants],” he explained. “I think that’s what’s important. Not you having to get out a phone, open up the app and set the thing going. I want it to do it itself.”
No app for that
It’s not like Dyson’s products don’t connect to apps. Like the last iterations, the new Pure Cool fans sync up with the Dyson Link app, which allows users to track indoor and outdoor pollution, temperature and humidity levels.
What's interesting is that Dyson's connected home tech customers seem to be aligned with the company's thinking – just not precisely on how it should get there. Owners of Pure Cool fans and the Dyson Eye robot vacuum cleaner have been requesting IFTTT compatibility, which would require little effort on Dyson's part, so that they can set up useful, automated Applets with say, smart thermostats and other home devices. Right now, Dyson's home automation ambitions seem narrowly fixed on its own products.
Paul Dawson, Dyson’s global director of health and beauty, is keen to point out that it’s not about connecting products to the internet for the sake of it. “It's really important that we are smart with the materials and resources we have,” he told The Ambient. “You see a lot of products out there that have smart connections, and there are some great examples but I think that's why some companies go under; because they were being connected for the sake of it and providing no value to the consumer.”
At Dyson, Dawson said they want to make sure that when developing connected devices, users can get “sense of value” from the product. “I actually do think there's a backlash about how every little thing has an app,” he added, predicting that soon we’re going to see what the financial stock market call an "adjustment", when “big things happen”.
He predicts that some connected products on the market right now “will go full circle” with their makers realising that it's not actually about being connected, but about the product being able to stand alone.
“For a connected device to really work it needs to reduce cognitive load,” he explained. “So, if you have to think about a smart device being smart then it's not really smart at all. They need to reduce the thinking and do things automatically for you. It’s not just about us being smart and connected for the sake of it – it has to be for a real purpose.”