Before the likes of the Amazon Echo, there were plenty of companies making and selling motorised, app controlled or otherwise "techy" products for around the home. Companies with years of expertise building one specific product, working with installers and showrooms, learning about the in's and out's of fitting things into flats and houses before glossy interfaces and voice controls arrived.
That's the thinking behind the 'With Netatmo' scheme from the French smart home company. Sure, it makes thermostats, security cameras and personal weather stations itself, but why compete on building smart windows, blinds and shutters, say, when Velux is doing such a sterling job on that front?
Read this: How to get started with smart blinds
With Netatmo is a series of partnerships, starting with the just announced Velux Active. It's an add-on remote and indoor climate sensor that tracks temperature, humidity and indoor air quality.
The idea is that it allows you to automate the opening and closing of Velux smart blinds and roof windows - both electrical and motorised/solar powered - based on your usage, your home and the weather outside. The ‚ā¨249 starter pack includes one climate sensor (additional sensors are ‚ā¨99), a departure switch and internet gateway.
"The main proposition of Velux, what they sell and what they‚Äôre offering is light and fresh air," says Netatmo CEO Fred Potter. "They were looking for a solution to automate the motorised version of their roof windows in a way which ensures to the consumer that they always have the best indoor climate. I think it was early 2016 we started the development of the Velux Active product."
Velux Active is currently Apple HomeKit and Siri compatible at launch and Potter tells that both Alexa and Google Assistant controls are coming - it's worth noting that Netatmo has a strong track record when it comes to supporting all three big smart home ecosystems.
"If you have lots of sun, like today in Paris," he says, "then maybe the blinds are going to go down so you don‚Äôt have excess heat in your attic. And at night, when the sun goes down, maybe the roof window is going to open to let some fresh air in - this is fully automated. Obviously the user will also be able to use this both as a remote for Velux windows or with voice control like 'Alexa, open the window' or 'OK Google, open the windows.' etc."
When we ask if he feels any users are limited by the simplified nature of the three main ecosystems, he replies that smart home companies can have their cake and eat it: "I think you should definitely do both things - make sure your products are integrated into the platforms and also ensure that your app is doing even more than what the platform can do."
Switches and sockets and radiators
Velux is the start but Netatmo has already announced similar partnerships in Europe to connect up kit from Legrand, which makes C√©liane smart switches and sockets, and Muller Group, which does smart electric radiators. Potter tells us that the first Muller product, Intuitiv with Netatmo which was debuted at CES (above), is coming this September and that he hopes to expand the scheme to even more products and partners in the future.
It's a neat idea and one that makes a lot of sense - fresh smart home companies can focus on connectivity, interfaces and usability; established home companies can focus on functionality, quality and design as ever: "We are using the strength of very well installed and serious industry players which are known for high quality and I would say are groundbreaking products in their field. And we combine their knowledge with the strength of Netatmo which is to make products that are easy to make, install and understand connected products."
And though Potter isn't trying to compete with Apple, Amazon and Google, he values the "centralised layer" they offer to users, he's clear thinking big when it comes to what could fall under the Netatmo umbrella. In short, everything.
"We are looking at every single object which gains to be connected to the internet and to be active, to be part of the Netatmo ecosystem," he says.
"Some of those devices we can manufacture and produce and sell them directly, like we do for our cameras, our weather station, our thermostat. For other products, obviously we need to partner like we‚Äôre doing with Velux. You can look at all the things you find in the home and we‚Äôre going to help the industry or we‚Äôre going to make on our own, the connected version of these products."