Yonomi is helping smart home makers get into the automation game

No smart home frenemies allowed, says CEO Kent Dickson

Yonomi is expanding the automation game

"When device manufacturers look at us and they ask ‘Friend or foe?’ the answer’s going to be really easy: friend. We’re only making the pot bigger, we’re not trying to take market share, we’re not trying to compete with you."

That's what Yonomi CEO Kent Dickson talked about with his co-founders Joss Scholten and Garett Madole when they built the home-automation-platform-in-an-app company back in 2013.

It's now available as a free app for iPhone and Android with compatibility with both Alexa and Google Assistant, a focus on suggesting and curating Routines for multiple devices and users in 190 countries around the world. One possible reason for that? "We’re not trying to sell you hardware, we’re not trying to sell you laundry detergent. We’re not even trying to give you ads."

Read this: Your essential guide to Yonomi

That brings us back to the friend or foe question in the smart home industry and, in particular, the advantage of not being Amazon.

"Amazon has had a very positive effect on the smart home," Dickson tells us, "but it’s still a device manufacturer and you might be wary, saying 'they’re still my biggest retailer but I make a camera and they just bought Blink, now they’re a competitor'. Or Ring. Like hold on, there’s some frenemy stuff going on here. So you can understand the importance of Amazon but at the same time – are they friend or foe? It’s not clear. With us, it’s 100% of the time clear, we have no ulterior motive."

Filling in gaps

Even as Google, Amazon and Apple develop, improve and expand the availability of features like Routines/Scenes and skills/actions/shortcuts, there are still plenty of gaps in compatibility and functionality and that's one way an open platform like Yonomi can be useful in the short term.

For instance, right now, you can use it to voice control Sonos speakers via Google Assistant even though the official support is still in the works, due by the end of 2018 according to Sonos.

Read this: How to control Sonos with Google Assistant with Yonomi

"We filled that gap on Alexa for a long time too," says Dickson. "Sonos and Alexa weren’t compatible, we were the only way that you’d be able to control your Sonos with your voice. And now we have that position with Google too. We know that’s temporary.

"We’re very happy to do that. We’re trying to be proactive enough to go out and integrate with popular things that are going to wind up in people’s homes. The side effect of that is that we end up making a lot of these bridges – Alexa and Google and Sonos and everything else – ahead of when the vendors are able to do it themselves. It’s useful I think."


Sonos, lights and locks

One of the features the Yonomi team prides itself on is helping mainstream users and smart home beginners figure out what Routines to set up based on the devices they have in their home, rather than simply catering to tech geeks who probably prefer to tinker around themselves. Yonomi is compatible with a lot of the big smart home names including: Philips Hue, Nest, Ecobee, Osram, Honeywell, Logitech Harmony, Wink, Wemo, August and Schlage. You can see the full list of supported products here.

Dickson says that there's a lot of Sonos speakers connected to Yonomi but that in terms of raw numbers, over 50% of the devices connected to Yonomi are smart lightbulbs and smart switches: "Lighting was big from the get-go." In fact back in 2015 when Yonomi launched, the team at Amazon got in touch with Dickson and his co-founders to talk about working together on what was then being referred to as the Lighting Service.

Yonomi's CEO also points out that smart locks are in their infancy compared to say, smart lighting, but are growing in the US at least: "Locks are soon to be one of the top two most important device types for the home because it enables so much. Obviously it takes installation, there’s a whole lot of compatibility issues and of course there’s the security issue. But the things that it enables are really strong and compelling – Airbnb use cases, package delivery, home services, dog walkers."

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One problem Dickson runs into time and time again is that Yonomi's users request a specific device or smart home system to be added, and it turns out the company in question is struggling to make that happen in months rather than years. Enter Yonomi ThinCloud, which basically means big companies and startups can turn over all the device-to-cloud connectivity and concentrate on the hardware.

Its first success story is that it powers Schlage's smart locks, with more Allegion brands to come on board this year, and Dickson says that "a top lighting manufacturer" and a "smart ventilation company" are also using ThinCloud to get connected home devices released in a faster timeframe.

His theory is that there will be room for innovative startups and one product companies in the smart home space, no matter what the "megatechs" do with their curated, semi-closed ecosystems: "The value we bring to our partners is that we are not Amazon, we’re an agnostic platform."

So smart home companies don't need to use ThinCloud to join the Yonomi platform – they also don't need to pay to join or even write the software themselves, a difference with its rival (of sorts) IFTTT. "For us, relationships have been really important," says Dickson. "We don’t charge any of our partners to connect to us, like IFTTT does, but they don’t charge us either."

TAGGED   smart home   inspiration
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