Making Home Automation Smooth Like Silk – PSFK (blog)

A digital brain for the home might reveal just how unintelligent our smart home devices really are

Let’s say you come home from work or from a night out and you want to turn on a smart light. When you arrive, you face your first problem. Instead of simply turning on a light switch, you need to get your phone out, find the necessary app on your home screen, configure it, find the right setting—and let’s not forget none of this is even possible if your battery is dead.

Fumbling around with one piece of technology to control another piece of technology can create obstacles that were not there before—negating the need for the technology in the first place. Accessing menus, screens and codes can be difficult when applied to true-to-life scenarios. But, some believe the experience of contending with the smart home could be and should be as smooth as silk.

“The kind of world we imagine is that I come home and things just magically happen. I want the house to recognize me, recognize my face, turn on my lights, turn on my favorite music,” says Andreas Gal, former CTO of Mozilla, who founded Silk Labs in June of 2015 with Chris Jones and Michael Vines to focus on creating thoughtful experiences with connected devices by enabling them to understand, respond to, and adapt to our daily human needs.

Silk Labs is an Internet of Things startup with hopes to launch the intelligent object of the future. With a broad background in technology and software, this very well may be the team to do it. It’s launching a product called Sense, a smart object that serves as the HQ for your home automation needs. Think of it as a digital brain in your home, a device that learns as it begins to recognize patterns and adapts to your needs through simple interactions.

Gal says:

“It is our belief that there is no device at the moment that lives up to the promise of IoT as we see it. We think in a couple years these devices will be intelligent, but they’re not quite there yet. Here we’re trying to let early adopters live in that world today.”

Silk Labs describes the device as ‘Nest Dropcam meets Amazon Echo.’ High-quality materials come together to create a sleek and decorative home automation device. Despite its sloping modern design, it feels sturdy. The team wanted a device that didn’t look like a spaceship so they opted for something that would look nice and appealing on a mantle.

Silk Labs also intends to make smart home notifications more meaningful. Simple motion, changes in light or even pets don’t trigger the device, it’s triggered by people, events and relevant context.

“Once you add the right software and technology and combine them with all the computational powers of the devices around us, we can make much more intelligent devices.”

One notable feature of the device is the secure setup and end-to-end hardware encryption. It uses Bluetooth Low-Energy (LE) to carry out a secure setup that also keeps your home video private. This gives the device some privacy advantages. Compared to other cloud-based solutions this device stores all the data that is collected in your house locally. You just touch a phone to the Sense, and and encryption key and Wi-Fi credentials get passed between the two devices. Only trusted mobile handsets can pair with the device and can see the available video feed.


The team has also invested plenty of time into developing the software of the object as it runs on its own operating system; Sense will work and control a wide range of other connected devices: lighting such as HUE and LIFX, sound systems including SONOS, home systems Nest, and more.

In that sense, the Silk lab Sense could provide makers and technologists a way to create home automation programs that we didn’t know we yet needed. For sorting through junk mail perhaps, for cooking meals dependent on the weather, for getting the kids ready for lunch, or for prepping the house for next year’s Valentine’s Day or Super Bowl party.

Silk Labs


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