Home automation systems may look cool, but can they actually be beautiful? Can a touchpanel hanging on your wall be a work of art?
I’m not talking about automating slide shows of your summer vacation or pictures of Van Gogh paintings on your iPad—I’m talking about something that was designed to integrate and accentuate your décor, maybe even be an attractive conversation piece outside of it’s technological capabilities.
That’s the plan for Artefact’s Serenity home automation system. “What if we had an OS for the home that gives us the information and control we want, but also makes our home better and more beautiful, our relationship with it more harmonious?” says the Artefact website.
So what is it? At this point it’s a concept, a bit more than an idea but not a rolled-out product you can get installed by your local integrator. Artefact is a design company more than a technology company, so there’s no discussion of network protocols, processing speeds or price points. The idea is to have attractive tablet-like e-ink devices that provide status updates for various systems connected by home automation. Sensors will be able to provide feedback from the connected systems (lighting, audio, temperature, security…) and present them on the e-ink devices in an artistic manner. The company calls this consumptive awareness and says the system grows and adapts based on your usage patterns, which sounds a little like the Nest smart thermostat.
Artefact wants Serenity to make home automation fun and attractive, instead of something that looks like it belongs on a starship. “Why not create awareness through a metaphor of something we care about?” says the company website. The system provides visual feedback in pleasing images, such as an abstract plant that sways as you walk by. If your energy system reports that you’re over consuming, the tree may fall down.
The idea sounds great. Right now the company is talking about e-ink displays, but people want to use their smart phones and tablets for control interfaces because, well, they already have them. Could an emotive feedback system cross over to your iPhone? Perhaps a breech in your security system might be displayed as a Keystone Cops burglar image. Yikes.
I love what this company is trying to do, but I’m not sure that fun and intuitive can achieve the same goals. I’ll be paying attention to see what develops.
For more on affordable home automation trends, go here.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.