Smart homes need right details for security

Other gadgets for the smart home, Page 4

ORLANDO — Phil Dumas of UniKey Technologies runs a company of about 50 people in Central Florida that builds locks that can be accessed using a smartphone.

He says the success of his company, along with the smart home industry, will rely on making sure manufacturers keep security as a top priority.

Q: What are some of the obstacles still facing the smart-home industry today?

A: There is a gap between the expectations and the realities of the smart home today. Every smart-home product is not created equal. People have these expectations that a lot of companies don’t deliver on.

Q: Why do you think that’s a problem now?

A: When companies offer full-service solutions, it’s typically a situation where everything is done poorly instead of one thing being done great. A lot of the companies must focus. That’s evident with Nest and their thermostat or Hue with their light bulbs. These one-size-fits-all solutions tend to not be thought out because they try to be everything to everyone.

Q: But where does that head in the future?

A: Today, you have to do a lot of configuration. Automation and setup tomorrow will be more suggestive. For instance, it might say, ‘We noticed whenever you come home, you turn on your hall light. Should we do this for you in the future?’

Q: That’s going to be cloud-based, right?

A: My smart door lock doesn’t have to talk to my smart light bulb. They can talk to the cloud and send the commands down. It’s a big paradigm shift in the smart-home world realizing we don’t need the product to talk locally. We can do the heavy lifting in the cloud.

Q: Has demand risen for smart-home technology?

A: There’s a demand. The (concept of a) smart home is very easy to understand and imagine what is possible. But there is a great divide between consumer expectations and companies’ abilities, at this point. Security is a huge component of that.

Q: How do you think security differs between industries?

A: There are different levels of that. My light bulb, for example, doesn’t need the overly cumbersome security codes my door lock would need. We take that very seriously.

Q: Talk about how UniKey has grown.

A: We are a security company more than anything. In general, there has been this inversely proportionate relationship between security and convenience. We hope to change that. We are experience-enabled security. If it’s easier to lock your door, you’re more likely to lock your door.

Q: What’s your role in the industry?

A: My objective is thought leadership in the access-control world. Traditionally, it’s been viewed as a utility and a liability. We’re trying to get it so it provides a new level of accessibility and control (for the consumer) these other systems don’t have. I try to share my experience and opinions in the space. Hopefully people find value in that.

Q: What challenges does the smart-home or smart-lock industry still face?

A: It’s easy to comprehend and understand and visualize, “I can control my lights and thermostat and lock from my phone.” But it’s also a disadvantage because it’s so easy to visualize, but it’s actually difficult to develop these experiences everybody expects.