by Jessica Rove
“What happens when you cross-breed 25 billion IoT-enabled (Internet of Things) devices with two generations high on The Jetsons and Back to the Future? A strong demand for the smart, or “connected” home,” says Mak Ali, Director of Kettle & Oak, a boutique smart home consulting company based in Chicago.
The signs are out there. Every major technology company out there is churning devices that could be controlled by voice, gesture, geo-location, or trigger event.
While Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon seem to be paving the way, a wave of new startups have forged their way to create experiences that would surpass the wishlist of most techno-geeks. Kettle & Oak, a startup based in Chicago is doing just that. “The smart home category is fragmented, and operates in a silo,” said Mak Ali. “Our aim is to bring a powerful but intuitive experience to our discerning clients.”
The smart home is typically divided into four functions: security; lightning, temperature, and climate control; kitchen and home equipment; and home entertainment. Manufacturers are embedding “smart” functionality in everything from security cameras, switches, thermostats, cookers, washing machines, and refrigerators to media servers and televisions. By 2020, the percentage of global households with Internet access is expected to touch 69%, according to data from the UN’s ITU agency, and global smartphone penetration is expected to reach 75%. The smarthome market is expected to triple to $43 billion by 2020. Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) has surpassed $5.3 million in sales. Samsung and Whirlpool have also announced that more than 90% of it’s products will be able to connect to the Internet by 2017.
“We do everything from simple device installations in existing apartments and houses to new custom houses with heating, cooling, lightning, home media, sensors, entertainment rooms, and security systems,” said Mak Ali. “The best part about my job is to watch our clients gasp in amazement when magical moments happen via tech.” One of the most enjoyable client implementations, recalled Mr. Ali, was when one of their clients requested that his house be lit-up, his favourite music playlist to stream, his garage doors to open, and his TV set to CNN on mute when he comes back from his work in his Mercedes.
Kettle & Oak have built more than 50 smart homes to date, with plans to design their first “smart building” in 2018. Their plans also include creating a “Smart Chicago” to use algorithms and sensors coupled with smart devices to reduce crime and alleviate poverty in certain troubled neighbourhoods. It also receives frequent inquiries from other countries such as Canada, Mexico, Dubai, Middle-East, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and Australia for client implementations. “We may expand into those areas or look for a local partner in the coming months,” said Amy West, Director of Customer Service.
Kettle & Oak builds smart homes working with a variety of partners from Google, Amazon to manufacturers and technology companies. “Currently, we serve both the tech enthusiasts, with and without deep pockets,” said Mak Ali.