Smart Homes Require Smart APIs

By: Kyle Riordan

As Google’s $3.2b purchase of Nest has made abundantly clear, the arrival of the “connected” or “smart home” is here with widespread acceptance seemingly imminent.  In many ways, connected home has already arrived with a myriad of connected devices specifically for our homes: smart thermostats, lights, locks, security systems and even refrigerators.   And the industry is only picking up steam -  a conservative estimate by Juniper Research estimates the smart home market will reach $71b by 2018.

In a way, a well thought out and well-managed API program is a lot like a smart home.  Take for instance letting people in to your house when you aren’t home.  Traditionally, this would require you to stow your key in a hideaway fake rock, the one that really looks like a rock, and then telling your friend where to find it; or physically handing over your key.  Sometimes this even meant going through the trouble of getting to the hardware store to have copies made (and if you are anything like me, returning home to find the they do not work).

With a smart lock like Goji at your front door, this hassle can essentially be eliminated.  Smart locks with integrated mobile applications can show you who is at your front door and allow you to let them in even when you are away.  You can even go so far as to assign entrants a “smart lock key,” letting them enter your house during designated days and time periods (perfect for a house cleaner if you are fortunate enough to have one).  

Cool gadget, but what does that have to do with my API?  Well, onboarding developers to your API is a lot like letting someone into your home.  You can go the traditional route, waiting for a partner/developer to come knocking at your door and (assuming you are there to hear it) hand them a set of instructions telling them how to get in; or even worse make the trek to the hardware store and build that integration yourself (then hope that it works the first time).  Or you can have a “smart” API management layer that lets the developer apply for a key that has specific controls for what he is able to access and how often.  When he does, all you have to do is click a button to let him in.

And once they are in, it is nice to know what is going in the house even when you are not physically there to see it.  With a home, this can mean simple cameras with connected mobile apps that let you get a live look into your house (or view what happened during the day).  For getting that same sort of view into your API, analytics and reporting let you see right down to the individual developer level the calls developers are making and the returns they are receiving, keeping you informed at all times.

Similarly, knowing that your API is up and running is as important as knowing that the heat is still on in the winter (forgive me I’m from New England).  In your home that could mean an automated text message letting you know the heat unexpectedly shut off.  With your API that means monitoring services that alert you that your API is down.

APIs can act as a key enabler to creating a smarter home.  Sure its cool that my smart electrical socket can communicate with a centralized hub over Z-Wave but when that communication interacts with the location of my phone turning a light on so I do not trip on my way through the door is when the connected home starts getting exciting.  With our phones tightly tethered to us, often no further than an arm’s reach away, these sort of location triggered events are ones telcos can best help create and make a part of your home. 

The big players like AT&T and Verizon have already secured their seats offering comprehensive solutions but there are still seats to be filled.  Think of the smart lock companies that want to be able to send the pictures it takes to a users phone.  Or if instead of just getting a notification within my app that monitors my heat/electricity my electrician received an automated text message detailing any issues.  MMS and SMS APIs can be the solution to giving your home its voice.

The connected home is coming and there are many roles to fill.  With such a young industry there is still opportunity to carve out your space.  No matter where your company fits in, make sure its API is as smart as the homes it powers.