I’ve never met anyone from the island of Cyprus before. (In case you were as clueless as I was, it’s a tiny and beautiful spot in the Mediterranean Sea tucked below Turkey and above Egypt, where the spoken language is Greek.) So, when I set up a call to discuss a new Internet of Things online information repository, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
In my conversations with Nicos Panteli, the co-founder and developer of Qioto (www.qioto.com), the website with the tagline “Discover Smart Home Solutions,” I felt like I was talking to any number of smart, engaging members of the CEDIA integrator (“technologist”) community. Panteli told me that he’s a professional integrator, who because of the size of his country, is a bit of a jack of all trades (design engineer, sales, programming…) And, as he went about his work, he started keeping a list of products he used and what they were or were not capable of achieving.
“I was looking into the more popular ones and also the ones that many people had never heard of before because sometimes there’s a great idea out there that just lacks the marketing or R&D support to expand beyond a certain level,” Panteli said.
He began collecting his research into smart home products into a list, recording pros and cons of each one, and physically testing what he could get his hands on. The list was divided up into categories (Automation, Cameras, Climate Control, Door Looks, etc.), and in recent years was filling up with more and more DIY products. After three years, the list was huge.
So, with the help of co-founder Stavros Azar and two content contributors, Panteli then designed a website where all of his research could reside. It would include both DIY options (think SmartThings, Wink, Amazon Echo, and Nest) as well as certain entry-level pro options (think Crestron Pyng, Lutron HomeWorks, and Savant Remote) in one place.
The feeling was that he could help educate consumers about the benefits and limitations of DIY smart home products and also introduce them to pro-level products and the professionals that are available to install them. He would be serving not only his own interests but that of the industry as a whole.
“If you’re building a house with technology in it, the first place you go to do your research is online. Unfortunately, most people don’t know that integrators exist until they’re referred to them by their architect or builder,” Panteli noted. “During online searches, consumers usually find DIY products first, which is not fair because not all people want to do DIY. Some people want to have people install technology for them. I thought it would be reasonable to have everything in one place — the pro products and the DIY products — for someone looking for budget products, high-end products, or something in between.”
The beta version of qioto.com was up for more than a year. The final version is now live, and it looks great, with a simple “discovery” style platform, and easy-to-understand descriptions with product “lifestyle” photos. Panteli is still adding items from his old list, and he’s quick to add IoT products that are “in the news” (the Nest Camera is a recent addition.) He and his team regularly blog about new products or technology trends and offer comparisons between similar products on the site.
“Being an integrator, you can spot the mistakes [in product designs] so easily,” Panteli said. “We can show people what’s right and what’s wrong. Not just the specs, but a comparison of the stuff that you really care about. For example, if you put two cameras side by side, one reviewer might compare the resolution and connections, but might skip the important information about how you can mount it or put it in the ceiling. We show people what manufacturers really don’t advertise.”
With his site so new, Panteli's main focus is getting consumers and integrators to sign up for his newsletter and to drive traffic to the website in hopes that Qioto's insights will help help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions and to help integrators to stay ahead of their competition. He also plans to serve as a guest blogger for Residential Systems, covering the "IoT Watch" beat.
And in case you were wondering where the name came from, it stands for “Quality Internet of Things Online.” Another clever idea from that tiny island in the Mediterranean.