As I’m preparing dinner I ask Alexa “Alexa, when will you work with Sonos.” It was mostly a joke, except to my surprise, she comments, “I am not sure how to help you with that, but if you would like I can have a customer service representative contact you.”
Shocked (as I did not think humans worked at Amazon), I decided I should just take a little journey down the rabbit hole.
My virtual assistant then confirmed my number and, low and behold, seconds later my phone rang. As I threw veggies into my soup pot, I explained my situation to the human on the other end of the line. He asked me to install an app called Yonomi, which I could not complete while on my phone. Graciously he said he would call back after I had a moment to download, and he would also send an email explaining the steps.
In my haste (trying to accomplish numerous things at the same time) I entered in the wrong email as I signed up for this supposed magic app. However, the email I received back from support had heard of the “tech chi” before and offered to chat with me after I played with the app for a few days.
Some of Yonomi's programmable scenes Joss Scholten is the co-founder and the CTO of Yonomi. An experienced software engineer with a background in electrical engineering AND in automation (this dude actually comes from our world!) his goal has been to reduce the complexity and cost of automation. So, he and some others got together and created an app that works in the background, allowing your smart things to communicate and work within you daily routines. And it is free.
Today, Yonomi consists of only seven people between Austin, TX, and Boulder, CO, offices. It was back in 2011 that the idea was hatched after Scholten saw the success of both Nest and Fitbit. “These were cool devices, but none of them would play well with other systems,” Scholten said. He thought “wouldn’t it be cool if we could connect to these pieces.”
They then set out to create a smart phone platform that would always be free and would live on the cloud. The smartphone becomes a virtual bridge that routes messages to local devices with no hub needed. Their goal is to target the larger mass market, not high-end homes. They are able to roll out updates, run discovery, and ping devices while you snooze overnight. Then, using their algorithms, they can suggest new devices that would work well in your ecosystems.
As they continue to grow, their goal is to create home control scenarios that are based on specific context. If you ask for your lights on, the system would take into account what time of day and turn them on accordingly.
Yonomi currently works with players such as Nest, Sonos, Philips Hue, Wink, Logitech, Wemo, and, of course, Amazon Echo, which is how this story began.
Here’s a scenario for bringing IoT devices together, enabled by the Yonomi app:
“Alexa, turn on my Morning Motivation”
• Nest adjusts your home’s temperature
• Your WEMO Mr. Coffee starts brewing
• Sonos announces your weather
• Sonos turns on your Morning Music
Now the big question: Does it work? Well, we’ve had some silly fun having the house talk to our kids, and I have been able to get Alexa to turn off my Sonos system. But, it was not perfect. When cooking in the kitchen, having voice control of the music, would be a huge plus. We keep waiting for the other big players to get it together, but they too are not perfect either.
Does part of me worry that these type of devices will put us, the technologists, out of business? No. The mass market has never successfully been approached for simple control and the market is ripe for it.