Chez Pring seems to have turned into the Falmouth Apple Store; multiple IPhones, IPads, MacBooks, iMacs, Time Capsules, Beats, Airports, etc. No Watch (hence the frowns in Cupertino), but HealthKit and HomeKit stuff imminent.
The latter got me thinking.
The success of the iPod – which really put the Apple show on the road – was in large part due to the simplification and elegance introduced into an already well-established product category. The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player and wasn’t the best, according to audiophiles. It still isn’t … much to the chagrin of Neil Young amongst others! But it was easy and fun to use, and most importantly, cool.
Fast forward to 2015 and the new product category forming is the Internet of Things. “Smart” products, “connected” products, “The Internet of Everything”, call it what you will, the IoT is becoming hotter and hotter by the moment, according to my 1954 Omega Seamaster (see why I don’t want an Apple Watch guys?!).
But just as with MP3 players in 2000 - the year before the iPod was released - current IoT products are complex, difficult, typically not very attractive (the Nest is the least ugly), not that easy or fun to use, leave quite a bit to be desired in functionality, and have – based on my anecdotal observations amongst folks who have deployed them – pretty high abandonment rates once the initial charm has worn off. And outside of nerd circles nothing about the “smart home” is yet cool.
In short, the home related IoT category is primed for an Apple-esque moment.
So, here’s the idea; joint venture with a high-end, volume house builder(s), and build Apple houses. The house would come pre-loaded with a HomeKit operating system, every available smart device pre-integrated – for doors, lighting, heating, cooling, security, A/V entertainment, garden maintenance, etc. - the windows and walls would be Gorilla Glass to allow them to be giant screens (or see through); customers could choose how much pre-configured interior design they wanted – the full Apple look (wood textures, finishes, colors from an Apple Store or the new HQ etc.) or just touches of the Jonny Ive, Angela Ahrendts, Marc Newson, Norman Foster vibe.
The house could be designed so that Toll Brothers – or whoever the builder is – could create an “evergreen” approach, i.e. screens and devices could be swapped out easily when technology upgrades are released. A smart home would go from the being the preserve of the very geeky or very rich (but massively insecure) show-off to the mass-affluent keeping-ahead-of-the-Jones mass market. Ker-ching! 1st Trillion Dollar Revenue Club Member… boom!
Apple could open up the “Home Store” to other technology providers; solar panel producers could build for the HomeKit operating system to make deployment easy. Ambient HVAC providers could provide pre-configured solutions.
Apple could begin to analyze data coming from houses (where owners chose to opt-in) to make recommendations on financial optimization; “by lowering the temperature 2 degrees in these three rooms (which are only used 13% of the time) you could save $750 in the next year” Siri might tell you. Micro-localized recommendations could be made; “we’re not watering the lawn at Number 35 tonight because of the forecast storm – shall we do the same for you?”
Aggregated data from more and more homes will begin to generate new insights which could be monetized in a number of ways; the local refuse department could be very well interested in the fact that neighborhood X re-cycles 15% more than neighborhood Y – optimizing collection routes might be one simple outcome of data like this.
As Apple Homes move beyond their initial luxury price point the “Code Halos” around larger and larger volumes of houses might begin to uncover all sorts of patterns that could be useful to multiple stake holders and thus monetized in many, many different ways. Maybe Apple will simply sell this data; maybe they’ll move into adjacent, associated markets … Apple House Insurance as one example.
In case you’re thinking this is a completely nutty idea, don’t forget that big (non-house building) corporations have been in the home building business before. Joseph Rowntree (of UK chocolate fame), the American in London George Peabody, Edward Guinness, Henry Ford (Greenfield Village), and many others, have built houses, typically for their employees to live in. Here at Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work we’ve speculated on a new approach to big corporations building large scale housing for their 21st century employees before.
An Apple House would be an incremental step to build homes not simply for employees but for customers. Given the deep rooted love so many people have for Apple products and services and the whole Apple sensibility (hence Casa Apple, after Casa Armani ) I would hazard a guess that there’s a very deep and broad seem of new opportunity for Apple to mine here.
So, Jonny, Tim, if your social listening folks forward this onto you please do let me know if you’d like to chat about this more; and if you need a volunteer to slum it for a while in v1.0, keep me posted.