Home Hardware Should Be Elegant

Little Signals by Google

When I envision the future of the smart home I see a gradual transition away from cold, hard, and clunky hardware towards a more playful, soft, and delightful aesthetic. A great example is a recent Google experiment called Little Signals:

Little Signals explores new patterns for technology in our daily lives. The six objects in this design study make use of different sensorial cues to subtly signal for attention. They keep us in the loop, but softly, moving from the background to the foreground as needed.

Take a slow walk around your home and notice how you have arranged each area. Your desk, shelf, table, bedside, entryway. You chose objects that feel personal and come together to create a feeling. Why can’t computers, big, small, and tiny, similarly join your other belongings?

Today’s tech products stand out. They make aggressive sounds. They interrupt. They should remain on your periphery and gently draw focus when necessary before quickly fading away.

Connectivity Concept by Deutsche Telekom Design & Customer Experience and Layer

Another example comes from Deutsche Telekom Design & Customer Experience and Layer:

As the tools of domestic technology become increasingly linked together, in a flow that integrates digital and analogue devices, the designs in the Connectivity Concept collection make that connection harmonious and fluid — digitally and aesthetically.

Imagine a family of products throughout your home that feel connected digitally and aesthetically. Google’s latest Nest Cam, Nest WiFi, and Nest Thermostat are pursuing an elevated elegance through a new hardware visual language, and subtle yet fun color options like sand, fog, sage, sky, and coral. As a result I find myself turning to Nest for my smart home needs. Unfortunately the software has not caught up with the hardware’s softness and delightful presence.


The last example is from Ikea, a company that my family still relies on for basic home necessities. The product photographed above looks pleasant atop a stack of books. No attennas; no flashing lights.

It will take time for Ikea to earn my technological trust, but I am excited to see them participating in this field. Perhaps someday I will venture into the new San Francisco Ikea and demo their WiFi speakers and smart air purifiers.

The most surprising part about this industry? Apple isn’t even mentioned.

Home Hardware Google Nest