Yves Béhar has created some of the most attractive smart-home devices on the market as the founder of fuseproject, the San Francisco–based design and branding firm he established in 1999. More recently, Béhar co-founded the next generation home entry system August. We sit down with him to talk about the future of smart homes and what he thinks about the current notion of connected devices.
What do you see as the most urgent need to address right now when it comes to smart homes?
I think we need to move on from the notion that the smart home is made of many gadgets to a mentality of smart devices being part of the infrastructure of your house. I’m very passionate about creating technologies that are non-interruptive and non-distractive, that we can take for granted and that don’t need our expertise or constant monitoring in order to function.
What should designers consider as they develop these technologies?
I see the role of the designer in three ways. First is to design the experiences with the mindset that the users are not early adopters, are not tech types—they’re simply homeowners of all ages and different technical abilities.
Second is to make products that don’t feel like technology. I see these devices less as consumer products and more as infrastructure, so durability is key, as well as beauty and integration within the house.
Third is the ability to easily connect different functionalities to one another in a way that makes your smart-home solutions feel like an ecosystem rather than a bunch of disparate devices that need to be managed.
Taking all this into consideration, are there any technologies, devices, or innovations that have really impressed you in recent years?
One technology that has an enormous impact on the capacity to integrate systems and lower the carbon footprint at the initial construction stage of a home and all the way through the life span of the product is prefab. It’s much easier to deliver a cohesive, coordinated system in the home when the installation of those systems and their interdependencies are built in rather than installed ad hoc.
Where do you think the eco-logical impact of the home should be in the next 20 years?
This is the decade when we will commit to bringing technology and the needs of the planet together. We’ve been distracted by technology being a fun add-on to our lives, but when it comes to human survival, when it comes to climate change—and the real stakes that are now obvious to all of us—I think in this decade we will apply ourselves, we will apply our technology, and we will apply our talent to an essential transformation of the way we live into something a lot more sustainable.
What will the smart home of the future look like?
I see the home as a sci-fi-like, fully integrated system that welcomes you, caters to your individual needs, and provides comfort, sustainability, and efficiency in one go. The technologies are mature. It’s now about how to design them into our everyday lives, design them for affordability, long-term use, and ease of use. The improvements are all in front of us today, and the impact they can make is gigantic.
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