Bringing New Technology to a Key Product Line
Bringing new technology to a key product line is no small endeavor, even when you have more than 125 years of industry experience to guide you. After working on updates internally, Intermatic reached out to OST to help bridge the gap when adding a variety of communication options to their newly-developed smart in-wall lighting control. Through focus groups, user testing and a partnership with OST, the Intermatic team was able to make important adjustments and develop a winning solution for both contractors and homeowners.
Moving into the world of smart things
The Ascend™ Smart In-Wall Timer is a 7-day timer for managing electrical loads. It allows users to turn the device on and off at scheduled moments throughout the day to improve energy efficiency, safety and overall ambiance. While it is not limited to lighting, it is most commonly used for residential lighting applications. The newly-developed product was intended to be both peer-to-peer/access point (local Wi-Fi) and cloud enabled, providing for mobile app interaction as well as voice integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The peer-to-peer capability was a differentiator for a device like this because it allowed contractors to complete installation and on-boarding without an internet connection.
Which cloud is the right cloud?
Upon OST’s engagement in the project, our teams worked with Intermatic on a vendor study and were able to help them decide on AWS (Amazon Web Services) as the cloud provider, targeting AWS IoT, AWS Lambda, AWS DynamoDB and AWS Cognito, among other services. The OST team designed the messaging structure between the cloud, the mobile application and the timer; established the supporting workflows; and designed the component architecture before quickly moving into an Agile process on several development tracks. The team was also integral in voice UI design integration, mobile development in Xamarin, and backend platform development.
Giving time a voice
In addition to the updated architecture and development work, OST worked with Intermatic to design images for the cloud opt-in and opt-out, as well as the UX for integrating the existing Ascend Smart application flow and the Alexa ecosystem. Moreover, OST design and development teams provided the voice UI design for Ascend Smart, ensuring the customer experience and integration with Alexa was seamless. Voice UI design requires parallel tracks in voice and conversation design, making it a critical aspect of product development.
By exploring how homeowners would interact with Ascend Smart, and then iterating on those assumptions in a real-world setting, OST and Intermatic were able to ensure core functionality aligned with natural consumer behavior at launch. While this process was taking place, the OST development team implemented the Alexa Skill in code, which specified the voice commands and integrated the device with the cloud platform.
By iterating the voice command structure and building the back-end implementation of voice commands concurrently, OST teams were able to keep the project timeline on track while improving their work with relevant insights in real-time.
“As Intermatic evolves its product line with exciting tech-forward solutions, it’s essential to have partners who can help us build on our vision and support our teams with unique technical expertise.”
Vice President of Engineering, Intermatic
Differentiating through Wi-Fi and cloud
Competing products in the smart lighting control space are almost exclusively built around a cloud connection. With these solutions, installation is dependent on access to an internet connection. Even then, setup and onboarding requires a mix of homeowner support and technical expertise from installers.
Intermatic viewed having a peer-to-peer communication option as a huge differentiator – it would allow contractors to streamline installations and eliminate the need for an on-site internet connection, which is a challenge in new home construction projects. It also simplified the handoff from contractor to homeowner, allowing homeowners to configure their Wi-Fi and cloud accounts independently. As a result, contractors could save five to 15 minutes on each installation while delivering tech-forward features to consumers.
While integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant required homeowners to create a cloud, core smart features of the device would work out-of-the-box when connected to a traditional home Wi-Fi network. Additionally, being a part of the Alexa smart home ecosystem provided a huge opportunity as buyers increasingly look to create connected smart systems within their homes.
By taking time to understand customer needs and tailoring their solution to align to match the preferences of end users, Intermatic was able to take a positive first step into a competitive new market with great success.
Connected product projects have significant complexity, but working with the right partner can help bridge the gap, strengthening technical expertise and business strategy to deliver a top-tier solution.
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