In the first of a series of interviews, we've talked to various users and owners of smart technology and wearables about how they use and relate to their technology.
In the first of a series of interviews, we’ve talked to various users and owners of smart technology and wearables about how they use and relate to their technology. Do you recognise yourself? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know.
- Interviewee: Tom Singer
- Lives in: London, where they rent
- Family: Married to Anna. and has two young children. Both are working parents.
- Job: Tom is a smart tech enthusiast who works as a developer.
What is your life stage and why do you buy tech at the moment?
“Because of the kids, there’s currently lots of hecticness. My technology is therefore an aid to time. I am also obsessive with technology – I love playing with it and always have done from an early age. My problem at the moment is with two young kids I don’t get any time to do that.”
When you say you play with tech, what do you mean by that?
“So it’s always been under the surface. Take hardware. From a very early age, I was taking things apart. My three favourite things at the moment are Lightwave RF, Philips Hue, and I’m into Raspberry Pi as well.”
- Read our Philips Hue UK guide
What’s your experience of the Philips Hue?
“It’s only very recent – I just got it for my birthday. Initial impressions are I really like it. It’s just little things – the user experience is really good on it. It’s set up on my phone, I can put it on my wife’s phone. It’s little things like, you don’t need the app to use it. My two year old really likes it as well. He thinks it’s good fun to change the colour of it. In a way it’s a good learning tool as well, eg “what colour is that”. He really likes it at the moment.
“I’ve got a couple of bulbs from Lightstrip as well and I want to sync them up to the projector in the front room for movies, which will be amazing when it’s set up. I’ve got lots of projects! In the past it would have been weekends and evenings, but because I play with the kids then there’s not as much time to build stuff really. So all my things are like mini projects. I did a moisture sensor thing for plants recently, because it was something you could put together easily… 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there.”
Do you think as a result of that, the time it takes to make stuff, does that make you more interested in buying an out of the box solution, or less interested because if you can’t DIY what’s the point?
“Probably less interested because you know there’s a large element of fun that comes with building stuff myself. I grade the projects in terms of small, little slightly silly ones. Like a moisture sensor for the Raspberry Pi. I used one of the Raspberry Pis to monitor power outages for the freezer. But my current big project is a smart mirror. And it’s like, if I could buy it and it’d just work, I wouldn’t as interested in it because I like to know what it’s doing. The sense of achievement when building is quite high.”
So what does your wife think about this?
“She loves it! She really likes the Lightwave RF stuff – I originally got it at Christmas for her. She’s a bit scared of the dark and this was before our first child was born. Getting her that, it meant that when she wakes up in the night to feed or whatever, she could turn the lights on and off easily. So there was definitely a use for it. She’s completely infatuated with the idea of the smart mirror too. She comes from a technical sort of background as well although more on the user experience side.”
What do you think about companies who provide this tech? How aware are you of the ecosystems that you are buying into?
“I am a little bit. I like stuff that has APIs, that I can interact with myself. The problem at the moment is that everything is so disjointed. I want my iPad to be the hub for things, but it’s hard to work out what app to use. I want one app to rule everything. I don’t want to spend £50 downloading 5,6,7 apps to find the one that works. I’ve not been able to find good info on that kind of thing. I’ve just started HomeKit with the Hue, but I don’t think it works that well in my opinion. I can’t shout at my phone to get it to turn the lights on and off, and I don’t want to pick up my phone all the time.
I’ve got three Sonos speakers already; the Echo seems like a good idea but I have the Sonos and they are not cheap to replace, especially having two children.
You aren’t ideologically opposed to any ecosystem, it’s just a convenience thing.
“I like the idea of things working together. I like the idea of IFTTT, the problem is that it’s really slow, there’s a noticeable couple of seconds delay.”
Do you see yourself as being on a smart tech journey at all?
“I see myself as an early adopter. The fact that I am renting restricts me heavily. I did stuff years ago in my old house, I was going to automate all the door locks, I was going to chip my hand but in the end I moved to London.”
Is it more of a project by project thing or are you trying to work towards a dream of some easier lifestyle?
“Easier lifestyle a bit, but the fun and enjoyment of the technical aspect overrides that. I wouldn’t try to sell it to my parents or anything just yet.”
“Because I think they’d just say ‘what’s the point’. I don’t think it’s at the stage yet where there’s enough convenience that they’d want to adopt.”
Let’s say your parents are getting older and more infirm. Would you be inclined to look at ways they might be able to integrate smart tech into their living experience so you could stay in touch with what they are doing?
“Yes, definitely. If you are looking at the convenience side they wouldn’t be interested as they are fit and able. But if they got to a point where they needed assistance, then smart tech would be the first thing to look at. They aren’t technophobes but might still need a bit of a push.”
What about data? What if your entire house was tracking you? Would that worry you?
“I’m not too concerned, especially if I had control over it myself. If a company guaranteed anonymity of data when it was packaged up, I would be OK with that. I would expect something back for it, I wouldn’t pay £300 for a piece of kit to find they were selling the data on.”
Do you think this tech has altered your lifestyle? Are there things you are doing now that you weren’t doing previously? Do you feel an extra sense of security?
“It’s not noticeably changed things, maybe little things you hardly notice, like not getting out of bed to turn the light off. The fact I can turn the lights on/off in the kids’ room without going in.”
You haven’t considered some extreme helicopter parenting type baby tracking then?
“No, if anything we’ve gone the other way. That’s because my brother had a baby monitor that was clicking every couple of minutes and sounding alarms if the baby stopped moving and you see people with video monitors and are completely obsessed with them. We don’t want to go down that route.
“We’re debating whether to put a camera in the Wendy house at the bottom of the garden, so we can be in the house and just check on the babies every now and again.
“There’s interesting questions our parents never had to consider – at what age do you give kids a mobile phone? Give them access to the Internet? We’re never going to have them sitting at the table eating their dinner with the iPad in front of them.”
Thanks very much for your time.