A startup called Prodea thinks it can solve one of the biggest problems in home automation: How do you get a vast array of connected devices to be on the same page?
Prodea's answer is a “Residential Operating System” that can bring together cameras, thermostats, lighting, health monitoring, and entertainment from many sources, offering a single interface for controlling them all. For instance, when you sit down to watch a movie, you can automatically draw the shades and dim the lights, and have them turn back on when the movie ends. Or perhaps you could have your lights turn off and heat go down as you leave through the garage door in the morning.
Prodea is hardly the only company that's trying to bring more unity to home automation. Protocols such as Z-Wave and ZigBee already allow users to control multiple smart home elements through a single app or controller. Belkin bypassed the various competing protocols and built its own suite of home automation products. Meanwhile, AT&T, Lowes and others aim to take the hassle out of home automation with more tightly-controlled hardware ecosystems and services.
The interesting thing about Prodea is that it's trying to be a white-label platform with the television as a centerpiece. As VentureBeat notes, Prodea offers a set-top box that shows notifications and lets you control parts of the house through the television, as well as on phones, tablets and computers. It's not hard to imagine a cable or satellite provider offering home automation as an additional feature, using Prodea's technology under the provider's own brand name. By white-labeling the service, Prodea could potentially work with several providers, expanding the operating system's reach.
The devil's always in the details
It sounds promising, but it's all a bit vague at the moment. There's no actual product you can buy, and no specific service providers on board. Prodea's Website lists a bunch of hardware providers and apps that will supposedly support the platform, but it lacks demos of an actual system at work. The entire Website seems geared toward getting service providers to use Prodea's platform, but there's no guarantee that's going to happen.
That said, Prodea has $100 million in funding to work with. According to The San Jose Mercury News, much of that money comes from the family of CEO Anousheh Ansari, which founded the $10 million Ansari X prize that helps promote the commercial space industry. Prodea has noble goals, an interesting approach and plenty of resources, but is that enough to crack the code of home automation? That's still a puzzler.