Chet Pipkin, Belkin International
Chet Pipkin, CEO, Belkin International
We used to have a very clear denition of tech, but with everything being smart today, it’s suddenly gotten a lot bigger in scope…
Yes, it’s gotten really blurry. You might want to spend some time thinking about this. Increasingly, software’s eating the world. The way we buy books, perceive books, read them; from music to videos and even the way we move from point A to point B—are [all] software experiences that’s delivered on hardware. You do still need hardware to get to the edge of the network; to the people, but these experiences that are getting unlocked through the combination of software and hardware platforms, are life experiences as opposed to just a router or a camera.
But many smart products don’t seem to have a point. Sure, you can remotely activate a smart coffee maker, but you still have to physically set it up before and collect your coffee after. Why is this progress?
So I think you’re thinking about this in exactly the right way, but there’s a phenomena that will keep occurring in tech and consumer electronics. When new concepts come to the fore, things get way overhyped for their capabilities in the moment. Then we get fatigued of it, and by the time we’re through that cycle, we’re on to the next hype cycle. And that’s about the time where the previous concept starts to really get traction and adoption in usability.
Won’t this cycle hamper the adoption of products in the end? Especially as tech becomes more accessible to the common consumer that may not appreciate it in the rst place.
I agree with you. So I think that’s like concept number one from my perspective. Concept number two is, in tech, all too often there’re too many companies and too many brands creating solutions in search of a problem. People get over concerned about the tech or the capabilities they have, and they say, “Oh, we’ve solved this problem with washing machines or coffee makers”. But, they’re approaching it in the wrong way. In many of these cases, the problem never existed in the rst place. We do things exactly the opposite of that. So we go looking for the problem, or the consumer need, and then we try to nd a way to solve it.
Creating a solution whether a problem existed just marketing right?
Well, here’s what I think the third concept is. It’s really simple to do engineering work and come up with complicated experiences for people; everyone does that. What’s hard to do is the complicated work to make the user experiences simple.
How do you mean?
So for me, I come home standing right in front of the garage and I don’t have my key. Or I’m home, but I’m on the wrong side of the house. I’ve got to walk all the way around to get back into the garage. Why can’t I just do something from my phone? If I want to get in a delivery of groceries or something, I don’t want them in my home, but I may want to open the garage remotely or able to get them a code that allows them to open a certain window.
Do I really have to reset the timer for this light to go on when dark? Why is the porch light on when it’s light outside? Why is my irrigation watering my lawn when it’s raining outside? I can do better than this.
It’s these real needs that I truly want to solve for myself, experiences like that which led us to the Wemo platform.
You mentioned that “you could do better than this”, in relation to knowing when to or not to water your plants. Everyone’s seems to be turning to AI. How about you?
We’re investing so so deeply [in AI]. An example just to illustrate how deeply engaged we are with it, we have a new joint venture called Phyn—a startup that we incubated from inside of Belkin around being able to monitor, measure and manage water in the home. We have a simple piece of hardware that goes anywhere your plumbing system, and it’s got a water pressure sensor. If I’m taking a shower, washing dishes or washing my clothes; the changes in water pressure with each one of these cases creates a digital signature that’s unique. And then we have algorithms