INTERVIEW With Conrad Hametner, Chief Marketing Officer at WigWag.Com: “Making Automatic Simple”

Conrad-HametnerHome automation used to be confined solely in the realm of sci-fi films and TV shows…but not anymore. It’s here, it’s already arrived, and we think it’s plain awesome.

Now, smart devices are popping up everywhere you look. While this just shows that the demand for home automation is at an all-time high, there are also a few problems that come along with it. The most prominent of which is the fact that the market has been saturated with multiple, competing protocols that prevent communication amongst devices from different brands.

But fear not, Wigwag is here to provide a solution to this pressing dilemma. Here with us today is Conrad Hametner, Chief Marketing Officer of Wigwag to tell us more about the company, the WigWag team, and the technology behind WigWag.

Let’s get started!

Hi, Conrad! We were impressed when we saw that WigWag was included in BuiltInAustin.com’s Top 50 Austin Startups to Watch in 2016 list. But what made you guys chose Austin as WigWag’s base of operations? How’s the tech scene there?

Our two co-founders, Ed Hemphill and Travis McCollum, moved to Austin to attend UT’s McCombs school of Business for their MBAs. They were also part of the same class at West Point, and both served in the U.S. Army. When Ed and Travis graduated from business school, they both took jobs as early employees at LifeSize, which at the time was a growing start-up. Lifesize was later acquired by Logitech.

After the acquisition Ed and Travis decided they were ready to start a company themselves. By that time, they had started to put down roots. Austin had a young, tech savvy workforce, a thriving startup scene, good weather and was in a friendly state for business.

A lot of work has been put into deviceJS, the software running your Relay. Why did WigWag spend some much time developing deviceJS?

In order to gain traction with the mainstream consumer, it is essential for the smart-home industry to produce ‘killer apps’ and user experiences. In order to create killer apps, you need killer developers, and to do that you need to open up the ecosystem to a lot of fresh new minds. The years of development put into DeviceJS, have been to lay the foundation so we can open up the ecosystem for those developers.

relay-closeupweb

DeviceJS opens a closed world — that previously was the domain of a small number of embedded developers with an intimate knowledge of low-level device support, frameworks and protocols — to a much larger open world of developers with the skills to program in the language of the web. Using deviceJS, any developer that understands CSS, HTML and Javascript can create IoT applications.

WigWag wants to enable an army of killer developers to rapidly and economically create new innovative IoT applications; that are secure and safeguard user privacy. Change is needed in the approach and solutions offered by the industry. Most products today concentrate on letting people control things as a point-solution. But for the next of generation of smart homes, we need these devices to work together as a system, automatically adapt to a user’s preferences, all while protecting them at the same time.

A lot of work has been put into deviceJS, so, why the decision to go open source with the software?

DeviceJS embraces open source because at it’s core it is about enabling the quick, reliable and economical creation of IoT applications. This made the decision to go open-source easy, since it lines up perfectly with what the Open source movement is all about.

Since the development community has access to the code, open source software is inherently more transparent. This leads to better reliability, privacy and security. If a flaw or security vulnerability is found in the code, the developer community can identify and address the problem quickly, where it may take a single developer or company much longer to identify these problems.

Because we are building systems that collect data from devices such as sensors, cameras, and microphones all in the privacy of one’s home; it’s important for customers to trust that what goes on inside their home stays private and under their control. This is why deviceJS, stores this data locally in the Relay. The developer community also serves as an independent third party to ensure the code isn’t doing anything nefarious with private user data. Open source software adds an extra layer of consumer protection.

IoT is also full of new devices, with new hardware products such as sensors, switches and appliances shipping every day. That means you need an open ecosystem to allow the best developers to add the support the desire. Unlike our competitors, WigWag’s entire software stack on our hub, WigWag Relay, is 100% open.

Can you give us a brief rundown of some of the flagship products that Wigwag is offering right now?

WigWag_Relay_Package

Our first product release is the WigWag Relay packaged with our FIlament Smart LED Bulbs. The WigWag Relay is the first commercially available product to run deviceJS, our open source software platform.

The Relay was built to be the digital core of the modern connected home, it connects your smart devices, so they work together as a personalized system that’s more manageable, secure and automatic. The Relay lets you automate your smart devices, control them with a single mobile app, using smart switches or even your voice with devices such as the Amazon Echo (Coming Soon).

The WigWag Relay is interoperable across most popular smart home brands, products and protocols (ZigBee, Z-Wave, 6loWPAN, IP-Based Devices); plus, it is expandable to additional protocols. Consumers can also program it using the WigWag Rule Builder Web application, which was designed to be simple enough for a beginner, but powerful enough for the demands of the most advanced users.

What makes Wigwag different from the other controllers and hubs on the market?

We’ve packed a lot of technology and capabilities into the WigWag Relay. Here are some the key differentiators of the Relay and WigWag platform.

Make it Automatic
We’ve spent a lot of time developing the WigWag Rule Builder, giving users the power to customize daily routines, save money, energy, time or whatever they would like to do. It was designed to be intuitive, and is very powerful. A key differentiator is that all the Rules execute locally on the Relay. This means faster response times and it ensures rules will execute, even if you lose your Internet connection. Unlike integrations that depend on third party services such as IFTTT. They won’t work if you lose your Internet connection.

Open Source
DeviceJS, the software that powers the Relay, is open source (Summer 2016 Release). This gives customers the extra peace of mind that comes from a community of open source of developer advocates in additional to WigWag’s continued development of the platform.

DeviceJS

Interoperability
Securely control, monitor and automate compatible smart lights, switches, sensors and other devices. The Relay works with Zigbee, Z-Wave, 6loWPAN and IP based devices.

Secure
Each WigWag device is encrypted individually using AES 128-bit encryption, then the key updates every 4 hours.

Networking Technology
Our meshing technology expands your IoT network as you add more devices (such as filament bulbs). So your network will work even where you have dead spots in your WiFi network. Our advanced routing and broadcast technology ensures ultra-fast response times. Each WigWag device, also includes support for our precision indoor positioning that, when combined with WigWag Tag, will enable extremely accurate indoor positioning of people, pets and objects.

Hybrid Architecture
The WigWag Relay’s hybrid architecture enables faster response times, increased privacy and reliability. Since rules execute locally rather than in the cloud, your home’s data is more secure, and the WigWag Relay won’t lose local control when the Internet goes down.

Future-Proof
The WigWag Relay’s hardware and software is upgradable, which means you don’t have to worry about new standards making your system out-of-date. We made adding additional wireless protocols easy, you just have to plug in a new protocol dongle into one of the USB ports.

Best-In-Class Hardware
The WigWag Relay is packed with best-in-class hardware, including a dual-Core ARM Cortex™-A7 @1GHz, 512MB DDR3 RAM and 4GB NAND Storage. Communications protocols: ZigBee HA (802.15.4), 6LoWPAN (802.15.4), Z-Wave, IP/WiFi Compatible (via network router). Two USB expansion ports and 10/100 Ethernet (Single RJ45).

A lot of our readers love the idea of home automation and being able to program the actions of their household devices as they see fit. However, setting up their own network at home can be a bit daunting. Mind if you can teach us how one goes about setting up a WigWag Relay?

Setting up the WigWag Relay with our Filament smart LED’s bulbs only takes about 10-15 minutes. In the box, there are two cords: just connect the Relay to your power supply using the power cord and then connect the Relay to your router using the ethernet cord that’s included.

Next download and install the WigWag Smart Home mobile application by going to wigwag.com/app or by finding us in the iOS or Android App Stores. Then, open the app and create an account.

When prompted, scan the QR code located on the bottom of the Relay. The LED will turn solid blue once setup is complete. Finally, follow the on-screen instructions to add a location and a device(s).

WigWag_Smart_Home_Mobile_Application

That’s it, you’re ready to go. If you’re more of a visual person or have any issues along the way, we have an extensive collection of support videos that can be found here on YouTube.

How secure is WigWag?

Security and privacy issues go hand and hand. Especially in light of the surveillance being conducted not only by criminal hacker groups, but by many democratic governments. The major factor preventing privacy and security from being a larger consumer is concern, is that the market penetration is still relatively low. When more people have smart homes and devices, and these devices become heavily integrated into people’s lives, consumer concern for privacy and security will be much greater.

Understanding this, WigWag put a lot of thought into securing our devices. Each connected WigWag device is securely on-boarded using a unique code, this unique code can entered manually or you quickly scan a barcode. This initiates the pairing process between the device and the Relay. Once a device is paired it is securely bound to that Relay until it is unpaired. Communication between devices is encrypted individually with AES 128-bit encryption, using a rolling key that updates every 4 hours. This is like having a locksmith come 6 times a day to change the locks on every door of your house.

As an industry, we need to ensure devices are secure and that we store data in secure ways that guarantees privacy. We also need to encourage our governments to be open about their intelligence programs targeted at their own citizens. Security, privacy and openness work together – not apart.

We are very interested in some of the products that Wigwag is brewing (namely, the glowline, tag, and sensor block) right now. What are some of the best features of these products, and how can they be used in a home automation setup?

WigWag Tag
WigWag Tag will enable precision indoor positioning of people, pets and objects. Unlike, all the other bluetooth based presence tags on the market, that can only determine if someone is home. The WigWag Tag can precisely determine location, we are talking inches. This has lots of practical uses in home automation and when combined with custom rules and a home full of smart devices, the possibilities are endless. I am personally, very excited about this product release.

WigWag Sensor Block
The WigWag Sensor Block is a multi-sensor with 8 senses that will vastly increase the intelligence capabilities of each room. It detects motion, temperature, humidity, noise, vibration, a button, magnetic contact closure, and an IR receiver. You can use each of these senses in the Rule Builder to trigger events, such as turning a device on/off, changing the temperature or doing something like sending a notification.

Glowline
The glowline is a light strip combined with a sensor for motion and ambient light. It can produce a full range of RGB colors, and we have both an indoor and outdoor versions. Since it has the ability to sense if there is light in a room and motion, the glowline is perfect for hallways and bathrooms. If you enter a room in the middle of the night, rather than getting blasted with the harsh bright overhead light, common in most bathrooms, you can set the glowline to turn on automatically with a light that isn’t as blinding. You can also access, those sensor independently in the Rule Builder to trigger other events and notifications.

Any other plans and product releases for the near future?

As detailed in the previous question, our upcoming hardware product releases include our presence tag, sensor block and glowline. From a software product perspective, we are planning the open source release of deviceJS later this Summer.

We also plan to bring our Rule Builder application out of Beta. Something that will excite the home automation geeks, is the addition of Nested Conditionals (Basically If this, and That, Then do this). This is a feature that the mainstream solutions in this market do not offer. We will also continuously add new devices to our ecosystem, further improving interoperability.

How do you see the field of home automation in the next few years?

The market will continue to grow more mainstream, moving from “Innovators” and “Early Adopters” into the “Early Majority”, Gartner predicts the typical home in the U.S. will have 500 connected devices by 2022. In order for us to get there, much of this growth will be fueled by the Cable Operators moving into the space, as well as home builders, who will include more home automation in new home builds. Consumers, will demand flexibility in the systems, and will want to augment standard offering with their own devices, that may not be offered by their cable company.

Voice control will become a standard part of home control, along with more sensing capabilities that will enable environments to respond to user preferences automatically. Protocol fragmentation will continue in the Home Automation market, but consumers will demand interoperability and improved user experiences. The call for a common protocol or API format is unrealistic, as some devices benefit from different frequency ranges and have different API requirements. Some devices are very power sensitive and others are plugged into power constantly. Some signals need to go through concrete, other don’t. Different protocols address these different issues.

Controller hardware equipped with multiple protocol interoperability and a new generation of software addressing these issues will become the standard. This will be fueled by more developers entering the market and by the semiconductor industry which will offer multi-protocol chips at a lower price.

Do you have any discount codes that our readers can use in case they want to get started with WigWag?

Sure, they just need to visit the WigWag Store and use this promotional code (L749754VI0) for 10% off any order or pre-order of the products discussed in the article.

We thank you for answering these questions, Conrad. Our readers are looking forward to Wigwag’s future projects. We wish you the best of luck!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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