British Gas' Hive: lessons in building a blueprint for collaboration
British Gas' Hive: lessons in building a blueprint for collaboration
A view from Tom Guy

Hive: lessons in building a blueprint for collaboration

Tom Guy from Hive, a British Gas innovation, discusses how collaboration is the key to turning the smart home from a 'nice to have' to an 'essential to have'.

It’s clear that despite all the building blocks being there – better broadband, decreasing hardware costs and consumer appetite for connectivity – we still haven’t cracked how to make the connected home applicable to a mass audience

Earlier this year, a number of analysts predicted a slowdown in the connected homes market. It was argued that customers aren’t yet seeing the value of connected ‘smart’ devices, which include thermostats, security systems, locks, plugs, lights and sensors to name a few. It was also suggested that many customers are worried about connected devices being too complicated or even unreliable, and that the early adopters have already made their initial purchases.

These predictions should come as a warning, but present a challenge to the entire connected homes industry:  it’s clear that despite all the building blocks being there – better broadband, decreasing hardware costs and consumer appetite for connectivity – we still haven’t cracked how to make the connected home applicable to a mass audience.

Develop products that meet real needs

At Hive, we decided early that the only way to develop products which meet real, everyday needs is to combine our years of British Gas experience (as Hive sits in Connected Homes, which is a British Gas business unit with the aim of revolutionizing how customers interact with their homes) with ongoing collaboration with consumers and industry experts.

We know that the only way to innovate and to discover new things is through this process of build, test, repeat

We know that the only way to innovate and to discover new things is through this process of build, test, repeat. On the face of it this may seem time-consuming, and it does result in lots of ideas and prototypes being thrown out, but jumping from a hypothesis to a finished product means you miss the opportunity to go on a journey of collaboration and improvement.

Build, test, repeat

This collaborative approach resulted in the development of Hive Active Heating™ - a product which enables people to control their heating and hot water from their mobile, tablet or laptop. It’s also one of the reasons we came to work with design entrepreneur Yves Béhar to create Hive Active Heating™ 2.  Yves is responsible for the design of many products that are useful and grounded in customer needs – perfectly combining form and function - like wearable health band Jawbone Up and smart lock August.

Working with Yves and grounded in customer insight, gained from regular Customer Labs sessions and Feedback Forum, we’ve created a thermostat that is both beautiful and clever; including new features and improved usability to give people the control they told us that they want - anytime, anywhere.

Collaborate with consumers themselves

I’m regularly asked to speak on the smart home*, and my concluding remarks are often the same; the connected homes industry must stop existing to give early adopters shiny new gadgets. It must ensure its innovating based on customer needs, and the best way to do this is in collaboration with customers themselves.

Once real, everyday needs are established they then need to be prioritised, and products refined and tested – again, in collaboration with customers and industry experts. The result is far more effective, useful, user-friendly products, which I’m confident will turn the smart home from a ‘nice to have’ to an ‘essential to have’.

Tom Guy is speaking at Canvas, a product & UX conference curated by customer experience studio 383, on Thursday 22nd October