Boulder's Yonomi app delivers 'connected living' to homes

by Chrissy Lee
May 27, 2014

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The technorati has been abuzz about the promising future of automation and smart devices, particularly after Google’s $3.2 billion purchase of Nest this year. But adoption by the ordinary consumer has seemed unlikely in the near future, at least until now.

Meet Boulder-based Yonomi, a free app that automatically detects, streamlines and extends the capabilities of devices within a home network, simplifying the routines required to manage them. Last week, the company launched into private beta and was featured as a fan favorite at the Boulder Startup Week kickoff party.

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Yonomi focuses on what it calls the “casually connected” user, or consumers who own one to two Internet of Things home devices, most commonly Sonos speakers and the Nest thermostat. About 43 million Americans fit into this category, according to Harlan Blynn, who heads marketing and finance as part of Yonomi’s core founding team.

A common use case of the app is the routine of watching TV, Blynn said. When the TV turns on, the Yonomi app would adjust the screen brightness, room lights and sound, precisely to the user’s liking, which he or she would have set through the app’s simple interface after downloading it for the first time.

“All that combined is one simple routine,” Blynn said. “We let you, from the start, create these routines and allow you to unify their actions, making life a little more pleasant.”

Smart home innovation isn’t new to Colorado: companies like Denver-based Revolv, sprinkler smart controller Rachio and Boulder-based RentBitsRemotely.com play in a similar space, allowing homeowners to connect and automate multiple devices from their smartphones. For Yonomi, though, it’s less about automation and entirely about streamlining routines – the idea of “connected living,” Blynn said. 

While many smart device services “have you push a lot of buttons,” Yonomi requires no hardware and, after the initial preference-setting period, minimal user-to-app interaction. The system works quietly in the background so people can pay attention to more important things, Blynn said.

The idea conceptually came to life last June, when Yonomi’s core founding team – which included Joss Scholten and CEO Kent Dickson, formerly of Boulder-based home energy leader Tendril – began to examine how people were adopting smart devices. By December, the team had developed an alpha prototype. After emerging out of stealth into private beta last week, the team is aiming for a public launch by the end of the summer. 

Though Yonomi was founded in and remains headquarted in Boulder, Blynn said the company, as its Twitter bio reads, now lives in “The Cloud,” not only as a technology but as people, too: Yonomi’s team of engineers, designers and advisors span a wide geographic range, from Durango to Austin, the Bay Area and even South America.

With a strong engineering department, Yonomi is positioned to continue on the accelerated path that, in less than a year, brought it from a mere idea to complete beta. Blynn said the company plans to develop a GPS feature that would detect when users have switched environments – from, say, home to the office – and then trigger the appropriate devices and routines. Down the road, they also hope to build an algorithm that will learn user routines more quickly, shortening the app’s already brief initial setup period.

“We have the team in place to do that,” Blynn said. “But first, in the short run, we’re focusing on providing value to our consumers, understanding the user base in the aggregate.”

That philosophy, Blynn said, also applies to the company’s plans for monetization and expansion beyond the United States. 

“We want to take the right revenue model that takes use cases and desires into account,” he said. “We’re willing in the short run to invest in that. It’s not a great user experience to watch us pivot through different models.”

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