Digital technology has transformed how we interact with one another. Now, with the arrival of the internet of things (IoT), it's also changing how we interact with objects and, by extension, with spaces. We already have spaces that can talk with the individuals inside them, anticipating or adapting to their needs and habits. This technology is already having an impact on the hotel industry, as guests can set up customisable spaces by using simple orders and gestures.
Simon has always tried to stay ahead of the curve while remaining faithful to the company's design ethos; even as technology becomes more prominent, interaction with it must be gentle, almost invisible.
It is this philosophy that resulted in the Simon 100 series a little over two years ago, coinciding with the company's centenary. The series offers a collection of devices that can digitise spaces without any special installation requirements. These are devices with the potential to be smart.
Throughout the product's six-year research and development process, one thing was clear: the interaction had to be the same as always, flipping a switch, the simplest and most common interaction in our everyday lives.
The innovative collection can be used to digitise a setting by means of a plug that acts as a hub and digital devices that feature a Wi-Fi connection - the electrical installation is conventional, a new one isn't required.
These connect to a mobile app that offers features or that can be programmed using the exclusive Simon operating system. To do away with complex remotes and avoid installing displays in a space, the system is set up through a smartphone app that is available for iOS and Android.
The app is the key to the system's simplicity, according to Alfred Batet, global digitalisation manager for Simon. "It made it possible for us to set up the system by using a language and a device that most of the population already has," he explains. Transferring the set-up to the mobile and giving it an intuitive language enabled Simon to give the devices a minimalist design while expanding their features.
"The app allows us to add functions without complicating the interaction. What we wanted all along was for the design to speak for itself, for technology not to overwhelm the user," Batet says.
This way, by using a conventional installation and devices with a clean design and an intuitive interaction, we can set up additional experiences and customise a space or have control over the light and the devices, from a sustainable standpoint, and all through an intuitive interface that we carry in our pockets every day.
From the phone, one can, for example, set timers for certain lamps or devices, track consumption, turn on courtesy lights and so on. "The app lets us turn features on based on the user's needs," says Batet.
The app mustn't be confused with a sort of remote control for turning lights and devices on or off, however. In fact, it may be used fairly infrequently, only to set up the installation and make changes when so required by the conditions in the space, maintaining its one-key operation. According to Batet, one of the key features of the Simon 100 series has always been scalability. Spaces can be fully digitised, and master devices can be installed, but not activates them until they're needed.
"We can go further and fully digitise our surroundings by centralising control in master devices," he says, "and then use the app to change those settings depending on the time or context."
This is particularly useful in common areas of hotels that may be used for various activities during the day. By setting up several different lighting scenes, a restaurant can be made into a bright room for breakfast; an elegant venue for dinner; a cocktail bar; or even - in the case of conventions and congresses - a hall with spotlights for the guests of honour or speakers. These different lighting scenes can be switched between with just a couple of clicks on a mobile device.
In a digital context, Simon has always had to be mindful of security, especially when dealing with a space that's open to the public. That's why it has incorporated data encryption protocols into the app and regularly conducts cybersecurity audits.
"Simon has a set of use and privacy policies that, combined with tools to enhance security at the system and application levels, enable it to provide these barriers against a potential outside intrusion," concludes Batet.