Is Prizm the answer to my cheap home control woes?


The Prizm, a triangular box advertising itself as a "home hub," has shown up on Kickstarter. I'm not typically a fan of backing Kickstarter projects from teams that lack solid track records, but this thing might just get my money.

Why? It tries to solve a problem that frankly shouldn't exist in the year 2013: assembling an awesome "connected home" on your own for a reasonable amount of money without resorting to baking your own homegrown solution is far more difficult than it should be.

There are a couple of products out there that get within striking distance. There's Mi Casa Verde, for instance, which essentially acts as a bridge between Z-Wave-enabled products (dimmers, switches, sockets, thermostats, and so on) and the internet. Then there are a wide variety of services that charge a monthly fee: Schlage LiNK (which is now Nexia, I believe), Xfinity Home, and AT&T Digital Life, to name a few. These are all non-starters — I'm not paying someone a monthly fee to do something that shouldn't require anything other than an internet connection once all the hardware is in place.

I've heard that Mi Casa Verde's user experience is pretty bad, which is the main reason I haven't pulled the trigger. It also lacks a touchscreen (or any display at all) — I think that a home automation gateway should also act as a central control point that you can interact with directly. I want to put a control panel on my bookshelf or kitchen counter. It looks like Prizm should fill that bill.

The one thing that gives me pause is that Prizm still relies on a cloud service as a hub for remote control — if the company were to disappear in a year, the device could be crippled or rendered useless (as Chumby owners can attest). But I get that connecting to a central server is easier and generally more reliable than trying to do some fancy port control and dynamic DNS on your router. Take Nest, for instance.

Anyway, the odds of Prizm reaching its lofty $200,000 funding goal in the 20 days remaining are slim, so my backing could be moot. But it's an interesting product, and a stark reminder that home automation — particularly DIY home automation — is still a cesspool of crappy products, disparate protocols, and abandoned initiatives. Until Nest takes a stab at controlling more than my furnace, there's a huge opportunity for a great device that "just works."