We talked to Anne van Rossum of Crownstone about its home automation and the effects of COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Anne van Rossum: Fine! Making the best out of it. Two of my brothers got it, but it was light, thankfully. The smell is still gone with one of them.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Crownstone.
Anne van Rossum: I truly like to work on artificial intelligence. Building hardware and software, creating smart homes, enabling it to put “in the hands” of everybody. Truly exciting!
How does Crownstone innovate?
Anne van Rossum: We introduce positioning indoors into “home automation” tech. A home cannot do anything “smart” if it doesn’t even know where its inhabitants are. Current “smart” homes are just using a smartphone as a remote control. We want the home to automatically respond to your presence with your preferences: your lights, your music, etc.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Anne van Rossum: We are using Bluetooth as an underlying technology. There’s a lot of need for this.
People spend more time at home. However, people are also more conservative. The Crownstone product and services are quite versatile, though, so there’s a lot of flexibility in selling through different channels.
Something completely different, the news cycle is really “covered by” corona. There’s only so many things you can think of at the same time. For example, hopefully, our sustainability goals – for all countries in the world – will not be lowered.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Anne van Rossum: We really had to wind down our efforts to launch a subscription service. This requires installers at home. Hopefully, we can start advertising for this soon again.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Anne van Rossum: Only stress about what’s under your control. The virus makes no difference.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Anne van Rossum: If we just look at smart switches or dimmers, we are looking at brands like Fibaro, Sonoff, Qubino, Eaton, Shelly, Kaku. If it is home automation brands like Vivint, Lutron, Legrand (although there’s also Busch Jaeger and power outlet manufacturers). If it is indoor positioning, there’s almost no brand who is doing that at home. All the brands mentioned above can just as well be collaborative rather than competitive. The average house here has 35 outlets and, at times, even more, light points. In a household, there are, on average, 2 smartphones? This business concerns – in the end – a number of chips that are 10x the smartphone market. There’s enough space for quite a few brands.
Your final thoughts?
Anne van Rossum: Be positive. Stay constructive. Be future-oriented. Take time off.
Buy technology that saves your time, not technology, that costs your time. Buy tech that wants to help you and doesn’t want to get your attention all the time.