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The Challenge

Extend HomeLink’s in-car connectivity beyond garage doors and into the smart home — without long product development times or sacrificing the core functionality that customers rely on.

Introduction

HomeLink by Gentex is a connected home product that allows automakers to expand the capabilities of a car’s rearview mirror, its overhead console, or center stack even further by connecting to a home’s garage door opener or front gate. HomeLink utilizes direct transmit radio frequency (RF) technology to provide a secure, reliable connection to all of the leading garage door openers and gate operators in the U.S.

Since the early 1990s, drivers have come to love and depend on this seamless experience every time they pull into or back out of their home’s driveway.

When the Gentex team first approached Yonomi, they were in the early phases of exploring ways to extend HomeLink beyond the garage door or gate and into the fast-growing smart home device ecosystem. Controlling your home’s locks, lights, and sound system from the comfort of your vehicle represented the next frontier in the connected home, and Gentex had the relationships with car manufacturers to make it a reality.

However, this ambitious undertaking — named HomeLink Connect — could not detract from the core functionalities of the product that automakers and drivers alike depend on.

 
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An Early Leader in the Connected Home

HomeLink has been a connected home pioneer in the U.S. for nearly three decades. Its RF direct transmit technology was some of the first to allow consumers to control their homes remotely from the comfort of their driver’s seat.

Today, HomeLink technology powers garage door and gate operator connectivity for virtually every automaker on the U.S. market.

But the ease and simplicity of RF direct transmit technology used by gates and garage doors stands in stark contrast to the fractured, complex nature of the smart home device ecosystem. The HomeLink team knew that they wanted to extend their in-car connectivity abilities into the home, but the time required to build and maintain integrations with all the leading connected light bulbs, locks, smart speakers, thermostats, and appliances would be significant.

How could Gentex expand HomeLink’s connectivity offerings into the home quickly, and deliver value to their partners that were eager to enter to enter the red hot smart home market?

 
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Connecting to the Smart Home Ecosystem With Yonomi One

While the HomeLink team had decades of connected home experience with garage doors and gates, the fractured state of the consumer smart home market meant that integrations to each new device manufacturer would need to be built and maintained on an one-off basis. No two brands of connected light bulbs or thermostats work the same, and each requires individual attention to get just right.

Luckily, Gentex’s plans for HomeLink Connect are exactly the type of projects the Yonomi One platform was designed for. Yonomi One is a smart home integration platform for developers that want an easy way to integrate their app or service with more than 100 of the most popular smart home devices on the market.

Yonomi One provided Gentex with connections to a growing ecosystem of devices to help get HomeLink Connect to market in a fraction of the time otherwise required.

 
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Simplicity Is Key When You’re Behind the Wheel

Another primary concern for Gentex, in addition to building and maintaining device integrations, was simplicity. One of the reasons HomeLink has been such a huge success with consumers and automakers since the early 1990s is simplicity. While the rest of the center console has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, HomeLink-powered technology remains incredibly reliable and easy-to-use.

When you’re designing a product that is intended to be used while driving, you can’t allow for too much complexity to creep in. If HomeLink was going to add smart home connectivity, the user experience would need to have that same one-touch functionality that drivers are used to.

By building HomeLink Connect using the Yonomi One platform, Gentex could take advantage of the built-in scene and routine engine for one-touch control of the entire home. Yonomi One’s smart home routines and scenes allow for the end user to pre-program their favorite settings for a particular room or their entire home, and then later on run those settings with a single tap.

Instead of forcing drivers to take their eyes off the road to scroll through dozens of controls, HomeLink Connect and Yonomi One could allow them to pre-program routines that turn on lights, unlock doors, adjust the thermostat, and play relaxing music right as they’re pulling up the driveway.

 
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More Than Just Device Integrations

Another major factor in choosing to build HomeLink Connect on the Yonomi One platform, according to the Gentex team, was Yonomi’s expert smart home consulting services.

“We needed a partner that eats, breathes, and sleeps smart home,” says Director of Connected Products Brian Brackenbury. “The connected device landscape is constantly changing. Popular products come and go. Companies update and improve their APIs. Knowing that Yonomi is always on top of the changes in the smart home ecosystem allows us to focus on our core business and partnerships with confidence.”

In addition to reliable management and control of more than 100 of the top smart home devices, Yonomi’s team was also a valuable asset in designing the app that powers HomeLink Connect in drivers’ vehicles.

“The Yonomi team was a crucial asset in launching the HomeLink Connect app,” says Brackenbury.

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Faster Time-to-Market Is Priceless in the Smart Home

Thanks to Yonomi and the Yonomi One platform, Gentex was able to take HomeLink Connect from concept to signing their first customer in just nine months. A little over one year after first contacting Yonomi, HomeLink Connect will roll out in Jaguar Land Rover vehicles in summer 2018.

“The cost of building on the Yonomi One platform was not only significantly less than developing the device integrations and routine functionality in-house, we were also able to get to market much quicker,” Brackenbury says. “Instead of being locked up in prototyping and development still, we’re adding customers and expanding functionality.”

In a fast-moving industry like the connected home, that kind of head start is priceless.

 

Header image courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

 

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