Meet LaiYee Ho: Wink’s User Experience Manager

In 2016 we introduced Matt Bornski, the man behind the scenes of Wink’s enterprise services team. We’re kicking off Wink Employee Spotlights in 2017 with LaiYee Ho, Wink’s User Experience Manager. Take it from us, her messy desk definitely doesn’t stop her from shaping the future of the smart home:

Q: You’re the user experience manager at Wink. What does that mean?

A: I lead an awesome team of UX researchers at Wink. We dig deep to understand the underlying needs and behaviors of our users, as well as the social and environmental context that they live in. We then facilitate workshops to translate our findings into user journeys and storyboards that help guide how we build future products and features. 

Q: What got you interested in Wink in the first place?

A: I’ve always been fascinated by how the design of physical and digital spaces shape behaviors and experiences. Since Wink is at the intersection of software, hardware, and the built environment, it opens up a lot of possibilities for ways we can improve people’s lives. 

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at Wink?

A: I love that it’s a small, scrappy team taking on huge problems that impact the way people live every day. We also have a very collaborative culture. 

Q: Which three words would you use to describe working at Wink?

A: Creative, adaptive, gritty.

Q: If you could choose anything in the world to work with Wink, what would it be and why?

A: The foundational infrastructure of homes. We would be able to solve problems very holistically from the ground up.

Q: What’s been your proudest professional moment?

A: It was the first time I saw someone in a testing session really love a product I helped build. By that point, I must have seen the design fail a million times. But after months of hard work and collaboration, finally building a cohesive product that a real person in the world truly enjoyed was one of the happiest moments of my life. 

Q: Where do you see the smart home in 5 years?

A: The smart home will go beyond being called “smart”, and it will just be “home.” Smart home experiences will cater to everyday pain points.  

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

A: I love to take fitness classes around the city. HIIT, boxing, bootcamp...I’m very addicted. 

Q: If Wink awarded superlatives, what would you win?

A: Messiest desk. I’m notorious for the stacks of paper, sticky notes, and books piled up in my space. Someone gave me a copy of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and I lost it under my pile of stuff.

Q: If you could resurrect one obsolete technology, what would you choose?

A: Handwritten notes. In grade school, my friends and I used to pass notebooks back and forth between classes to chat with one another. I love that years later, I can still flip through these and have a very physical connection with my memories. It’s a lot more visceral than scrolling through Facebook feeds.

 

Wink’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Still looking for the perfect holiday gift? Check out a few recommended smart home products from Wink that are sure to delight anyone on your list:

For the busy parent: Wink Relay ($149 at Wink.com)

Relay is a touchscreen control panel that replaces a light switch and brings your Wink smart home right to your wall. Use Relay to check the weather, control connected devices, track your Fitbit steps, or even call an Uber. Multiple Relays can be used as an in-home intercom.
For parents on the go, the two buttons to the right of the control panel can linked to dozens of time saving, peace of mind enabling IFTTT automations. One we’re particularly fond of: when your child gets home from school and presses one of the Relay buttons, you get a text notification.

 

For the frequent traveler: Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt ($202 at Amazon.com)

We’ve all had that moment of panic on our way to the airport, that a door was left unlocked. Schlage Connect is perfect for forgetful friends who travel often, because it turns their smartphone into a virtual key. 

Use the Wink app to lock and unlock door and create “keys” for visitors by granting access at specific times or with unique entry codes. The Wink app’s activity feed keeps track of who's entering and exiting your house. 

 

For the online shopping addict: Ring Video Doorbell ($180 at HomeDepot.com)

Sure, online shopping is fun and convenient, but actually receiving the packages can be another story. Ring offers both security and convenience, by creating a Wink Robot that notifies you when someone is at your door, you can quickly check to see if it’s a friend at your door or the mailman looking for delivery confirmation. It’s ideal for someone who receives a lot of packages but isn’t home during the day to receive them.

 

For the DIY-er: Philips Hue ($199 at Amazon.com)

Philips Hue bulbs can glow any one of 16 million different colors or 50,000 shades of white, so you can “redecorate” any room at any time to match mood, season, or activity. Turn them red and green during the holidays, or program them to automatically dim the color of sunrise to wake up your home every morning.

 

For the smart home newbie: Wink Quick-Start Kit ($69 at Wink.com)

Remember that book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”? Well, the Wink Quick-Start Kit is the ultimate cookie. With a Wink Hub and two connected bulbs, soon-to-be first time smart home users will be hooked before they finish their first glass of milk. 

 

For the most organized person you know: Amazon Echo ($140 at Amazon.com)

Set a timer, listen to music, answer questions, read audiobooks, check game scores, and control your Wink lights, Nest Thermostats, and Shortcuts. The real question is, what can’t you do with Amazon Alexa? 

 

For anyone and everyone in your life: Wink Hub 2 ($99 at Wink.com)

Wink Hub 2 is the first smart home hub designed for everyone — regardless of technical know-how — so it makes a practical yet fun gift for anyone you think would enjoy the magic of a smart home.  

It brings your lights, locks, thermostats, sensors, and more together into the Wink mobile app, so you can easily monitor and control your home. Wink Hub 2 works with hundreds of connected devices from dozens of brands and new partners are added all the time. 

25 ways Wink makes the holidays easier (and more fun!)

With a Wink-powered smart home, choose exactly how you celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. Here are some ideas to get you into the holiday spirit:

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  1. Baby it’s cold outside. Create a unique code for guests to punch into your smart locks so they’re not waiting in the snow. 
  2. Protect packages by telling the courier where to hide them with the Ring Video Doorbell’s two-way talk feature.
  3. Unsure if you're in for a white Christmas? Wink Relay displays the weather on your wall.
  4. Watching “Elf” again? Use a “Movie Night” Shortcut in the Wink app to dim the living room lights.
  5. Schedule your Christmas tree, electric Menorah, or outdoor decorations to light up at sunset every night.
  6. Use a smart thermostat to only heat up the rooms you’re using. Holidays are expensive enough. No need to waste money on unnecessarily high energy bills.
  7. Holiday entertaining is exhausting. Plug your coffee maker into a smart plug and schedule it to start brewing automatically every morning, so you can catch a few more ZZZZZs.
  8. Quickly and affordably add some holiday cheer to your home by using color-changing smart bulbs, which can glow red, green, or millions of other colors. 
  9. Let yourself sleep in — it’s dark most of the time now, anyway — with motorized blinds that can be programmed to open up late.
  10. When your Google Calendar “Vacation” event begins, Wink + IFTTT will automatically power down your home.
  11. Use Wink-compatible cameras to watch live video of your living room on your phone to make sure the cat hasn’t sabotaged the tree.
  12. If the kitchen heats up while you’re baking sugar cookies, a smart thermostat will cool it down automatically to your preferred temperature. 
  13. Plug your slow cooker into a smart outlet to start cooking that delicious, oversized ham while you’re out doing last minute shopping.
  14. Help out-of-towners navigate the house at night by placing a motion sensor in the hallway, triggering lights to lead them to the bathroom.
  15. When meals are ready, call family into the dining room using your Relay home intercom system. You’ve worked hard enough.
  16. Use Relay + Fitbit to stay on top of your fitness goals. Calories don’t count again until January, but might as well keep an eye on your step count!
  17. Already left for the airport, but suspect you left the garage door open? One tap in the Wink app can secure your house.
  18. Accidentally leave the curling iron on after you headed out to a holiday party? If it’s plugged into a smart plug, use the Wink app to turn it off from afar. 
  19. Order an Uber from your Relay and have a fun, safe New Year’s Eve celebration.
  20. Create a “Holiday” Shortcut to impress family and friends. One tap turns on decorative lights and plays a holiday playlist over the speakers.
  21. Use motion sensors to check if the closet full of presents has been opened.
  22. With winter comes the possibility of frozen pipes. Always be in the know by placing smart water sensors near big appliances - they’ll send you a notification if water is detected so you can investigate before you need the galoshes. 
  23. Live in a warmer climate and don’t want Santa’s sleigh parked on your lawn? Turn on your smart sprinkler from inside to scare off his reindeer.
  24. Let Alexa read the kids “The Night Before Christmas” this year. Go to bed early.
  25. Give the gift of Wink! Wink Hub 2 is brand new for Holiday 2016.

7 Ways Wink Makes Thanksgiving Easy as (Pumpkin) Pie

Isn’t Thanksgiving the best? The food, friends and family, the food, four-day weekend, oh and did we mention the leftover food. 

But any brave soul who has hosted Thanksgiving at their home no longer sees the holiday through rose-colored glasses. Preparing all the dishes and entertaining guests while still finding time to relish the day is no small feat. If Thanksgiving is at your place this year, try these quick and easy smart home tricks that will help the day run a little bit smoother:

Plan ahead: Fill your light fixtures with smart bulbs and set a Schedule in the Wink app. The lights will automatically dim just in time for the tryptophan to kick in. 

 

Make everyone feel welcome: Guests arriving a little earlier than expected or are you simply too busy to answer the door? Not a problem. Smart door locks can be unlocked from wherever you are right through the Wink app. You can even create a temporary code so your guests can come and go as they please. Focus on keeping the party running while receiving alerts from Wink when the door is opened or closed.

 

"Switch" it up: Save some coveted oven space and make your green bean casserole in the slow cooker this year. Even better - plug in your crock pot to a smart switch and turn it on from afar with one tap in the Wink app. It’s the perfect way to keep the cooking going during that last minute grocery store trip. 

 

Keep it cozy: Wink Robots are a simple way to program your products to work together automatically based on triggers. For example, if the kitchen heats up while you’re cooking, Wink can automatically cool it down to your preferred temperature. After dinner the house will return to its normal temperature. 

 

Don’t miss a minute: If you can’t be in front of the TV for Thanksgiving football, check the score by asking Alexa. 

 

Corral the family: Have multiple Wink Relays installed? When dinner is ready, call everyone into the dining room using Relay’s in-home intercom system. Just press the microphone icon on the top left of the touchscreen, talk as you would normally, and your message will be broadcasted to the other Relays throughout your home. 

 

Set the scene: Customize your very own Thanksgiving dinner mood with a Wink Shortcut. With one tap in the Wink app, the lights turn to a warm dim, your custom playlist starts playing, and appliances plugged into smart switches are turned off — finally you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

 

Announcing the Winner of our 2016 Halloween Contest!

A few weeks ago we kicked off our first-ever Wink Halloween Contest by asking Wink users to share how they’re making home automation part of the Halloween fun this year. We’ve received a ton of spook-tactular submissions - from over-the-top lighting displays to elaborate yard decorations that come to life to spook trick-or-treaters.

With that in mind, we’re excited to announce that this year’s winner is Brett Marek!

Every night at sunset, Brett’s home comes to life thanks to Halloween Schedule he set up in the Wink app. The second dusk turns to night, Brett’s SYLVANIA Gardenspots turn a perfect combination of orange to give his yard a spooky feel while the patio glows with various string lights connected to an outdoor GE Plug in Module. He gives the spiders, skeletons, and other decorations  around the home and yard a ghostly aura with various spotlights plugged into GE switches.

Congratulations to Brett! If you want to check out some of the other great entries, follow us on Twitter, @TheWinkApp.

With the holidays just around the corner, we hope this inspires you to get creative with your smart products in the months to come!

In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

It’s National Customer Service Week - meet the Wink Support Team!

The first week of October marks National Customer Service Week. Companies across the country recognize and celebrate the employees at the front lines of their business and the work they deliver to ensure each and every customer is a happy one. 

Throughout the week we will highlight some of the folks whom you may have spoken to on the phone, over email, chat, or one of our social media pages. Each and every member of our customer support team plays a crucial role in the success of Wink, and we are very excited to introduce you to some members of the team! 

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Andy Marshall
Technical Support Representative 

Q. What is your position at Wink?
A. I've been a Technical Support Representative at Wink for almost two years now. I serve as a first contact for problems, concerns, questions, compliments, or anything else customers have on their minds. I do my best to keep customers connected and online as well as track down and relay information to other teams as feedback comes in.

Q. What’s your favorite part about working at Wink?
A. I love my office and I love the people I work with day in and day out. We really strive to be the absolute best and that attitude is contagious. I also think it's fun to work at a company on the frontier of an industry and to see things happening so quickly around me.

Q. If Wink had superlatives, what would yours be and why?
A. Caffeine Junkie - I'll take a large, iced Americano, please.

Q. If Wink were an animal, what would it be?
A. Dolphin, because of how smart and fast they are.

Q. What's the best line you've ever gotten from a customer?
A. A customer recently told me she was "proud of Wink" for being closed on Sundays. I told her it was our pleasure!

Anthony Tedesco
Customer Support Supervisor

Q. What is your position at Wink and why do you feel it is important?
A. As supervisors, we try to navigate the customer service department through the ever-changing environment that is the home automation industry. From the customers it attracts, right down to the tech itself.

Q. What’s your favorite part about working at Wink?
A. It's just flippin' cool! This is a very exciting time to be in and around home automation, and the people I work with are fantastic.

Q. If Wink had superlatives, what would yours be?
A. Most likely to be in the kitchen! Man's gotta eat!

Q. Describe your perfect day off.
A. Wake up late, light breakfast, then off to the gym to play basketball. DOMINATE. Jam a little on the drums (hopefully with some friends), then video games 'til muh eyes bleed! Finish it off with dinner (2" porterhouse & red wine please!) and a movie. *phew!*

Q. Where do you see the smart home in 5 years?
A. Well that's the thing, isn't it? You won't SEE the smart home in 5 years because it will be integrated into everything seamlessly by then. Or maybe that's 10 years? Who knows! Either way, that's the direction it's headed.

Q. What's the best line you've ever gotten from a customer?
A. "How am I supposed to get this to work if I don't have the internet or a cell phone?!"


Check out our Twitter handle, @TheWinkApp for a new featured employee every day this week! 

Meet Matt Bornski: Wink’s Director & Chief Architect of Enterprise Services

 

We’re lucky to have a team full of loud characters and larger than life personalities. Get to know Matt Bornski - the self-professed chattiest of them all - who has been with Wink since 2013 and is our Director & Chief Architect of Enterprise Services (a mysterious and very important role).

 

Q: You’re the Director & Chief Architect of Enterprise Services at Wink. What does that mean?

A: As the director of enterprise services, I try to find new markets and partnerships beyond the traditional notion of the smart home. 

As the chief architect, I make sure these partnerships build on the strengths of the platform and contribute to our user-focused mission. 

Q: What got you interested in Wink in the first place?

A: I was dabbling in home automation in my spare time for a year or two before Wink. I decided I really wanted to make my hobby into my job, and was introduced to Wink’s founder Nathan Smith. Hearing what he wanted to do with Wink got me excited.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at Wink?

A: The product is actually useful to real people. It passes the “grandma test,” which means I can explain it to my grandma without cutting too many corners. When I pour my heart into a product, and spend a lot of waking hours on it, it’s incredibly satisfying to be able to have my friends and family understand what it does.

Q: Which three words would you use to describe working at Wink?

A: Focused, fierce, fun.

Q: If you could choose anything in the world to work with Wink, what would it be and why?

A: The “wake-up light,” which is a light that gradually brightens prior to your phone’s scheduled alarm time, making it easy to get out of bed when the alarm goes off. 

Q: Where do you see the smart home in 5 years?

A: I’m a big believer that I shouldn’t have to be at home to have a smart environment. I look forward to building a world in which cars, trains, planes, airports, hotels, and streets all make my life a little easier.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

A: I’m a recovering outdoorsman, so sometimes I’ll still make time for camping or hiking. I live in downtown San Jose and you’ll often find me pushing a stroller between a few of our finer taprooms, helping out my pub quiz team. If it’s a nice day you might catch me going for a run or bike ride, and if it’s football season I will not miss a Bears game for any price.

Q: If Wink awarded superlatives, what would you win?

A: Chattiest. Slack keeps stats of this and can confirm.

Q: If you could resurrect one obsolete technology, what would you choose?

A: Semaphore flags. Life would be more awesome if instead of, for instance, stock tickers, we had great colorful flags waving every which way to communicate.

Q: If Wink were an animal, what would it be and why?

A: Definitely an otter because they’re sleek but highly functional and intelligent. They use the right tool for the task at hand instead of relying on brute force. Plus it looks super fun to be an otter.

User Spotlight: How Wink Helped Steph Courdin regain independence

The beauty of the smart home is how customizable it can be. Some like it for the energy savings it affords. Others for the convenience of knowing they can monitor the status of their home at any time with a quick glance. 

For former software customer success manager Steph Courdin, the smart home has provided a new lease on the mobility that ALS - a terminal neuron disorder - has taken away from his daily life.

A resident of Lakewood, Colorado, Steph was diagnosed with ALS in 2013, joining a community of 30,000 Americans living with ALS/MND and a broader group of 3.3 million whose impaired movement requires a wheelchair.

In a large multi-story home with his wife and three children, living with this disorder makes many everyday activities difficult. Muscular degeneration prevents Steph from raising his hands high enough to reach a light switch or his thermostat, which is inaccessibly located on the second floor.

After trying a variety of different home automation systems, last Christmas Steph found an unlikely solution to regain some autonomy. By connecting various household products with Wink, he found he could easily access and control them just like the rest of his family.

Today, the Courdins have a Wink HUB, Honeywell thermostat, seven GE Link bulbs, six Cree Bulbs, Chamberlain’s MyQ garage door opener (his only wheelchair accessible entrance), a Ring video doorbell, and an Amazon Echo (which has quickly become one of Steph’s wife Stacey’s favorite products). He is able to easily adjust temperature, lighting, and more, all from the Wink app on his iPhone which is mounted to his wheelchair. With the assistive touch feature, the sky’s the limit as to what Steph can do with Wink. 

Steph has parlayed his own experience with Wink into speaking with ALS support groups so that others can understand how the smart home might make a difference in their daily lives:

“Wink has made home automation a simple & affordable option, accessible to everyone (compared to thousands of dollars remodeling) especially those of us battling ALS/MND and the limits the diseases impose on trying to live a normal life. I was an avid snowboarder, downhill mountain biker, and equestrian enthusiast. Now, just raising an arm for a light switch is a near impossible task.” 

Stories like Steph’s are what keep us going. Hearing that Wink can make a positive impact on someone’s daily life is proof that our mission to make the smart home accessible for everyone is one worth fighting for.

What We’re Dressing Up As For Halloween

We’re very fond fans of Halloween here at Wink. Pumpkin carving, haunted houses, candy, you name it. But of course, Halloween wouldn’t be complete without the costumes. We polled all the Wink employees to see how their creativity will manifest on the night of October 31st and suffice to say, they have a lot of ideas:

  • Jackie plans to channel a recent close call while driving home from Wink’s Schenectady office by dressing up as a "deer in the headlights.”
  • Gabe is dressing up as Tron because he fights for the users (assuming he can get enough props that sufficiently glow by Halloween).
  • Allison is going to duplicate the success of her Young Justice group costume at this year’s New York Comic Con and go as Artemis. Why? She’s an archer who doesn’t have any super-human powers. She just trained really hard.
  • Patrick is getting animated as Sadness from Pixar’s Inside Out. He reports that Phyllis Smith, the voice of Sadness, is his long standing spirit animal.
  • Lauren read all five Game of Thrones books in a few short weeks, so it’s only fitting that she’ll be dressing up as Khaleesi aka Mother of Dragons aka Daenerys Targaryen.
  • Matt’s been using Post-its to plan his upcoming wedding. He’ll be a human-sized Post-it on Halloween in case he needs to jot down any last minute reminders on himself.

A QUICK Q&A WITH A LONG TIME WINK USER

Kevin Hiser is a very busy guy. He has to balance launching technology startups and raising his two-year old son with wife Allison in Columbus, Ohio. A a longtime user of Wink, we recently caught up with him to learn more about how his smart home is making everyday life just a little bit easier:

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MAKE YOUR HOME "SMART"?

We have a pretty sprawling single family home and wanted to be able to easily control lighting throughout the house and manage security.

WHEN DOES A SMART HOME COME IN HANDY?

Multiple times I’ve found myself deciding that I want to turn off my thermostat when it wasn’t scheduled to do so, from as far away as Dallas. It’s also great for when you want to turn multiple lights on/off or open the garage door remotely to let someone inside the house.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO GO WITH WINK OVER OTHER SMART HOME PLATFORMS?

I liked how easy Wink is to use. Our family has found the interface is nice easy to understand and visually brilliant. I appreciate the ability of the Wink HUB to manage devices that run on a variety of communication protocols (Zigbee, Z-Wave, WiFi, etc). As more smart devices become available, I won’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll connect with what I already have set up.

DO YOU CONNECT YOUR SMART PRODUCTS SO THEY WORK TOGETHER?

Yes! The Robots feature in Wink is great for this. For security purposes, I have one set up that automatically turns on the hall light outside my bedroom if someone triggers my GoControl motion sensor after midnight so I can see what's going on.

For "peace of mind" I have another Robot that turns on a lamp in my foyer if my wife and son are coming home after sunset. They never have to enter a dark house! I also use a Robot to help me keep the temperature of my home within a certain range and send me alerts on my phone when it’s nearing the minimum or maximum.

DOES YOUR FAMILY LIKE IT?

My two-year-old actually loves turning the lights on/off on my phone!

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF HAVING A SMART HOME?

It takes the thinking out of doing everyday tasks in my life.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE CONSIDERING THE SMART HOME?

Start out by selecting a connected device that doesn’t require a ton of technical know-how in order to operate. Keep it simple and don’t lock yourself into a closed system.