Edition vc.ru talked with Paul Prokhorov — a co-founder of the Belarusian Nero Electronics, which from the end 90-x years makes the system “smart home” Nero. The entrepreneur spoke about the history of the company, as well as the lack of friendly user interfaces hinders the spread of technology in the post-Soviet space. “My fate was sealed as a child, says co-founder and Deputy Director for science and technology of the Belarusian Nero Pavel Prokhorov. ? My parents — radio engineers. Even in kindergarten dad was doing me a machine with a motor, and in the second grade, I made myself the player to record”.
In eighth grade, Prokhorov has designed a portable TV and had already decided that he would do in the radio engineering Institute, and then open my company. “The Soviet Union has already collapsed, there were private cooperatives, and I understand that it is possible to make a living,” he says. In the mid-1990s, years when Prokhorov graduated from the Institute, Belarus appeared first shutters.
In Russia and other CIS countries they fell thanks to the Belarusian producers. At that time the leader was the company “RNS”. Its representatives appealed to the classmate Prokhorov Igor Bobrov and proposed to develop electronic components for rolling shutters. Beavers invited to the project Prokhorov. In 1995, they created the company “Sketch,” which later became Nero Electronics.
“We believed that if we can do even 20 rolling devices and sell them — we will be set for life, — said Pavel Prokhorov in an interview with Dev.by. ? All automatics. Panels, blocks, timers — was very expensive. One device French firm Somfy, the worlds leading shutters — then worth $128.
For comparison, the salary of my parents was $20 and I received $40 — worked as a driver in a commercial firm on own “the Zhiguli”. Nero electronics gradually became more functional. “Thanks to the light sensors our system can, for example, to lower the shutters in the morning to the sun is not shining in the eyes, and all in automatic mode,” — says Prokhorov.
In the late 1990-ies the company started to think about the project “smart home”. In 2000 the firm has developed a system of Nero-1, which allows you to control lighting, heated floors and shutters all from a single console, and the device sent signals to the devices via the household power grid, that is, consumers didnt have stroebe wall and lay additional wires. “This system is based on technology PLC — Power Line Communication. We patented our own transmission Protocol,” says Paul.
In addition, this technology is used in the new meters, the PLC can send readings directly to the resource provider, says Prokhorov. ? “Smart meters secure from hacking, from the magnet, and the signal of all the actions of the consumer. Conversely, if the supplier and the organization does not provide proper voltage, the counter detects it, and may not apply poor quality of supplied electricity”. Plastic housing for the components of the system of “smart home” Nero bought from the German company Royal, which later became a distributor of Belarusian products on the European market.
“We bought from the Germans only plastic and put up your stuffing. The body was one, but we wanted to develop a line of instruments — switch for roller shutter, switch for light, panel scripts, and so on. The Germans undertook to help”. Im in the early 2000s, tested Nero-1 for yourself.
I installed it and realized that it is impractical — buttons on the control panel a little, need not fall, especially in the dark, to turn on the light. Already then it was clear that the abundance of buttons is nonsense and not necessary. In 2005, the German Royal has proposed to develop a case for a new product of smart home — Nero-2 — with the help of their staff of designers. The result of the work I like Prokhorov, but then showed weaknesses.
“Then we probably did not understand the design, because it is now clear that they did not very well. I got the device with small buttons, which are tightly pressed,” — says Prokhorov. According to Prokhorov, the failure of performance of the product itself is partly to blame Nero, because engineers wanted to make the product as functional, for what I had to sacrifice ease of use. He agrees that this is a consequence of the Soviet approach to the creation of technology in which it was believed that the consumer should read the manual to understand all the nuances of the product itself.
“Therefore, “our” topic to the smart home never became “subject”. Throughout the 2000 years, the percentage of sales of this system was miserable. But now this technology is in trend, and if we want to be in every home, we need to make a simple product that they can enjoy small children, grandparents who are not specialists,” he said.
In 2014, the marketing Department decided that due to the popularity of devices “smart home” and the concept of “Internet of things”, products Nero requires urgent redesign. However, the skills of local designers wasnt enough, says Prokhorov. “In Belarus, a good web design and graphic design, but finding a good designer product difficult. Took the freelancers took, but the result is almost never satisfied”.
It was a designer snob, who spoke. “You go do it and all, I am an expert”. Then caught another, which made us a control panel half a meter in length. Said. “The good thing must be big”.
Then the marketing company has expanded the search area and began to look to European and Russian design studios. Gradually, the list of potential artists narrowed to three candidates. “They offered roughly the same prices, but due to the crisis, the collapse of the Russian ruble and the similarity of mentality, we decided to stop at the “Artemiy Lebedev Studio””.
The first experience of cooperation with the Studio was unsuccessful designers presented sketches that did not like the guide. The project wanted to close, but intervened Prokhorov. “I watched the Lebedev website since 1997, when the Internet in Belarus is in its infancy. I wondered why they failed. Suddenly, we somehow set a task, or designers, we do not understand”.
Prokhorov went to management and insisted to give the Studio a second chance. He Packed in a suitcase all the designs, devices, prototypes and samples, and flew to Moscow. “I wanted to fully immerse them in our problems. To show why we made such decisions in the design of the products, how we fought, what we wanted them to.
Even then we believed that design is something just beautiful. But really, design is not just a shell. Its inside, its packing, its interaction with the client. Its all product,” he says.
Using Prokhorovs designers will attend to the essence of issues and presented new designs, which this time was exactly what was expected from them. The model number for Nero — 50 units, including electronic dimmers, relays and control panels. The Studio has prepared a new design for 20 types of devices. The company plans to simultaneously release both old and new products, gradually replacing the outdated samples.
The main market Nero is the CIS, dominated by sales in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. In Europe, said Prokhorov, sold no more than 10% of production. “We produce from 250 to 300 thousand devices a year. Roll automation and metering devices divide our turnover almost in half, but the “smart” house as it causes a small fraction, but we expect sales growth after the redesign,” he says.
In addition, at the initiative Prokhorov Nero ordered Lebedev Studio and the development of a new corporate style. “In fact, it is very difficult to convince a businessman to pay a lot of money for rebranding. Very few people understand why the logo is worth the money. And our firm was no exception. But I was convinced that it is impossible to enter the market in old clothes after we made the redesign of the core products”.
I gathered a Council of leaders and we fought for a few hours. They couldnt understand why give so much money for a signature style, but I convinced them. In the summer of 2016 Nero started cooperation with Apple licensed MFi, which confirms the conformity of products to that third party to Apple standards. In the spring of 2017, the company is going to announce the management of devices from smartphones, and in the future to support the Apple HomeKit, announced Prokhorov edition Dev.by.
“Its a ready market, 30% of smartphone users. Moreover, Apple users are very “obedient”. If the Apple store will lie our remote, and it will buy”. Send your speakers and front-end cases [email protected]