Cocoon: Home security made simple
Making your home as safe and snug as a bug in a rug
Cocoon’s business model is simple: utilising the latest advances in sensors and cameras to make your home as safe and snug as a bug in a rug.
Cocoon differentiates itself by using not only motion sensors and cameras like other security companies, but also detecting sounds and vibrations — including low-frequency signals inaudible to humans(1). And one step further, they are using machine learning to understand the noises that are usual and those that may signify a break-in.
The operating model is built on the premise that every home has a unique sound fingerprint. According to Cocoon co-founder and head of software John Berthels(2): “this may include lorries rumbling by, the central heating switching itself on and off or a pet moving around. The devices gradually build up a picture of what is “normal” for each house.
If noises deviate from the established patterns — a back door being forced open or a window breaking — the device will send an alert to the users’ smartphone, prompting them to check their home on a live video link, set off a high-pitched alarm or call the police.”
However data protection and security pose obvious risks. As with any data sent over the Internet, there is risk of interception and data leakage(3). While the business and operating models described above are geared towards utilising technology and making your home safer, such remote access to property would also be of great use to malicious third parties.
For one, there is risk of camera access being taken over and used to spy on homeowners even when they believe the cameras are switched off. Ditto for motion and sound sensors. Even with privacy laws galore, which rule out eavesdropping on private property, such information can still be used indirectly and profitably. And yet, Cocoon’s target customers are likely to be people who value their privacy highly. Further, as consumers become reliant on security features connected to the Internet, this opens doors to third parties being able to hack into them remotely leaving no physical trace and the homeowner none the wiser until it is too late.
Privacy and security are critical(4) and Cocoon is taking some steps in this direction. Cocoon processes video and audio on the actual device and only sends encrypted data to secure cloud services if an alert is triggered or each time you check in. This misses the point however that so long as a device is connected to the Internet it is subject to malicious attacks regardless or whether it is sending over data or not. A solution would be to create a virtual firewall(5) that protects all Internet connections leaving the house, just like a brick wall that protects the physical space inside.
With the Internet of Things gaining traction, i.e. ultimate connectivity of all devices in the household(6), it would be critical for Cocoon to remain connected with any other security related apps, such as garage door controls, ventilation and window controls etc. These are not integrated as yet. The key challenges here would be compatibility of programming language (7) and higher security risks that interconnectivity inevitably brings.
Overall, Cocoon is a small step in the direction of integrated remote home security. However it is an important building block and precedent upon which further household interconnectedness can be built. Cocoon allows us to do something we’d not been able to do in the past – have a crystal ball and see, hear and act across walls and distances. Our ancestors could only have marvelled at this…
(1) https://cocoon.life/how_us (as of Nov. 2016)
(2) Financial Times, “Artificial intelligence moves from sci-fi to daily life” (Nov. 2016)
(3) McKinsey Global Institute, “The Internet of Things: Five critical questions” (Aug. 2015)
(4) M. Porter and J. Heppelmann, “How smart, connected products are transforming competition,” Harvard Business Review (Nov. 2014)
(5) US-CERT Publications, “Understanding Firewall, 2009
(6) McKinsey Quarterly, “The Internet of Things” (Mar. 2010)
(7) The Economist, “The language of the internet of things” (Sep. 2014)
Student comments on Cocoon: Home security made simple
As an owner of Simplisafe, another self-installed home security system (http://simplisafe.com/), I am really interested in Cocoon’s ability to track unusual sounds in your home, which is not something that my Simplisafe device allows. Below are a few more things that come to mind as far as competitive positioning and consumer value proposition:
1. No monthly fees – my Simplisafe requires a monthly subscription in order to have police respond to any alarms. Although it’s nice to have no monthly fees and have alarms send a notification to a user’s phone I wonder if there’s a limit to the consumer’s perception of safety without a police response.
2. Good for renters – the easy to instal/relocate technology is well-suited to millennials who on average move more often and buy homes (where they would be able to get a professionally installed system that is difficult to move) later, if at all.  
I can imagine at least 2 other challenges with this model:
1) The process of establishing an auditory “baseline” seems quite difficult in some cases. You’d have to imagine that there’s some sort of steady state home usage that takes place during a given time frame (say a week or a month) in order for the system to develop a view of the baseline. During that time period, you’d have to run a parallel security system. Moreover, how transferable is this platform to homes that don’t get used very often, like second homes?
2) Given the definition of what the baseline is, I can still imagine there being a lot of “false positives” in this system, where a noise that hasn’t occurred before might trigger an alert. Maybe I’m underestimating the power of this technology, but that seems like it would be a major annoyance for customers.
Thanks for the insightful post. As a resident of New Orleans during several major floods, I know how much home security matters. However, thefts tend to spike during power blackouts, riots, and flooding . Cocoon’s security package is compelling, but is rendered useless if the internet or power is down. While the system does notify the owner if the internet is down, I believe it should integrate offline options such as continuous filming stored on the physical device if the internet goes down .
I think that your point pulls out a lot of the key privacy and data concerns relevant to a potential Cocoon buyer. However, I wonder whether the biggest challenge for early adopters will be behavioral. I wonder whether there is in fact a major overlap between technologists and people concerned about security, or whether individuals concerned about security prefer to opt for more human-intensive solutions (ie. security guards, walls, barbed wire etc.) If the latter is not the case, then perhaps a good growth strategy would be to partner with and piggy back on the growth of other IOT home appliances/utilities such as Nest.
All this being said, there’s definitely lots of potential for this technology given the rapid growth of the home security market in the US (http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/home-security.asp), which constitutes the majority of the global market, and which I would expect to grow even more rapidly after this past election cycle.