Emile Nijssen: changing the world, one lego piece at a time

Emile Nijssen has throughout his life been searching for solutions to make everyday life more comfortable and fun. Today he inspires others to use creative life hacks, and to make personalized smart homes

Emile loves lego, smart gadgets, and he has a talking refrigerator. He is also the founder of the tech company Athom that inspires non-tech-savvy earthlings to start programming, without even noticing it themselves. Homey is the smart hub that allows you to sync all your smart home gadgets in a fun and user-friendly way, to create your own series of automations between them, and make you the master of your own home.

Pass the butter will ya?

When asked about what gives Emile energy in life, he replied "creating things together" referring to people who like him want to change the world. Simple as that. When Emile was little, his biggest dream was to become a professional lego builder or an inventor. Something he in many ways has accomplished today (depending on how metaphorically you choose to see it). As a kid, Emile was incredibly tired of sitting at his specific place at the family breakfast table, where he constantly had to be the one to pass on butter, cheese and jam to someone else. Instead, he started putting engines in his built lego cars, so he didn't have to pass the things on himself. As a grown up, Emile builds lego in other ways. Now he enables the possibility to transform ordinary homes into smart ones with the help of a specific sphere-shaped device, called Homey. 

Nerdy home experiments paved the way for the first ever kickstarter project in the Netherlands

It all began six years ago when the self-proclaimed lazy automation fanatic Emile Nijssen eagerly started experimenting with smart devices at home while he was studying. Starting off with lights and music equipment, and ending up with a rad home cinema. Emiles’ friends and family quickly became impressed and wanted similar automations in their own homes. The only problem was that the technical complexity lead to cords often sticking out in all different directions. An idea was born. That's when Emile contacted his future partner in business, Stefan Witkamp, ​​to pitch ideas – and sure enough, the idea soon turned into that sphere-shaped smart hub mentioned above! Together they founded the company Athom which became the very first Kickstarter project in the Netherlands. Two years later, Homey was available in stores and can now be found in living rooms all over the world.

Homey – literally your friend at home

After realising that smart home gadgets were too technical and therefor not easily usable for most people, Emile also realised the fact that what we usually call ‘smart homes’ doesn't  necessarily have to be that smart at all. People buy different types of devices from different brands, who all speak different languages ​​and have individual apps. It often becomes more complicated rather than simple. “There was a need for a device able to tie all these gadgets together into one place. And wouldn’t it also be great to make the different gadgets work together, through connecting and automating them in different ways? Homey does the work! Which also proves that Homey is worthy of being called smart” says Emile whose goal is to inspire and prove that technology should help and simplify your daily routines in life. He also passionately wants to encourage non-tech people to jump on the train of smart homes. “They don't know what they're missing”.

Without even realising it, people become hobby programmers

In a very simple, user-friendly and creative way, you as a user can build your own 'flows'. A function that allows you to program different scenarios in your home yourself. Imagine that Homey has a lot of different pieces (let's go ahead and call them lego pieces for the sake of the story) that you can build together to create links between your units (literally drag and drop.) As an example, if you want your curtains to be automatically pulled apart when you wake up, while your smart speakers start blasting Star Wars' Imperial March, and your coffee machine starts brewing coffee – it's easily fixed in the app. Talk about everyday luxury! 

Concept, shape and name – inspired by design and philosophy ⚪️✨

The name Homey was obvious from the start, and it is round for a reason. Emile says that the whole concept of the hub is that it should be easily usable to everyone, it should facilitate everyday life for people and be part of the home, not an ugly technical gadget that is hidden in your fuse box. This is one of the reasons for Homey's round shape.

Athom didn't want people to push Homey into an electrical cabinet or a tech room (because of the shape, this is now almost impossible), they rather wanted Homey to be part of the interior, part of the home – like any other friend. It’s also a big wink to the Atom, from which the company's name was partly inspired. "Ironically, we became aware that it is very difficult to develop round products, but we also chose it from a philosophical perspective", Emile tells us. From a more artistic perspective, you can see Homey as the core (the proton) and the various smart devices as the electrons orbiting it. The design aspect was very important Emile continues, who also says that he actually at the moment of the interview has a book about Jonathan Ive in front of him on his desk, who’s certainly been an inspiration for the company along with the German Braun philosophy fronted by Dieter Rams, and minimalism in general. 

A talking fridge and virtual tutors

With a slogan that reads "Make It Your Home", Homey encourages everyone to be creative and customise their home based on their personality and behaviours. It should be smart for you. Emile himself has the whole house full of smart gadgets. For instance, every day, Emile weighs in on a smart scale that is connected to Homey, which then also has full control of Emile's weight. If Emile should feel a little peckish and he hasn't managed to do his daily work out, he may then encounter problems. If Homey notices that he has exceeded his ideal weight and opens the refrigerator, an alarm goes off that jokingly calls him fat. “There are unlimited ways of having fun, and being practical with smart gadgets, says Emile with a smirk. 

Emile also tells us about a customer who synced Homey with his son’s school system used to monitor grades. If the son comes home from school, switches on the TV and his current rating is below a seven the TV is automatically switched off, and Homey sends a message to the son saying that he should go to his room and study, instead of watching telly. 

Finally Emile, are you scared of competition? 

“No, I'm not afraid of competition, but I'm afraid that people don't understand the value and opportunities of Homey until they have experienced it themselves. I am afraid that people who, for example, only have a Google Home think that it is synonymous with a smart home, which is far from the truth. They miss out on so much fun stuff, it's our job to convey, educate and show them exactly what they're missing out on. "

Thank you Emile! “Homey is one of the few players within smart homes that actually has created a full solution concept that not only feels competent but also easy to use. It was a no brainer to integrate Homey with Tibber! ”– Daniel Lindén, co-founder of Tibber 

Published 2020-06-07

Sara Brolin
Storyteller

More articles