Doors are portals. Sometimes they’re just a means to an entrance, and sometimes they lead to other worlds. If you had a wealthy friend, maybe you remember walking into their house for the first time as a kid and being amazed by what you saw. If not a house, then perhaps a business. Maybe that doorway is where you met your future spouse, or got your first “real” job.
“An incredible amount of stuff starts at the door,” Rob Martens reminds us.
Martens works at Schlage as a futurist, someone who, in his own words, focuses on “innovations, new technologies, and new processes” and looks to see how those “mega trends” can be tied together. At first glance, “futurist” is definitely an unusual title, but it’s nonetheless an important role. Still, Martens says, “I get people all the time saying ‘I’m surprised to see a futurist at a door hardware company. But then I explain to them, ‘Think about where the magic actually happens.’”
He’s referring of course to the door, an object that Schlage is very familiar with as a manufacturer of door locks and now smart home locks. Martens’ job is very much forward-thinking, and his position at Schlage rarely sees him checking in on the past. Yet that’s exactly where he’s drawn his inspiration. The son of a poet and a marine geochemist, Martens jokes that he has always been told that he’s “got the data and he’s got the drama.” That dichotomy has followed him in his business career, eventually shaping (at least in some way) the way he approaches his work.
“There’s an interesting cadence that’s important with poetry,” he tells us, “and we’ve tried very hard to infuse that same kind of cadence [in our design process].” He explained that if your product is clunky, difficult to use, or without a “natural and normal” logical progression, then you’ve failed. And this is especially true in the smart home space. It’s necessary for Schlage’s smart lock hardware (and really any smart home hardware) to be secure and functional, no matter where you are; if it’s difficult to tell whether you’ve successfully locked your door or set the alarm remotely, the smart system loses much of its value.
“Many…routines start at the door, so we tend to be a great launching point.” And he’s right; since the doorway is where we arrive and where we leave, a lock is arguably one of the most used appliances we have. So why not make it better?
And that’s what he does. As a futurist, Rob Martens looks to see how he can tease out the future from the present, allowing Schlage to create safer, more effective locks. “The best futurists that I know are the people that are really…focused on the ‘use’ case,” he said. “They’re focused on the outcome…and what these megatrends mean in terms of impact on people rather than what’s the latest and greatest. And I think that’s the key.”