I moderated a panel recently at GMIC Silicon Valley, a conference that focuses on trends in mobile with an emphasis on what the future will look like. To that end my panel looked at the future of the connected home and what I really wanted to know was what the smart home would look like in 3-5 years.
I was joined by Bharat Vasan from smart lock maker August, Jeff Hagins from hub/platform maker SmartThings, Itamar Novick from location tracker Life360, and David Friedman from IoT platform provider Ayla Networks. A diverse group with diverse perspectives, each participant hammered out some principles and some predictions that will shape the future of the smart home. Not everyone agreed, but here’s a list of what I felt were the strongest (and most likely) predictions.
1) Integration arrives. Right now we think of the smart home as this defined area where connected devices like thermostats play. But the reality is that barrier is artificial. In an IoT world, our thermostat should integrate with our connected car, which integrates with our wearable health tracker. When we leave work, our car communicates to our home and thus our home is pre heated when we arrive. Some folks are calling this context awareness and I think it’s prone to some consumer challenges when devices make choices we don’t like, but I also think that as learning algorithms improve along with standardization of protocols, our connected world will actually start making some good decisions that improve our lives. And most importantly, devices will begin to communicate with one another.
2) Standards solved (or not). Jeff Hagins of SmartThings focused on the need for standards in realizing the vision of the smart home where devices can seamlessly pair with hubs, phones, even other devices. SmartThings has joined up with Thread, a wireless mesh standard backed by Nest, ARM, Samsung and others. Needless to say, all of this cross device integration isn’t going to happen unless a standard communications protocol arises. If it doesn’t, what you’ll get is a lot of irritated consumers wondering why they have to deal with 10 apps on their phone to manage 10 different home products, none of which can communicate with one another.
3) Future point applications: security and health monitoring. When pressed on the next breakout point application, security (smart locks, video monitoring) and health monitoring propped up. I believe we’re ripe to see consumers embrace smart locks, particularly as things like Apple Pay pave the way for consumer behavior shifts surrounding using their smartphones to do more and leaving their wallet/keys at home. On the health front, preventative health applications will grow, particularly as health care costs rise beyond their already significant chunk of GDP. The fact that the data from wearables can be mined for health outcomes doesn’t hurt either. Even single application health monitoring, like a connected glucose monitor for diabetics, makes sense.
4) Thinning of the herd. We’re destined to see a lot of useless connectivity in the home. That connected toaster won’t make the cut. On the flip side we will see validated use cases for products that actually are A) easier to use than their analog, unconnected equivalent and B) provide a value added return for the consumer, either in terms of cash savings or peace of mind/convenience.
5) Spying on your kids. As cameras and backend cloud/storage services get cheaper, cameras will get more prominent in the home. We can call them optical sensors to avoid the creepiness factor of putting a camera in your kid’s bedroom, but in all probability with data analytics these cameras will do more than monitor. They’ll use that visual data to tell us things about our health, our productivity, our patterns. Any way you slice it, it’s gonna be harder to be a criminal.
No one knows exactly what the smart home will look like in 2019. But put a talented group of entrepreneurs into one room and they’ll present their insight based upon product testing and understanding the technical challenges of making tens and hundreds of devices play well with each other. It’s a big undertaking—connecting the home and having consumers embrace it. The concept of home controls and automation has been around for decades but we may well actually be at that point in technology evolution where all the pieces are in place to make it a reality.