Battling for the home: new options for the connected consumer

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Evolution of the smart home
    1. The perfect storm for a mainstream market
    2. The importance of being extensible
    3. Extensibility parallels with other markets
  3. From the living room to the rest of the home
    1. Remote heating control from British Gas
    2. Lowe’s Iris System
    3. Other smart home market participants
  4. Smart home market potential
  5. Key takeaways
  6. About Craig Foster

1. Summary

For many consumers and commentators, smart technology in the home has meant home entertainment and connecting the living room. Today, however, a broader range of smart home services is being marketed to consumers like never before. If growth in awareness is to lead to a truly mass-market phenomenon, the connected consumer needs solutions that are affordable — and compelling.

Smart home technology has been available since the 1970s, but until recently it has been relegated to niche market status, available to either the very affluent or to tech savvy hobbyists keen to link a selection of disparate components. The building blocks that will finally see it realize its huge potential have now fallen into place. The maturation of mostly standards-based wireless connectivity technologies such as Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave and the development of open, cloud-based software platforms have ensured that vendors can offer smart home solutions at a fraction of the price of traditional systems. Furthermore, the high penetration of home broadband, the growth in smartphone and tablet ownership, and the continuing deployment of smart meters mean that consumers can easily and affordably control the connected devices in their homes.

Telecommunications giants such as AT&T and Verizon, major cable operators like Cox Communications and Comcast, and home security companies like ADT have all entered the fray eager to generate new revenue streams and differentiate themselves from competitors. Likewise, electric and gas utilities including British Gas and Essent and retailers like Lowe’s and Staples will join the fight for a slice of this lucrative pie. In turn, this battle for market share has created a new awareness of smart home technology. The question is no longer if — or when — we will start to live in automated and controllable homes; the transformation is taking place right now.

Key highlights from this report include:

  • In fighting for their slice of the market, device manufacturers, connectivity service providers, and application developers should not forget that solutions must be useful, convenient, affordable, simple, interactive, and extensible.
  • The next stage of the smart home market is not just about connecting other “things” to a central platform; it is about building simplicity and convenience around this platform to better suit people’s lifestyles. To do this, vendors must support multiple connectivity technologies and offer open APIs.
  • When more and more new services are developed using this approach, the lines between various smart home solutions will blur. The consumer will come to know rival systems simply as different connected home offerings, not as “home energy management by Vendor X” or “home security and monitoring from Vendor Y.”
  • For now, bite-sized mini propositions that deal with a specific initial focus application are necessary to titillate consumer demand by providing recognizable and easy to use services that act as an entry point into the endless possibilities of the wider smart home market.

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