Is it worth waiting for a Universal Standard for the Smart Home?

paul 2By Paul Bristow, vice president of marketing communications, ADB

I am passionate about the Internet of Things intersecting with the connected home, as it is leading to the really Smart Home.

When I think about the Smart Home I picture a variety of use cases related to convenience, comfort, security, piece-of-mind that can improve our quality of life, including the wearables and portable devices that drift in out of the Smart Home. For me the Smart Home is all about “organising a compelling user experience”, and not just about giving people a new piece of technology.

There is a lot of emphasis today on the quest for a universal and overarching standard that solves the Smart Home technology fragmentation. Like most vendors we support all the leading industry initiatives, but there are a lot!

This image gives a sense of the number of associations and bodies that are currently working on aspects related to the Smart Home.

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However, when it comes to the smart home, fragmentation is absolutely not a showstopper. For sensor technology, fragmentation is the necessary result of diverse usage requirements that need specific connectivity protocols.

Battery-operated devices are a good example (think of temperature and humidity sensors, radiator valves, window closing contacts, wearable fitness sensors, etc): Wi-Fi consumes too much power, but is also faster than the application requires and so they resort to other optimised, lower throughput technologies such as Zigbee, Zwave or Bluetooth low-energy, which allow batteries to last for months or years. Energy-harvesting sensor technologies, like EnOcean, don’t even need a battery and workby harvesting the energy they need from the environment around them.

Moreover it appears that progress towards a single unified standard will take many years, indeed if it ever arrives, and the industry just can’t wait that long. Instead, a more rational approach is to start leveraging the variety of in-home sensor standards now.
With all this fragmentation around, some cable operators might be nervous about launching their Smart Home offerings, thinking the market isn’t yet ready. But all is not lost. There are already platforms available that can accommodate a choice of sensor standards while abstracting their details for applications. This way, applications can address composite lifestyle use cases right now by integrating multiple devices and sensors using different standards.

While the digital TV industry has been talking about personalisation for years, the Smart Home market needs by default to start out in a personalised way, as every family’s needs and desires are different.

Fortunately the answer to fragmentation and personalisation is one and the same. With a flexible software platform that handles the fragmentation, cable operators can focus on the very role that will enable managed Smart Home mass customised adoption: that of a service provider.

As evidenced by the $3.2 price tag Google paid for the Nest smart thermostat firm, expectations are high that consumers are gearing up for the smart home. This is reflected in forecasts from industry analysts, ABI Research. They predict the managed home automation market will grow each year at a CAGR of 60% through 2017.

I believe that as consumers move from connecting their homes to connecting their lives the time is right for triple and quad play providers to expand into a multi-play offering. And given the opportunity, consumers are most likely to turn to their trusted cable supplier to take their first steps into the smart home future.

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