According to a recent survey by research firm Forrester, some smart home adopters begin with one or two smart devices in their home. Those wishing to include other devices from different suppliers to their existing setup are often confronted by the issue of interoperability – a bad omen for businesses that wish to drive mass adoption.
Device makers, however, oftentimes opt out of providing solutions for the interoperability issue.“It’s still too early to talk about a universal standard; everyone wants to do their own things. Even Amazon’s Alexa is not considered the standard in smart home,” said James Wei, CEO of Orbweb.
California-based Orbweb Inc. strives to “bridge the gap among different islands” in the field of IoT. The company leverages its experience from Orbweb.me, a personal cloud platform for PCs and NAS devices which allows app and web access from any mobile device, any time & anywhere. According to Wei: “From our experience, device makers are very good at hardware manufacturing, but they are facing three major challenges when they work with customers in the smart home industry.“
Challenge 1: Connectivity and Complexity
While hardware makers’ common businessmodels are OEM/ODM, “they need to deal with multiple platforms, numerous protocols and a variety of different connected devices, making the system configuration and setup a challenge.”
GoToMyThings (GTMT) leverages the technical know-how of Orbweb.me backend architecture to provide steady machineto-machine communication between devices on the GTMT platform. Also, having workedwith carriers, Orbweb has acquired the experience of easily performing integration across different platforms.
“Keeping the line ‘heartbeating’ is fundamental for the smart home. GTMT can monitor the health of the nodes, networks and network interfaces, and to prevent cluster partitioning. Ensuring end-to-end communication between nodes, the cloud, and the servers is one of the prominent advantages that GTMT offers” explained Wei.
The GTMT platform now supports smart home devices such as IP cameras, switches, lighting, smart doorbells, gateways, sensors, thermostats and more made by various partners of different brands. In addition, Orbweb is also making custom adjustments according to unique demands in each industry (e.g. smart city, smart building, smart community, smart home, etc.)
Another critical aspect is fast implementation. “In 2017, we will make our connectivity package available to partners on the web. Device makers will be able to download the GTMT connectivity package to enable machine-to-machine connectivity services. This will shorten the product development time as well as time to market, which are critical for smart home market players.” Said Wei.
Of the different devices, Wei considers NAS to be the unexpected winner in the IoT arena. He revealed that some makers are currently pilot-testing a GTMTbased NAS-gateway hybrid smart home product.
Challenge 2: Future-proofing and Flexibility
Smart home can’t be a box-moving market. In the age of IoT, businesses should resolve issues proactively.
In this regard, Wei sees the potential and value of data collected from the cloud. GTMT provides user pattern insights, such as use frequencies, location, and so forth. “This serves as an important resource for user behaviors and tendencies as well as the early observation of product design. By understanding these things, the maker will be able to design a product that the market truly wants,” he said.
For makers working with carriers such as Telcos or MSOs, who run a subscription-based business model in smart home, GTMT’s ability to scale according to client needs makes it a strong backbone for them. “The cloud backend is scalable and highly modular, it can increase capacity and instances during traffic spikes and can adjust performance as needed, thus minimizing operation costs”. GoToMyThings also provides geo-fencing and special features like timecover lapse recording that is unique in the market. With the help of cloud recording, connected devices can also support face detection and video clip notification.
Another benefit of a subscription based business model is to prolong the IoT product life cycle. Orbweb is inviting business partners to participate in its profit-sharing plan in which as long as a client uses the platform the hardware manufacturer can also benefit from the consumers’ continued use of the products. “This gives hardware manufacturers the incentive to extend their product life span, from an average of three years to four to five years, since the longer the products are used, the more income they will be able to collect” explained Wei.
Challenge 3: Flexibility of the Business Models
At the end of the day, there will be less and less distinction between the hardware products available in the marketplace. Wei believes manufacturers will have to consider how to provide more value-added services.
“Software capability is key in providing the right service. And this is Orbweb’s strength. Quality hardware products, coupled with good software services, will enable small and medium-sized businesses to compete with larger players.”
Wei stresses the importance of a servicebased business model. “Makers should do more than just sell devices. OEM/ODMoriented makers tend to think service-based models are unfeasible, because of possible huge investments of support and marketing fterwards. We understand it and want to change that thinking.”
One of the steps Orbweb is taking is organizing an online retail platform for GTMT hardware partners, in effect having one more sales channel for their products. Orbweb helps the device makers, especially Asian ones who are highly interested in the U.S. market to promote and sell their products efficiently.
To run the online ecommerce site, Orbweb manages all marketing activities and ad campaigns for GTMT hardware partners as well as providing shipping and handling services. Hardware partners are able to offer their products under their own brand name. “We don’t charge a shipping fee to the sellers, but will take a reasonable sales commission for all merchandise sold. Additionally, we can offer market insight to help makers improve product designs/roadmap and updates” said Wei. The platform also provides compliance testing for hardware partners to ensure product quality and compatibility with the GTMT platform.
Hardware manufacturers’ sales are usually driven only by product sales, but GTMT allows them to charge value-added services installed on hardware.
“At the moment, IoT and smart home have yet reached its maturity. Software and cloud service can be a solid complement for those insufficient offerings in the current market. To cloud service providers like Orbweb, the first priority is to work with hardware makers to build the better smart home user experience and to provide the services as comprehensive as the market requires,” Wei concluded.