It has been a long road, but IoT technologies are beginning to really break out into the market, with a host of unique use cases and increasing levels of consumer interest.
A recent research report from Parks Associates states that 17% of US broadband households own an Internet-connected entertainment device and a smart home device, with an additional 13% of consumers owning both a connected health device and a smart home device. The good news doesn’t stop there either, with 48% of US consumers planning to buy at least one connected home device during 2018, heading up 66% year-on-year.
This rising adoption is great news for the smart home industry as a whole and has triggered a new wave of investment and development. That is refining success and broadening product ranges and service packages to drive the market forward. A particularly notable success story has brought together two hitherto very different technologies, speakers and AI, but is already beginning to demonstrate the dangers opposed by integration to legacy technology－in this case, smart home hubs.
Smart Router for Home
A new report from YouGov found that one in ten Britons now own a smart speaker, up from just one in twenty in Q3 2017, and over a third (34%) say they interact with other smart devices using their speaker. Perhaps more tellingly, nearly a quarter (26%) said they bought their smart speaker specifically because it can integrate with other devices.
Buyers of some smart speakers get a smart home hub already baked in, as well as AI voice control of other devices. This willingness to integrate is a key component of success in the current market. Additionally is the need to demonstrate strong consumer value. Consumers are increasingly resistant to power-hungry dedicated boxes, something that Deutsche Telekom recognized some time ago.
Even in 2017, Deutsche Telekom began rolling out software upgrades to consumer routers across Germany, so that the popular Speedport Smart router can control Deutsche Telekom’s end-customer offer Magenta SmartHome devices.
Routers are no longer dumb connector points for phone calls, Internet and TV services. They can now work as the first stop on a smart home journey, an essential low-barrier entry point. A consumer can access basic functionality for free, and by just adding a compatible low-cost device such as a door/window contact or motion-sensitive camera, for example, they can create a simple but effective home security solution for very little outlay. This single but effective point of entry is another vital ingredient in the smart home success story, and one that resonates for both consumers and service providers.
AI in Smart Home
Voice control and AI have proven to be a strong draw for consumers, and the tide of manufacturers and service providers addressing it directly is considerable. At CES 2018, Samsung announced that the next generation of smart TV’s will ship with integrated voice AI, thanks to Samsung’s digital assistant, Bixby, which will control SmartThings-compatible devices such as Ring doorbells and Philips Hue lighting. When you consider that Samsung sold 47.9 million TVs in 2016 alone, this has the potential to bring voice-controlled AI into the homes of millions over the next few years. (More: Deutsche Telekom Expands Partnership with BSH Group and Looks to Greater Voice Command Integration)
At Deutsche Telekom, we have also been following the trend closely. Recently we announced plans to speed up the transition to voice-enabled AI during 2018, with the launch of an own-brand assistant and AI-enabled consumer speaker product to control smart home devices and services such as EntertainTV. (More: Deutsche Telekom Develops Its Own Voice Assistant and Smart Speaker)
It is a fascinating time in the smart home industry, as these strands come together. Will we eventually see the current AV players integrate all the smart home and AI functions into their existing ranges? Or will we see the challenger brands create intermediate devices that deliver that experience for the consumer? The current crop of AI-powered smart speakers with integrated screens certainly indicates a direction of travel here. It will be a fascinating competition to watch, but the underlying themes remain the same－integration, amalgamation, and of course open standards.
Open standards are essential in the smart home market. They enable enterprises to collaborate and work toward a more dynamic and powerful ecosystem, but also mean that the end consumer can readily recognize products that fit together, removing the guesswork or need for them to conduct intensive technical research. The result is a richer ecosystem from a business perspective, but also a more trusted and recognizable one, thanks to open standards.
Another company following that core integration trend is Centrica-owned Hive, which recently announced a new hub, the Hive Hub 360, that integrates 360-degree audio detection sensors as standard. The result is a home security unit－security being a key market driver－that can easily be extended, with additional sensors, but functions out of the box with minimal time or financial investment－an excellent example of integration adding simplicity.
Connected Car and Home
Another interesting area that has seen enormous expansion is around the connected car, where traditionally integration has lacked substance. As the number of hybrid and fully electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads increases, and the number of more traditionally-powered vehicles with an onboard data connection continues to rocket. This is one trend that is just beginning to gain traction. Historically these data connections were used for telematic and diagnostic purposes, secondly for location and tracking-style applications, and only relatively recently for non-core motoring functions.
Deutsche Telekom’s partnership with Volkswagen, which centers around Volkswagen’s Car-Net App Connect, enables car owners to seamlessly control their Magenta SmartHome, which is based on Deutsche Telekom’s white label smart home platform, while away from their home.
Volkswagen drivers can control their Magenta SmartHome directly via their vehicle’s infotainment system. Using the control panel, the driver can activate or turn off preset scenarios while driving. For the scenario “coming home”, the lights in the driveway and house entrance would turn on automatically when the vehicle approaches, as the Magenta SmartHome app connects to the vehicle.
As mentioned above, the value of standard-based integration should not be underestimated in this brave new world. Deutsche Telekom’s open smart home platform, Qivicon, works with more than 250 compatible devices, including different smart speakers, Sonos and Philips Hue, and this inclusive approach will only become more important as devices converge and customer requirements and expectations increase.
Deutsche Telekom has long advocated better collaboration: more partnerships, clear and widely accepted standards, and the rapid evolution of the smart home sector as a strong sign of a maturing market heading in a positive direction. In order to keep it on track and keep evolving, it is essential that these key ingredients for success remain front-of-mind for all in the smart home industry. The future is collaborative, we are glad to say.
*Contributed by Thomas Rockmann, VP Connected Home / Qivicon, Deutsche Telekom AG
Thomas Rockmann is Vice President of Connected Home, Deutsche Telekom’s white label smart home portfolio and joint-CEO of the group-wide smart home project. Thomas is responsible for all aspects of the Connected Home business and has been instrumental in growing the business and delivering the white label solution with different partners across Europe. He also undertook the role as the commissioner for quality management in marketing and sales of T-Com. In addition, he served as vice president of business portfolio strategy T-Home. Thomas has a deep understanding of the development of customer centric technology-enabled services.