The SMAhome editorial team talked to international sourcing buyers at SMAhome International Conference & Exhibition 2015, April 28 to 30, 2015, Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center to find out what they see and are searching for to keep up with smart home development.
1. Original Manufacturers With High-Tech Capabilities
The venue featured an array of original makers that churn out state-of-the-art devices and high-value-added solutions. Most buyers reflected that is what stood out at SMAhome2015 compared to other exhibitions, where there are a mixture of traders and makers. Avi Rosenthal, VP of Nortek Security & Control Solutions, a first-time visitor, said, “Many good Asian manufacturers gathered here. I think there will be high potential of cooperation in the future!”
“In Hong Kong trade shows, many exhibitors are trading companies, so they also cannot do customization. At the show here, you can meet with original manufacturers directly,” commented Jonathan Okina, CEO of Sentry US at ATS Group.
“We base our buying decisions on technology — some Chinese companies only provide RF433/868 MHz, but it is too low-end for us. We think product quality is good here and our purpose is to buy Z-Wave products from SMAhome Expo to sell in Japan,”said Paul Spee.
Based on buyers’ comments, there are several key differences between Taiwanese and Chinese manufacturers. The first one is that Taiwanese manufacturers have higher mastery in system products than Chinese manufacturers. Also, Taiwanese products are more stable, of higher quality, and more customized. Finally, Taiwanese manufacturers deploy Z-Wave and ZigBee more than Chinese manufacturers.
“I found Taiwan's makers having better deployment of the international transmission protocols such as Z-Wave or ZigBee. When it comes to the systemized products, Taiwan’s offering commonly has better stability and integratd possibility,” observed C.K. Sze, Z-Wave Evangelist at Z-Wave Alliance.
“Our show highlights premier Asian makers for buyers’ better sourcing efficiency. They are able to navigate hassle-free around the showground to find good suppliers,” said Parson Lee, MD of Messe Frankfurt New Era Business Media, the show organizer.
2. The Scale of Taiwan's Smart Home Industry
Buyers that are used to purchasing in China found many alternative choices at SMAhome2015. They reflected that some of the exhibitors, especially those from Taiwan, are total strangers to them. “But they are not new companies. We just never saw them in other shows. Their offerings are interesting,” cited one Spanish wholesaler at the show.
In line with Taiwan’s superior IT framework, networks and IC (integrated circuit) industries, exhibitors, buyers, and visitors can meet with top-tier technology service providers from Taiwan, such as Climax, D-Link, AlphaNetworks, Unitech, and StarVedia to develop smart home partnerships.
Maqsood D Shaikh, Director of Innovative Ideals & Services (India), a distributor from India, came to the fair particularly for smart home products. He stated: “The show is informative and helpful for seeing new suppliers and vendors with the latest technologies. I have requested most of the participating suppliers to provide samples for testing in the Indian market. We are likely to cooperate in the future. I would love to visit the show again to fetch new technologies and vendors next year.”
One of the guest speakers at SMAhome International Conference 2015, Tobin Richardson, President and CEO of ZigBee Alliance commented: “We are really impressed with the attendees of the conference, particularly at our session, questions asked and also the conversation we had indicate the people here have a good understanding of what is relevant for consumers, as well as what is important in global standards and certification programs. I am looking forward to building on good relationships that started here.”
Ranging from key components, devices, and integrated kits, around 150 manufacturers gathered at the show. For those looking for home cameras, the show is a “buyer's wonderland.” More than 50 percent of exhibitors showcased network cameras ranging from economical models to all-in-one cameras that combine sensors such as sound detectors, temperature sensors, humidity sensors, ambient light detectors, air quality sensors, vibration/shock sensors, and so forth.
One element that buyers particularly looked forward to was the gateway or hub. At the show, exhibitors such as D-Link, Climax, Dexatek, Philio, Yisen, Tranwo, and so on displayed a smart home hub, also known as the “brain” in an automated home setup.
On the sensor side, exhibitors displayed multifunctional sensors with built-in wireless connectivity. Makers also emphasized user experience — users can easily find sensors that are cheap and easy to set up, measure multiple elements, and interact with a variety of devices through wireless communication protocols; and they last for years without a battery change.
Another show highlight was door-related solutions, including smart locks, intercoms, peephole systems, and gate control units. Smart door locks showcased at the show were embedded with Bluetooth, NFC and Wi-Fi modules. “By using PKinno’s Bluetooth to Wi-Fi gateway plugged into the wall, the user can add Wi-Fi functionality while conserving battery power for the smart door lock,” J Huang, Director of the Product Planning Division at PKinno.
3. Smart Home is Top Choice for Security Channels to Enter IoT Arena
Seeing the fierce competition in the professional security arena, an array of international security distributors and importers are seeking new market territories to keep themselves competitive. The smart home can be a fitting leap, as security is the key among the five smart home sectors and there is common ground between professional residential security and smart home security.
According to the show organizer, security dealers are well-positioned in the smart home. The smart home becomes even more valuable when it’s integrated into an interactive security system. Take the smart thermostat for example, the home can send temperature alerts, save energy automatically based on security system arming, and shut off the HVAC in case of fire. These direct, easy to understand benefits are driving momentum for the smart home.
“I join SMAhome2015 with three colleagues. We mainly focus on completing different product line. We are optimistic of smart home market and discuss with many suppliers about cooperative opportunities in the future,” said Arnon Kulawongvanich, GM of Bangkok OA. The company is one of the top security distributors in Thailand.
Another top Thai distributor shared a similar view. “In addition to governmental and business use, home security is the growing market in Thailand now. I see the potential opportunities of the smart home market, therefore, I particularly look for IoT related suppliers this time!” said Kittichai Samittiwuttikul, MD of SMC Group.
4. The Combo of Tradition and Innovation is Most Wanted
Innovative products are always eye-catching, but buyers look for solutions combined with tradition and innovation, as the smart home is still new to most markets. “To be realistic in business, I have to consider the balance between what really sells and being future-proof. In most projects, traditional technology such as RF433 is still common. But international protocols should be concerned for future demand,” said a French distributor at the show.
Popular products include the RF433 plus Z-Wave gateway, 4G home camera, wireless battery-powered camera at the SMAhome show.
Another combination is traditional products designed for new applications. “There are always many new applications. To the simple ones, controllers like buttons or RFID that you can add in; button that you can use to different scenes. But I still believe the biggest challenge is the imagination what you can do. That’s what the devices today you can do with so much. But what you need, what you want to do, and how to do, figuring them out is a big challenge for many suppliers. Of course there are many interesting items, I’ve seen a few here in this exhibition,” commented Andersson.
5. Products With Attractive Exterior Design
“Size and (exterior) design are very important in smart home, so that the product can fit into user’s home very nicely. Design is a big issue that takes home décor into consideration. You would not want to have a bulky professional security camera inside your home,” said Andersson.
As many sourcing buyers aim on the retailing sales channels of Apple stores, the industrial aesthetics design of the product is a key issue. “We like the product which can be associated with Apple products. It is not only for the US market. In any markets, Apple-associated products work,” cited Okina.
Alberto Antinucci, Owner of HomeDefender, an Italian DIY home alarm brand, further stressed the importance of aesthetics in the European markets. According to him, small booths with sophisticated decor and beautifully designed products are the key to success at a show.