With Apple, Google and Samsung investing billions in the Smart Home market, it must now be time for us to take it seriously. Smart Home as a concept, has actually been around for some years, but it is only more recently, with the interest from the tech giants, that it is really gaining momentum. And with the growing awareness of environmental issues and energy prices at a consumer level, combined with energy management needs at a national level, the drive and desire to provide effective, sustainable energy management solutions has never been stronger.
On a global level, events such as the earthquake in Japan in 2011, which caused irreversible damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, bringing power shortages throughout the country, have further accelerated existing plans by the Japanese government to look closer at energy supply, maintenance and management, with the concepts of smart cities and smart homes. Japan isn’t the only country pushing to dramatically reduce their energy needs. The European government is committed to transforming Europe into a highly energy-efficient economy under the Kyoto Protocol with aggressive targets to reduce Europe’s emissions by 2020. The solutions to these challenges are not only at a national level, through energy source diversification, but also through the creation of smart cities and even at an individual home owner level, through better more efficient management of energy.
The Smart home is about enabling homeowners to monitor and reduce their energy consumption. And with the increasing range of domestic equipment coming to market is ‘smart’ ie having sensing and communications technologies, home owners will have the ability to manage and control a wide range of home electronics and appliances, conserving and managing energy, as well as save money. According to a recent Gartner Report, the falling cost of adding sensing and communications to consumer products will mean that a typical family home, in a mature affluent market, could contain several hundred smart objects by 2022 – a mere 8 years away. They predict the smart home will be an area of dramatic evolution over the next decade and will offer many innovative digital business opportunities, to those organizations who can adapt their products and services to exploit it.
Clearly Apple, Google and Samsung can see the potential too. In early 2014, Google spent $3.2 billion acquiring Nest, which on the face of it seemed a bit surprising for a company whose only 2 products were a smoke detector and a central heating controller. It was obvious there was more to the Nest purchase and we are just waiting on what that could be. July 2014 a new wireless protocol for the home was released, which seems to be just the start.
In June 2014 Apple lunched its Home Kit, home automation platform. Within 3 months, Elgato unveiled ‘Eve’ connected smarthome sensors, featuring full integration with Apple’s HomeKit. Clearly we’re due to see many new products coming to market within the coming months. But the current lack of common standards, technologies, protocols and interoperability, could still be a real barrier to significant market penetration.
One of the key issues for device manufacturers is to decide what wireless technology will be the preferred method to connect all these products. Wi-fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee are all fighting to come out on top. However some companies don’t believe that any of these existing technologies are capable of fulfilling the potential of this market.
So will there be a single technology that dominates? With tech giants like Apple, Google and Samsung in the market – all supporting their preferred technologies and protocols, the battle has only just begun to seize and dominate this market. And for hardware and product manufacturers it will be a tough call to decide which route to go.