The concept of the smart home can be understood as home automation for the Internet era, but it is a concept that has not yet really caught on.
It encompasses all of the machines in the home that could potentially be connected to the Web. It also includes a wide array of applications, from consumer electronics to home appliances, by way of light bulbs and presence sensors. Today’s market is focused mainly on selling hardware with a built-in connectivity module and which can be controlled remotely using a mobile app. But it now also includes hubs, i.e. central systems that allow the different devices to talk to each other.
Many of the currently available products are connected to managing energy consumption and personal security, as consumers are more inclined to invest in solutions that allow them to lower their electrical bill and/or feel safer in their own home.
A large and heavily populated ecosystem
The digital home ecosystem is vast, populated by a multitude of players from a wide range of industries, including veteran CE and appliance manufacturers, along with power companies and players from the lighting and security industries. Samsung is particularly active in this market, especially since it acquired the start-up SmartThings in 2004. The South Korean giant is selling a complete smart home solution, including a hub to which both the manufacturers’ and its competitors’ equipment can be connected. Philips also has a solid presence in the smart home market thanks to its Hue line of smart bulbs.
The marketplace is also populated by newcomers such as pure players specialised in connected devices – marketing smart thermostats, light bulbs and security cameras. Telcos too have joined the fray, taking advantage
of their modems already deployed in customers’ homes to roll out new initiatives. The Internet giants are also on hand: Google through its acquisition of Nest, a start-up that specialises in smart thermostats, and Apple with its HomeKit smart home development platform.
An ecosystem awash with solution providers means that there are multiple communication protocols at work. The current battle for supremacy between standards is pitting a number of initiatives backed by industry giants against one another.
Adoption of the smart home raises severalquestions
This market, fl edgling as it is, is considered one of the most promising in the Internet of Things sector. IDATE estimates that the number of connected things could climb from 200 to 900 million between 2015 and 2025. Most of the market’s revenue today comes from hardware sales, whose prices are still too high compared to virtually identical products without smart capabilities. Several issues, then, need to be resolved before the market can really take off: the price of connected devices and appliances, privacy concerns raised by the use of personal data, a business model that needs clarifying (including monetising data) and the fragmentation of core technologies.
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