The Smart Home is a pinnacle opportunity for numerous electronics companies, retailers and telecoms to provide new products to the home, such as a smart security system, video camera, garage door, lighting, thermostat and even blinds.
But a recent survey from Comcast shows that homeowners do not want a slew of connected devices that remotely control various aspects of their home—all with their own proprietary application. They desire a third party to install, manage and enable these smart devices for them.
Enter Smart Home as a Service (SHaaS). Instead of consumers deciding what hardware and software options to use in their home, they leave it to a home service provider such as Comcast or AT&T, or a retailer such as Lowe's, Home Depot or Amazon, which provides one umbrella application that controls the smart devices in the home.
The smart home market is growing rapidly, says Blake Kozak, principal analyst for access control and fire at market research firm IHS. For 2016, total smart home shipments of do-it-yourself and professional installations will exceed 48 million, according to IHS.
“However, the systems that are ‘truly’ smart are few and far between,” Kozak says. “As a result, many of the smart home systems that people talk about today are better defined as point solutions. With that said, end users are demanding solutions be controlled through one mobile app. This is becoming more apparent through the various ‘works with’ offerings available today.”
SHaaS the Next Consumer Battleground
With such an enormous, potentially unlimited opportunity available for the right business model, it is not surprising to see many heavyweight companies involved in offering their own service solutions. That is if the technology can mature and the consumer’s needs can also mature.
But despite growth needed in these areas, many retailers have already deployed smart home solutions, including Lowe's' IRIS, Staples’ Connect, Amazon’s Echo, Comcast’s Xfinity, AT&T’s Digital Life and even IKEA. Technology leaders are also coming on board, such as Apple’s HomeKit, Google’s Brillo and Nest. And others may be on the way as well, perhaps even retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco.
“Compare the evolution of today’s cars to the smart home,” says Cees Links, GM of Qorvo’s low-power wireless division and former CEO and founder of GreenPeak Technologies. “When we look at the sophistication of the car (everything seamlessly controlled from a dashboard), it is sort of shocking how primitive our home technologies are. Wouldn’t central door locking be a nice idea for the home? This technology disparity is screaming to be filled—and the companies that would like to fill this are already lining up at the door.”
Getting Everyone on Board
With numerous companies wanting a stake in the smart home race, each with their own application and own monetary motivations, getting these companies to come into the fold for one single service may present a mighty challenge for those wanting to provide SHaaS.
Currently the smart home market is in a vertical application phase, meaning homeowners are buying specific vertical solutions for vertical problems such as smart lighting, or home security as it is needed, not as a package or a total home offering. The smart home of today is still too amorphous, and integrated solutions are rare, Links says.
Links believes the smart home market will accelerate when these various connected systems start talking to each other instead of operating separate application and technology silos. “The true smart home will emerge when consumers realize that using different smart phone apps for their various vertical applications is too much of a hassle and will demand a single smart phone dashboard that combines and controls all their smart home apps, appliances and services,” Links says.
IHS’ Kozak agrees that most systems today are proprietary in nature despite the use of open protocols, and homeowners seem more concerned over the longevity of quality in the offerings rather than those that work well together. “We have seen offerings such as REVOLV be completely turned off, leaving the users with a system that doesn’t work independent of the cloud,” Kozak says. “Other concerns surround the quality of offerings, especially when you start to add 10, 20 or 30 devices to the platform.”
Providing the Tools for SHaaS
Recently Qorvo introduced a system reference design called Family@Home that provides a complete hardware and software technology roadmap for system developers and manufacturers. The system can learn what is normal for a household and can take action if something out of the ordinary happens—anything from a burglary to kids skipping school. For a retailer, they could use the system as a blueprint for creating a SHaaS and tune it to their specific needs, Links says.
The system uses sensors, connected devices, cloud intelligence and social media to combine a variety of important services into one single application that enables service providers to create SHaaS offerings to make homeowners’ lives easier while at the same time more secure. Links says SHaaS provides some security challenges, but it also provides extra solutions.
“The SHaaS technology could tell you (or your service provider) when your home is under cyber-attack, when it is being probed, and if there is a successful attack, let you change the security codes,” Links says. But it can also detect and report a physical attack—people breaking windows, picking a lock, using stolen house keys—and can provide sophisticated security, such as iris and handprint confirmation.
Qorvo recently issued a white paper on SHaaS. To learn more about this whitepaper, please visit: http://www.greenpeak.com/Press/PressKit/201606Qorvo_Whitepaper_SHaaS.pdf
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