The recent Smart Home Summit was certainly a hotbed of debate. Our own Jon Carter, UK head of business development, took to the stage to encourage all players to partner and embrace openness, so that every company has the opportunity to benefit from the connected home sector, gain market share and drive growth.
Delegates from a host of industries, including telcos and utility providers, to retailers and device manufacturers, attended the Smart Home Summit to hear about:
• What will drive mass adoption of the connected home?
• How do device manufacturers ensure privacy and security?
• Are telecoms operators the best positioned to win in the connected home race?
These were just some of the discussions, but the main topic was making the connected home a reality, through partnerships and new business models.
It is now evident that the connected home market presents a huge opportunity for many different parties engaged in services, including security, energy and entertainment. According to Strategy Analytics, a typical European household currently has just under nine connected items in the home today, but this number is expected to grow as many more devices are launched and consumers embrace the connected home concept.
By working together and using an open approach, manufacturers, utilities, insurers and retailers can collaborate on growth opportunities around new devices and services, while each company focuses on its own customers.
While companies that own customer relationships will be working to educate consumers on the benefits of a connected home, we all need to consider how we avoid a silo approach, so that devices and technologies are interoperable and not overly complex.
Speakers such as Nina Bhatia, Managing Director Commercial & Connected Homes, British Gas, made a key point: “Technology and user experience need to be so simple and reliable so that once people ‘get it’ they quickly don’t think about it as technology and can’t live without it.”
We are beyond the early adopter phase and we now need to ensure that the connected home is relevant to the mass market. Joey Tang, business unit manager at retailer Euronics, revealed how “72% of [our] customers didn’t know about connected homes, but after understanding it, 75% showed an intention to buy”.
Sense of urgency
This positive outlook underlines a sense of urgency as companies explore technology options. But how do we achieve volume from such a complex market, with different platforms and approaches without a common connection? If only one player wins, then where does that leave everyone else?
In his presentation, Jon revealed how open platforms can help to bring new propositions to market quickly, and provide balance in a sector that is prone to domination by major technology vendors.
He also explored how companies can access new target groups and improve existing customer relationships – for example, utility providers can help consumers to visualise energy use, and subsequently reduce bills.
Fundamentally, success in this sector is about standards and interoperability. Open platforms that provide the underlying infrastructure and applications will be the key to success in the connected home. Martin Garner of CCS Insight, for example, believes that, “open APIs [application program interfaces] are not enough for an ecosystem”. So open platforms as well as standards such as HomeMatic in Germany and ZigBee in the UK are crucial.
The market will be driven by the developer community, and we are working with a number of partners in Germany and across Europe, such as Eclipse SmartHome, an open source project for the connected home.
We have already had a great deal of success with open platforms. Our Tolino e-reader has a larger share than Amazon Kindle in Germany, at 43%, and is now available in five European countries. The e-reader has an entirely open approach, and brings together competing publishers, booksellers and authors.
Likewise, we have our ‘white label’ Connected Home Platform that acts as an enabler for companies looking to deliver connected home services. Our partners in a more than 30 strong community include Miele, Samsung, Kärcher, Bosch Junkers, Logitech and many more.
Read the report
At the Smart Home Summit, we also launched ‘How to create growth from the connected home’ and the new Connected Home Platform website. The report sets out how connected homes will have huge impact across multiple industries, but will be both a significant opportunity and a threat to many diverse European businesses.
We detail seven opportunities that could be exploited by telcos, utilities, retailers, insurers, warranty providers, home assistance providers, and appliance and consumer hardware manufacturers.
We believe that much of the change in the coming IoT revolution will be about value shifting from one sector to another. One of the most crucial insights in our report is that businesses will need to move from just selling consumer hardware, to hardware-based services, which will impact their models, margins and routes to markets.
To date, the connected home market has been too focused on technology for technology’s sake, and has overlooked the customer and their needs. Beyond this, there needs to be greater willingness to partner to realise growth.
And the winners will be those that are prepared to innovate, take risks, and be willing to lead in a nascent market.