Every day there is news and analysis published about the “smart home” or “connected home”. But how do you cut through the chaff to figure out what’s really important in this booming industry – from which no one can escape these days? I recently moderated a panel at CES on The Connected Home Through the Eyes of Consumers and I’d like to share some of the important insights uncovered.
The genesis of smart home concepts really began with old school science fiction and fantasy in popular culture. Whether watching Star Trek on television 50 years ago or The Jetsons or reading the Time Machine, human imagination has been enchanted with the kind of smart home possibilities that have been increasingly realized over the past 10 years. Essentially, yesterday’s fantastical future is here.
Consider this: today millions of people use Amazon Echo devices with Alexa voice commands to play music, order products online, and much more. And you have Google and you’re walking around talking to Google, and you’re talking to Xfinity, you’re talking to Siri on your iPhone, or you’re talking to Cortana on your Samsung. You’re constantly talking to individual devices. Who would have imagined that 30 years ago?
Why Interoperability is Key
Initially, as consumers, we love the functionality, what smart devices deliver to us, but there are issues of interoperability, security, and privacy that we haven’t really thought about. And so the industry is now at a true crossroads. Consumers are used to operating dozens of individual smart devices in the home. But the future lies in true interoperability. Don’t feel bad if you’re not familiar with that term; most people aren’t. Smart home product vendors are pursuing the interoperability of home devices because consumers now want more than just dozens of individual smart devices – they want them to work together to perform tasks.
Why? Fundamentally to make our lives run more smoothly. For example, now you can tell Alexa to start your Roomba and clean your floors. Although in my home it works a little differently since my daughter’s name is actually Alexa – which leads to a lot of confusion!
Soon, you’ll be asking Alexa to tell your home robot to mow your lawn. But not just at a specific time such as 9 am. Imagine this: you’ll be able to tell Alexa to have your robot mow your lawn when your garage door closes around 9 am, after you’ve left for work. How convenient is that? This leads to other key features you can expect from connected homes in the near future – more consumer control over devices and increased personalization. That will happen thanks to the convergence of artificial intelligence and the connected home. Or, essentially, intelligent Internet of Things. What is Internet of Things (IoT), you may ask? It is a system of interrelated devices that have unique identifiers and are able to transfer data over a network without needing human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
These devices can include kitchen appliances, home lighting and security, and even wearables such as fitness trackers. In fact, research firm Gartner predicted there would be 20.8 billion such devices worldwide by 2021 (excluding smartphones, tablets, and computers). Almost unbelievable, right? But the smart home possibilities of the future are endless.
We like to say at the IoTC that we’re at the top of the second inning in the World Series – a long game that’s likely to go extra innings. There’s a lot of data that’s being collected about individual users by smart devices, such as your Amazon ordering history with your Echo. Forward-thinking smart device companies should use that data to create better, more personalized brand experiences. This will really improve the way people live their lives.
That’s the next frontier: to use the data with greater purpose and with better outcomes for human beings. Here’s an example. At CES this year, Mercedes-Benz unveiled an entirely new concept car based on the movie Avatar that lives and breathes and is part of the biosphere. This merges human capabilities with machine learnings and can be inspirational for home devices. Connectivity could create all sorts of new products and services that none of us have ever thought of before.
The world of smart homes is changing so rapidly that I invite you to visit the Internet of Things Consortium (iofthings.org), and read our newsletter and other resources to stay on top of how these trends will affect you and your families personally – now and into the future.