Almost every electronics industry product developer is eyeing the Internet of Things and smart home as a potential giant market with almost limitless potential. Most of the industry’s analysts, experts and pundits are forecasting a multi-trillion dollar market as more and more businesses, industries and consumers turn to smart as a way of improving ease of operations, maximizing safety and optimizing quality of life.
However, this market is rapidly changing and evolving – especially when looking at the smart home and the consumer electronics market. This is a challenging and ever moving target that manufacturers need to understand.
One big challenge is that the industry has not settled on a way to connect the various sensors, actuators and controllers (sentrollers) to a hub, the web or even to each other. There is an ongoing battle of standards. In addition to the basic IEEE wireless standards for connectivity – ZigBee for connecting low data rate, battery-powered networks; WiFi for connecting high data rate, AC powered networks, and Bluetooth for connecting low data rate, battery-powered devices, the industry’s largest companies are also introducing their own potential standards into the market competition, making it even more confusing for device developers and manufacturers.
Secondly, we are learning that the Internet of Things – especially for the smart home, is not about just things and devices, but rather, is about smart home services that will make consumers’ lives more comfortable, more secure and more efficient. These include home security, energy control, lighting, health, improving the efficiency of daily life, etc.
Unfortunately, the term – the Internet of Things – centered around the word “things” sets many end users, developers and manufacturers on a false path.
Yes, the gadgets and things themselves are the required hardware, but the complete solution includes data analytics, smart phone apps and billing/support systems as well. The good news is the smart home services offers exciting business opportunities throughout the entire ecosystem, not just the things like sensors, hubs, actuators, appliances, etc.
This includes opportunities for software developers to provide the critical intelligence that makes the smart home smart. By adding data analytics and self-learning capabilities in devices and hubs, as well as in the cloud, the smart home system can analyze the flow of data in order to learn how a household lives, and make decisions based on the data. These smart home systems are able to take action in case there are irregularities and unexpected changes to daily routines.
The IoT is much bigger than just things and connected devices. It is not enough to provide Internet access and connectivity for a device or an appliance – it needs to be able to speak to other devices and systems in the home, as well as to utilize web intelligence so that it can learn and evolve.
There are two important lessons for manufacturers who want to be successful in the new and highly competitive Internet of Things market.
The Internet of Things and the smart home is not about developing, selling, and pushing products (“smart things”) out of the door, but it is about reinventing products and integrating them with services. The new business model for the Internet of Things sector is all about recurring services and recurring revenue streams, not just about paying for a product at the check-out register.
Customers are buying solutions for real world problems - issues that impact their daily lives. They are looking very specifically for things like “security”, “energy control”, “assisted living,” etc. Consumers and end-users need to be able to monitor and control these different solutions from the same place – a single dashboard. They don’t want to have to use a variety of apps with different user interfaces (UI) to manage their homes and their family’s life. The model of the current smart phone – with a screen full of separate app icons for each function will not work. Consumers want a single app that can talk to all the services and appliances in their smart home.
Developers, manufacturers and service providers all need to work together – to bring all the different home equipment and services together under a single umbrella with a common UI (user interface) – a single app (see GreenPeak’s Smart Home Butler) that lets the family members understand what is happening in their home and enables them to manage it, if not managing it for them. Our homes need to be more than just connected, they need to be smart – in how they work and how they talk among themselves.
GreenPeak Technologies is a fabless semiconductor company and is a leader in IEEE 802.15.4/ZigBee silicon solutions for the smart home and the Internet of Things. GreenPeak is privately funded. It is headquartered in Utrecht, The Netherlands and has offices in the United States, Belgium, Japan, China, France, India and Korea. GreenPeak has won the prestigious 2014 Deloitte Fast50 Award and is recognized as a leader in developing new wireless technologies for consumer electronics and Smart Home applications, demonstrating rapid growth and adoption by major customers. For more information, please visit www.greenpeak.com