The smart home market is evolving from a collection of siloed connected devices − each with their own connectivity protocols, their own gateways, and their own monitoring and control apps − into a complete unified solution of services. This new market concept, which is called smart home as a service (SHaaS), changes the entire market paradigm to be more in line with what consumers actually want.
Over the last decade, most smart home product developers have been essentially just adding internet connectivity to their existing home products and appliances – basically just creating for these devices a long-range remote control, located in their smartphone. However, consumers want more. They want solutions that have smarts, and ones that add intelligence to the web-controlled remote.
Numerous surveys and analysts have reported that consumers do indeed want smart home technologies, especially those like home security, comfort management (heating and air conditioning control), presence detection with energy management and lighting control, etc. However, aside from early innovators and do-it-yourselfers, most don’t want to have to figure out how to install these devices, much less how to make them to talk to each other and share information.
This is where SHaaS companies come into the picture.
As is to be expected, the primary industry drivers of this new initiative are cable operators and other ISPs. They already are in the business of providing services for a monthly fee and have the on-premises equipment that makes the addition of new services smoother and efficient.
However, there are other players looking to move into this space. This includes utility and home security companies who also have the ongoing customer relationship as well as on-premises equipment. Additionally, there are new entrants such as insurance companies and large retailers who see this new market as a greenfield opportunity for them.
SHaaS: Making Components Work Together
SHaaS helps solve one of the major challenges facing the smart home market. How do you make the various components all work together? Currently there is a standards battle going on between the major tech giants with each trying to be the one company to dominate the market sector. Instead of simply adopting one of the tried-and-true wireless home standards like WiFi, ZigBee, and Bluetooth, they are rolling out various wireless connectivity solutions that are not interoperable.
By working with a large service provider that has settled upon a communication technology to tie all their services together, and developing applications and product lines targeted to their needs as well as to the needs of their customer, manufacturers can be assured that they will have a large enough market share to make their specific solutions make financial sense.
By working with the service providers − the SHaaS providers − the product developers can create not only connected and smart systems for the home, but additional lines of various add-ons applications and smart accessories.
For example, a device manufacturer can start with a connected security system marketed and supported by one of the large cable service providers and one that would talk to that service providers’ home gateways, hubs, and/or cable boxes. Then, the company could also develop various sensors and additional devices that would also talk to the same gateway. This would enable them to easily expand their product offerings into a wider range of applications. They could add on additional services for lighting, for health monitoring, for energy management, etc.
The cable company can handle the customer service and upsell, the installation, maintenance, etc., as well as ensuring that these new smart devices were security-connected to the existing gateway. For a slight increase in monthly fees, the cable providers could add these additional series as well as help protect their existing entertainment and other offerings into the home.
Consumers would also benefit by getting a unified system with a single smartphone control dashboard instead of having to figure out individual control user interfaces for the various smart home services. SHaaS is a win-win for connected device developers, for service providers, and for consumers who want to adopt smart home technologies to make their lives safer, more comfortable, and more efficient.
Cees Links is the general manager of the wireless connectivity business unit at Qorvo. He was the founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies, a smart home and IoT radio communications semiconductor company, now part of Qorvo.
Earlier in his career Cees worked for NCR, AT&T, and Lucent Technologies. Under his responsibility, the first wireless LANs were developed for PCs and notebooks, which ultimately became household WiFi technology integrated into computers, smartphones, and connected smart devices. He also pioneered the development of access points, home networking routers, and hotspot base stations. He was involved in the establishment of the IEEE 802.11 standardization committee and the WiFi Alliance. He was also instrumental in establishing the IEEE 802.15 standardization committee that become the basis for ZigBee sense and control networking.