“The internet of things is not a thing…”

36The IoT is coming and promises to transform the industry as we know it. Z-Wave Alliance executive director Mitch Klein gave us the low-down at this year’s Connected Home Conference.

“The internet of things is not a thing,” begins Z-Wave executive director Alliance Mitch Klein in his Connected Home Conference presentation: IoT and the integration opportunity.

“The IoT will be as transformative to the world as was the industrial revolution. What is it? A network of internet connected objects able to collect and exchange data. In the not too distant future, trillions of smart communicating devices will stretch the boundaries of today’s business and social systems and create the potential to change the way we work, learn and entertain.

“Analysts are saying that in 2020 – just over three years from now – there will be around four billion connected people, four trillion dollars in revenue opportunity, 25 million apps, over 25 billion embedded intelligent systems and 50 trillion gigabytes of data worldwide.”

With claims this huge being bandied around, the enormity of the whole thing can be hard to grasp and even a little intimidating – within the residential sector alone there are there are many categories in the IoT space: hubs; security; smart kitchens; robotics; sensors and gardens to name but a few. Mitch says a conservative estimate is that by 2022 the home automation sector will have grown to at least four times its current size and be worth around US$121 billion. So it pays for integrators to ensure that opportunities presented by the IoT are being identified and capitalised on.

“Icontrol – a software platform that a lot of the service providers are using to enable homeowners to manage devices and control in the home – does an annual survey. Last year it surveyed 1600 homeowners in the US and Canada and asked them to identify the things they want to see in their homes. Of homeowners surveyed: 65% want automatic adjustable outdoor lighting; 72% want self adjusting thermostats; 65% want home monitoring apps and 71% want doors that can be locked from a remote location,” says Mitch.

“It’s not particularly important to drill down to determine exactly what this means to your market place – it simply says ‘globally this is really big’ so if your market has not adapted yet, this is an early opportunity for you.”

To work out how the IoT is going to create opportunities for integrators, Mitch says it is necessary to take a look at existing products and services and add to them. Integrators need to be aware that there’s a disruption in progress and should determine how to adapt business models to capitalise on this and be the disruptive ones in the market place. Integrators need to create new products and services – to creatively imagine and implement fully developed systems.

In order to do this, integrators should understand about the different communications protocols and how these are actually going to impact their lives, businesses and customer’s homes. Mitch stresses the importance of understanding the difference between the likes of  Z-Wave, Zigbee and Thread because, he says, once you start deploying smart home technologies you need to know which protocols you want to be working with.

Another important distinction to make is the difference between the two methods for devices to communicate with each other, namely machine to machine (M2M) and the cloud.

M2M has been around for a long time and is when devices speak directly to other devices. It’s in some of the proprietary systems that have been installed for years – it’s simple, reliable and is still very relevant.

Cloud based communication happens when, instead of device speaking to device, a device speaks to the cloud, the cloud interprets the message and then addresses the other device.

“With the proper applications interfaces, different competing platforms can have a translation capability. So whatever the protocol happens to be on one device, it can communicate through the cloud which makes a translation before communicating the message to the other device.

“It also allows for updates and rapid deployments – security and utility companies love this stuff because they can simply send off firmware and software updates without having to roll the trucks. And of course it’s great for messaging – so when your door lock is unlocked you can get a message sent to your smart phone.”

According to Mitch, some of the barriers to mainstream IoT adoption include a lack of clear and compelling use cases and the difficulty of educating customers.

“The burden is on consumers to understand interoperability. If a consumer walks into a retailer selling smart home devices, how do they know which device works and which device doesn’t?
“I would like to talk about the opportunity here and how this plays beautifully into integrators’ hands: it’s about expert customer care. We’re already doing whole house music, home theatre, some of us are doing security (if you’re not, make a note) and lighting – but there’s something else and I call this the Trojan horse.
“Voice – we can integrate with voice. We’ve got Siri, we’ve also now got Amazon’s Alexa. Voice is the Trojan horse because your customers are already using it, they are buying the Amazon Echo, they are playing with Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana.”

ABI research says voice control is going to become the bedrock for smart home applications. This includes Siri, Alexa, Cortana etc. but also devices like Samsung smart TVs, Honeywell’s WiFi thermostat, an LG vacuum cleaner (you can talk to your vacuum and tell it to go and clean the kitchen) and more. Mitch says that Sonos has made a complete pivot in its business model and has started to hire voice activation specialists.

To further emphasise his point, Mitch cites the director of Alexa Smart Home Charlie Kindle as saying: “controlling your home with voice commands is no longer a someday technology – it’s here. The landscape is evolving quickly and represents another fantastic opportunity for CEDIA members to position themselves as the trusted technology experts.”

“This is how you’re going to take your customers who you’re already working with on the entertainment side and migrate them towards the IoT,” says Mitch.

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Reference: Connected Home