There was a lot of buzz around the “connected home” at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. So what is a connected home exactly? In many ways it is a lot like “home automation,” a buzzword from the past. It is quite literally connecting smart devices, lights, appliances and more in one’s home; linking them together and controlling them from centralized interfaces. This year there has been even more interest in the “sustainable connected home,” which means not only linking the home together, but powering it with renewable energy.
So the ‘2011: Year of the Connected Home?’ CES session panel had quite a lot to talk about. This discussion featured executives from GE, Best Buy, Broadcom, Comcast, and Control4, moderated by the editor of CE Pro Magazine & TecHome Builder Magazine. The focus was on whether or not the connected home would become a reality any time soon.
Though the International Consumer Electronics Show is based out of the United States, the US is not as technologically advanced as we might think. The session opened with a presentation on how the US fares quite poorly in terms of broadband connectivity and energy consumption. Check out this chart if you don’t believe me:
However, there is still hope! Neil McPhail, Senior Vice President of Best Buy, set the tone for the next part of the discussion by stating that “The days of dumb are gone.”
The panel agreed that once consumers are exposed to just how much money they can save, people will definitely turn to a smart, green, controlled home. Compact florescent light bulbs were a perfect example.
Soon people will use more forward-thinking products, like this Solar Powered Boombox by Eton
The ongoing theme is that people want to connect their homes, they want to realize energy savings, but they just don’t know where to look. Lighting controls are a good example of something that can provide immediate savings, but consumers aren’t buying it. This may open up opportunities for “electronics groundskeepers,” organizations who are able to recommend and install solutions to meet customers’ needs.
So what will it take for people to move to a connected home? Aside from those willing to pay an electronic groundskeeper, consumers would need technologies that they can easily install themselves, a relatively low cost up front, and no subscription fees. Giving more options, such as price bundles with add-ons, may also make it attractive to consumers. Finally, people simply aren’t aware of how much energy they use, so educating people with real-world examples of exactly what they can save will help.
Underneath the discussion about how and why consumers would move to smart homes and green technology is the knowledge that local utilities are running out of capacity, and solutions have to be found to reduce demand on them. David McCalpin, General Manager of GE, suggests that there are three parts of the process that will see energy consumption reduced. First of course is consumer wants/needs, primarily saving money. Utilities must also invest in and adopt green technologies. Finally, government policies must be enacted, such as requiring devices and appliances to meet the Energy Star standard.
So is 2011 the Year of the Connected Home? We’ll surely see slow strides towards this, such as consumers recognizing the benefits of compact florescents. However, we are unlikely to see sweeping adoption of smart technology during this year unless all three groups hold hands and make the step together. Are you still a consumer striving for digital connectedness? For now you can switch out your old products for less resource hogging devices and wait for the green light to go green for good.
For me, a good way to reduce our carbon footprint is with solar energy. Solar energy is a truly remarkable thing. Inexpensive, powerful, and available almost anywhere in the world—gadgets and household electronics should be charged with the sun. It’s not only green, it saves money.
Awesome post Nixie! I am a huge advocate for the Connected Home as you can see in my post on Home Toys (http://www.hometoys.com/ezine/10.12/abell03/index.htm) and my own blog Home System Integration (http://www.homesystemintegration.com/2011/01/content-not-energy-can-make-2011-the-year-of-the-connected-home/). Although you might find that I’m approaching it from a different angle, the end result is the same!
I would love to speak more about this with you!
Well, ‘automated’ homes have been a concept since the 1950’s. I think one thing that gets in the way of adopting these ideas and making them real is the high initial costs. Retro fitting high tech devices to an existing building can cost more than rebuilding from scratch. And how many people can afford a new home anymore? Many people around the world don’t even own a pc, let alone the mod-cons that could be integrated into a ‘connected home’.
As a long-time Digital Home consultant and marketing strategist, I have developed strong opinions about what it will take.
Back in 2004 I did market research for Parks Associates (http://www.cazitech.com/HomeControls.htm), which concluded that the Connected Home industry is finally poised to cross a 30-year-old chasm separating high-end new homes from much bigger opportunities in mainstream retrofit markets. This was based on my observation that several new networking standards finally enabled products to scale up- and down-market, from DIY projects in small homes to complex, system integrator projects in large homes and commercial office buildings. The promising new technologies included HomePlug & Insteon (powerline), MoCA (coax), HomePNA (phone lines), and Wi-Fi, Zigbee & Z-Wave (wireless).
With promising new standards to enable products that can scale up- and down-market – from DIY projects in small homes to complex, system integrator projects in large homes and commercial office buildings – the mass-market challenge would move from technology to marketing.
But it’s been six years now and so far no one’s got the right formula for success – not Cisco, GE, IBM nor Microsoft, and not AT&T, Comcast nor Time Warner. Verizon may be able to drive the Connected Home vision in markets it serves, but what about the other markets? Given the company’s aggressive deployment plans for 4G LTE in rural markets and in three years across 100% of the U.S. (from their CES keynote), those markets could be substantial if Verizon overlays its wired network competitors.
Besides partnering with Motorola and 4Home, the company’s ultimate success depends on two other factors: (1) accommodating the wide range of legacy home devices and networks already installed in homes they serve, and (2) utilizing Cloud Computing technologies to eliminate problems associated with “I installed new PC software (or devices) and now my Internet is down.”
I don’t think this is the connected home year nor the next one. We can’t even have Logitech develop and launch a Home Theatre PC wireless keybord with a decent integrated trackball. Not even a webcam with an embedded HD video encoder. Is Logitech becoming another company that just follows on other companies innovations? These two products are no-brainers with a huge amount of customers willing to pay for a quality product from Logitech. What is Logitech waiting for? Where are the Logitech marketing guys?