Category Archives: Smart Home

CES is Back and Stirring Up More Excitement in the Smart Home Space

It’s CES time again. The world’s biggest consumer electronics show will this week welcome an estimated 180,000 visitors, with over 4,400 exhibitors filling nearly three million square feet around Las Vegas with the latest innovations. Turning 52 this year, the event is showing no signs of slowing down in its middle age. Rather, it continues to be one of the biggest events in the tech calendar and a useful place for crystal ball-gazers to gauge where the industry is headed.

This year smart devices once again dominated, especially home systems integrating AI-power voice assistants and apps. From the quirky to the more traditional and everything in between, here’s a round-up of some of the highlights.

Smart home

A sign of the smart home’s growing position at the mainstream of the consumer technology space is the sheer range of gadgets on offer at CES. Many of these, like the Currant smart wall outlet, the C by GE smart lighting range and Onelink Bell smart doorbell integrate voice assistant tech from the key players like Google and Amazon. Some include robotic technology, such as the Temi personal butler which now has Alexa support, and the FoldiMate laundry folding machine.

Smart toilets come this year in a surprisingly large number of varieties, including Kohler’s Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet featuring Alexa integration. Their pet equivalents were also in attendance, courtesy of Inubox (dogs) and LavvieBot (cats). In fact, the pet theme continued to CES innovation award winner Mookkie, a device which uses AI to identify individual animals in order to dispense food intelligently.

IoT everywhere

The Internet of Things (IoT) is all pervasive at this year’s CES. If not manifest in smart home devices, it can be found in wearables like smart nappy monitors which detect when the wearer needs changing, and smart belts which track the user’s waistline, gait and walking speed. An AI-powered wearable camera captures contact details and promises the wearer will “never forget a face again”, while the Urgonight headband claims to help train the brain to sleep better.

Connected cars have also made major impact again this year, notably the electric M-Byte from Chinese startup Byton. Not to be outdone, Mercedes showed off its 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, Nissan debuted its Leaf e+ vehicle, Honda showcased its DreamDrive infotainment system and Qualcomm its AI-powered car “cockpit” platform.

A new spin

Although the smart home and IoT gadgets have garnered a great deal of attention on day one of the show, there were other notable appearances highlighting continued innovation in the consumer tech space. These included bendable smartphone the Royale FlexPai, which seems to have beaten Samsung to the punch in launching first.

Other new takes on established technology included a solar-powered smart watch. In the smart TV space, LG’s 8K OLED model has a screen which doubles as a giant speaker, while the same firm’s 65-inch Signature OLED TV R is a slick, rollable model which it is claimed will “liberate users from the limitations of the wall.”

By AS

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Engaging young leaders in building the tech industry of the future is not an option

Two weeks ago, I was at a panel meeting of the Smart Home & Buildings Association. SH&BA, which was founded in 2000, is the knowledge base for smart homes and buildings and people who live and work in them. At this meeting, young leaders from Google, Sky, Signify, Bosch Smart Home, Energenie, & the Beacon Agency presented their solutions to a competition on “how to overcome the barriers to smart home adoption.”

Tech Data, one of CONTEXT’s close partners and panellists, had agreed to sponsor the competition. Andy Dow, Group Marketing Director of Tech Data UK and a well-known figure in the channel had expressed delight to recognise the vital role that these young leaders have in shaping the smart home industry of today and the future.

After the winner was announced – 24-year-old Thomas Joy, co-founder of the Beacon Agency – we saw the video. You must watch it! SH&BA Young Leaders Winner – the Beacon Agency . Here is what one seasoned expert on smart home said when he saw it:

“As a CABA member, I learned about Beacon Agency’s video and am writing to share my praise. Their video offers some of the most sensible advice in the Smart Home space in decades…by mentioning AI and the need for tech to disappear discreetly into devices, it touches on a missing component of the “smart” home: the ability to learn and adapt automatically… I very much like Beacon Agency’s view of this market, looking at the service model instead a collection of partially connected but rather dumb products that quickly go obsolete as tech innovation evolves exponentially.”

To those of us interested in the future of smart home, Thomas delighted us with his considerable creativity and marketing flair for his vision of Smart Home as a Service.

So, this is the point – thirty-five years ago, a bunch of young twenty-year olds entered the new and emerging PC industry, and, sticking with it over the years, ended up by running it. We need to give the voice today to those young leaders who are going to run the smart home industry in future decades. This is vital because they get the underlying motivation of consumers and how to frame the proposition to them. This is perfectly illustrated in the Beacon Agency video – Thomas had very little prior experience of smart home, and yet he powerfully captured its potential.

As another seasoned smart home individual said, who has been working on smart home for the last twenty years, “we got in a top consultancy firm to assess smart home – they spent months on it and the most powerful concept they came up with was Smart Home as a Service”. Thomas got there quicker, and it is here for you to see. How do we build it? Surely with the help of our empowered young leaders.

TechData

Winner Thomas Joy is pictured with Teresa Johnston from Tech Data and Adam Simon, CONTEXT

by AS

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The UK’s most prominent retailers of smart home products are recognised through CONTEXT Go-to-Market awards

Last week, Smart Home manufacturers, retailers and distributors gathered at the 5th bi-annual Retailer & Manufacturer panel meeting of the Smart Homes & Building Association (SH&BA), and recognised those retailers which have the highest brand awareness for the sale of smart home products and services.

CONTEXT tracks the evolution of the smart home industry through its annual smart home research, which also unveiled a much-prized element of that research – the leading retailers of smart home products in the eyes of the consumers. The winners included:

  • For the retail channel: In first place was John Lewis & Partners, with Apple and Argos in 2nd and 3rd position
  • For the etail channel, Amazon has a strong lead in the number 1 slot, with Shop Direct in 2nd
  • For the DIY channel, B&Q maintained its leading position, though Wickes has steadily increased its number 2 place in the last three years
  • For the Utilities/Telecoms channel BT maintained a commanding lead over the other players in this channel

John Lewis through its steady dedication to the smart home category has emerged as the number 1 retailer consumers think of when buying smart home products. Their smart home demonstration areas in their shops, with the latest in the Westfield Shopping centre in Shepherds Bush, are leading the way in showing how retailers can develop the awareness and growth of this category.

Amazon has invested a lot in developing a broad smart home range and is where consumers research new products online: they, therefore, gained the highest recognition in the etail channel and overall from consumers as the place to go for smart home products. B&Q is growing its offering in smart home online and in-store, and benefits from strong brand recognition in the UK, thus securing the number 1 place in the DIY channel. Lastly, BT fresh from its recent launch of the ecommerce platform selling smart home products and trading on its strong brand recognition in the home, a powerful asset for the development of this category, won the first place in utilities/telecoms channel as to where they would go to buy smart home, and second place overall behind Amazon.

Johnlewis

John Lewis Retail award

As our research demonstrates, retail is a critical element in developing awareness of smart home gaining the highest of all scores with 36.5% of UK respondents learning about smart home in a store, and 40.8% on a retailer’s website. With Christmas coming up, and many smart home deals available online and instore, the coming weeks will be an important time for the industry, which is expecting significant year-on-year growth.

The CONTEXT Smart Home Survey 2018 is available on request by contacting marketing@contextworld.com.

by AS

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The trends behind the headlines: register for the CONTEXT autumn webinars

IT channel businesses thrive on data. Whether you’re a reseller, a vendor or a distributor, only market data of the highest quality and accuracy will do when making those crucial business decisions. That’s why CONTEXT has become an essential partner for the channel over the past three decades. Our latest ChannelWatch Report offers unrivalled insight into key market trends and channel priorities — compiled from interviews with over 7,000 resellers across 14 countries worldwide.

Sometimes stories in the trade media are written more to generate clicks than provide considered market insight. So if you want the truth behind the headlines, register for our upcoming autumn webinar series. We’ll be offering a comprehensive review of the year from a reseller perspective, insight into emerging categories, and a discussion of how data analytics can provide much-needed visibility into the impact of the US-China trade dispute. Continue reading

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IFA 2018: Consumer Electronics Gets Smarter

The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) show claims to be the world’s largest consumer electronics show. With over 1,800 exhibitors and 250,000 visitors from 31st of August-5th of September, it was certainly a mind-boggling place to experience. Continue reading

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IFA 2018: What Can We Expect?

Radio was cutting edge technology almost a century ago, and the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA)or Berlin International Radio Show, can truly claim to be “a partner to the future” having been a showcase for new technologies since 1924. The week-long event is still drawing in the crowds, and it’s estimated that this year’s IFA will welcome more than 1,800 exhibitors and 250,000 visitors when the doors open on 31st August— many of them industry professionals looking to build out their networks and scout for the latest technology innovations.

Relative newcomers to the technology show scene CES and MWC may have stolen some of the new products thunder earlier in the year, but this venerable exhibition still has the capacity to surprise, and provide a tantalising snapshot into the cutting edge of consumer technology. Continue reading

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Plotting the Future of the Smart Home

The smart home is gaining momentum across Europe, but there’s still much to do. That’s why the work of the Smart Homes & Buildings Association (SH&BA) is so important. We provide a place for business to showcase their systems, devices, products and services, and a much-needed forum for all smart home stakeholders to share their experiences and discuss ways to overcome the hurdles facing us.

At the heart of these challenges lies interoperability, which to an extent is still proving a stubborn barrier to the kind of integrated smart home experience we all want to see.

A unified experience
At our fourth bi-annual retail and manufacturer panel meeting recently, stakeholders from across the smart home landscape converged on the offices of Avensys, where we were shown around the IoT specialist’s impressive facilities. The firm’s several showrooms, open to all members of the public, really demonstrate the potential in the smart home to change the way we live. The largest space combines kitchen, living-room, bathroom, dining-room and second living-room, each showing off different technologies but giving a sense of a unified smart home.

We agreed that a model which works together efficiently holds most potential for the mass market, rather than the kind of plug-and-play mix of individual products which meet very specific needs but can fail to resonate overall.

However, the problem still remains that many products don’t talk to each other, making the unified smart home experience a pipe dream for most consumers.

Starting from scratch
One cause for optimism for the future comes from the new build space. Mark Swift, founder of Home Hub installations, told us his firm has gone from cabling two houses per month to 200, and is about to sign a deal for 14,000 houses in the next year. Many of these are integrating the open SmartThings platform, promising a unified experience for the buildings once completed.

Partnerships are of course key to driving this vision of the integrated smart home. On a bigger scale, Amazon’s recent tie-up with Lennar Homes, the second largest housebuilder in the US, also offers grounds for optimism. We also heard how the IET is currently producing guidance for electricians on smart home installation, which will help drive progress in this space.

Looking ahead
While interoperability is a big success factor for the smart home, there are others. Consumers also need to trust in the retailers and brands they’re investing in, and be assured that the tech they buy will last long into the future. As an industry, we also need to ensure that consumers are informed about the potential cyber-related risks associated with the smart home and how to manage them. SH&BA produced guidance around this in November 2015 and we’re looking to the industry to get proactive in this area.

Helping us to shape the future of the smart home going forward will be a new SH&BA initiative: the Smart Home Young Leaders’ Forum. This cross-industry group will seek to better understand the different ways that young professionals under 35 years of age who work in the smart home industry are engaging with technology in order to help companies transition from old to new smart home technologies. We’re looking forward to seeing what it can achieve, because the smart home will only succeed if we continue to build out these networks, partnerships and interconnections. The first meeting of the Young Leaders’ Forum will take place at IFA in Berlin on 3rd September at 4pm. All details can be found in the link to the event – To find out more click SH&BA YOUNG LEADERS’ FORUM @ IFA – REGISTRATION LINK

by AS

 

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