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
Category Archives: Smart Home
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
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.
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
Earlier this year the United Nations predicted that by 2050, 68% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. That’s up from a figure of 55% today and means an additional 2.5 billion people will migrate towards cities. To cope with the strain of this additional load and improve sustainability, economic development and quality of life, local governments are increasingly turning to technology.
These smart city initiatives are springing up all over the globe, but perhaps nowhere catches the eye more than Dubai, which appears to have the cash and the vision to transform itself via a series of standout projects.
A global race
All over the world, the race is on to use cloud, IoT, AI, big data analytics and other technologies to make public services smarter, more efficient and cheaper to run. From Amsterdam, London and Barcelona in Western Europe to the multitude of Asian cities in China, India, Japan and beyond receiving investment, there’s a true sense of international competition in this area. The Middle East is an increasingly important geography too, with Dubai leading the way.
The battle for investment revolves around two major factors: availability of funds to build infrastructure and the type of use cases proposed. Dubai has an advantage on both fronts. The Emirate government has been a generous supporter of its smart city initiatives since 2000, when the Dubai eGovernment agency was launched. Since then it’s changed its name twice, and is now known as Smart Dubai Gov (SDG). It’s also been able to build a roll-call of interesting projects.
Some of the most noteworthy initiatives include:
HR and recruitment apps: these include the Fajwa project which is looking at how AI can help government departments enhance their HR functions. A smart employee application, meanwhile, allows government staff to carry a range of HR tasks such as holiday requests via their smartphone. The Dubai Careers Platform looks to digitise recruitment for the government and job seekers across the city.
Digital backbone, digital wealth, Dubai IoT: begun in 2014, the digital backbone project now offers 300 open data sets which can be used to develop innovative smart city applications. The Digital Wealth Initiative and the Dubai Internet of Things Strategy were launched together last October. The former aims to manage over 120 smart city projects launched over the year and award Dubai Digital Certificates for outstanding achievements. The latter has the ambitious aim of creating the world’s most advanced IoT ecosystem.
Dubai paperless: aims to completely eliminate paper from government by 2021.
Dubai is far from the only global city looking to transform itself through technology. But the pace and ambition of its projects stand out. SDG director general, Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, claimed recently that the Emirate won 17 international and regional awards last year alone. At this rate, the next few years could be even bigger for the city-state.
“We prefer to stay outdoors.” Some cultural norms will never change, and locking up a Spaniard in his own high-tech smart home, the new digital castle for an Englishman, is not intrinsically attractive. “You have to understand that we like to go out, socialise, see our friends, and do not invest so much in our homes as you do in the UK.”
So is there a future for smart home in Spain? Continue reading
At CONTEXT we’ve seen consumer awareness of smart home products across Europe slowly start to take off over the past 18 months. That’s why the launch into the market of Wi-Fi Mesh systems last year seemed like a smart move, designed as they are to enhance Wi-Fi coverage for internet-connected gadgets around the home.
However, this hasn’t quite proven to be the case. It’s not the consumer but the corporate space which appears to be showing most interest. Continue reading
The world’s biggest mobile technology event was upon us again this week. Over 100,000 tecchies descended on Barcelona this week to showcase the latest and greatest smart devices and network technologies that is Mobile World Congress (MWC). Despite reports of an overall global decline in sales at the end of last year, just one look at the show this year will tell you that consumers’ love affair with their smartphones is far from over. However, MWC is increasingly also about showcasing other kinds of connected devices and technology platforms. Continue reading