Tag Archives: smart home

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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Filed under Connectivity, Market Analysis, Smart Home, Smart Technology, Uncategorized

The smart home opportunity in Spain – reflections from the AECOC TCG Congress

“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

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Wi-Fi Mesh Systems Start to Find their Feet in the Corporate Market

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

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Half a Century of Technology Innovation: What’s New for CES 2018?

Next week, nearly 4,000 of the world’s biggest technology companies will converge on Las Vegas for the annual CES show. Now in its 51st year, the Consumer Electronics Show has seen its pulling power reduced in recent years as big vendors like Google, Apple and Samsung save major announcements for their own events. But it’s still likely to attract something like 170,000 visitors, and is widely seen as a key platform for showcasing new tech products and prototypes that will set the tone for the year ahead.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the biggest trends to watch out for this year.

TVs: time for 8K

The past year has seen 4K and HDR TVs made widely available, with prices dropping lower all the time. This paves the way for some potentially big 8K announcements this year, with LG already claiming that it will be showing off a new 88-inch set. It will feature a 7680×4320 pixel display a massive 16 times better than the resolution of a standard HD set.

Other technology innovations in the TV space we may see more of are: local dimming features to boost picture quality; lower-priced OLED screens; improved voice control and streaming app support; and potentially some OLED-rivalling Micro LED technology from Samsung.

The smart home gets smarter

TVs comprise just one small part of an increasingly large smart home market, with voice-powered AI assistants from the big hitters like Amazon, Google and Apple increasingly positioned as the glue that holds everything together. Expect a slew of announcements detailing support for Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s HomeKit protocol in products as varied as smart clocks, speakers and even video door entry systems. Alexa seems to have the lead at the moment, but Apple is catching up fast thanks to new partnerships, while Google is said to be planning a major presence at the show, having booked out eight hospitality suites.

Keeping it real: VR/AR

Virtual reality might have garnered most of the headlines in recent years, thanks to a slew of eye-catching headsets, but its near neighbour augmented reality (AR) is likely to make a splash at CES 2018. In fact, there’s now a dedicated AR “Marketplace” in one of the Convention Centre halls — proof if any were needed that it’s a technology to watch this year.

Expect to see announcements from the likes of Carl Zeiss, Occipital, Kinmo, Kodak, Royole, Sony, and Netflix, as well as chip giant Qualcomm, which has been building out partnerships with some high-profile headset names such as the Oculus Go. Magic Leap is also a name to watch in the AR space and could well be showing off its new Lightwear headset.

AI everywhere

Also with its own dedicated Marketplace arena, AI will see its profile raised further at this year’s CES with a deluge of new products, from connected cars to voice-activated smart home assistants. Honda will feature the tech in its new 3E Robotics Concept at the show with a range of products designed to advance mobility and make people’s lives better.

Named by Accenture as a top-five trend to watch at CES 2018, AI will feature in a range of announcements from other big names including Chinese search giant Baidu, which will show off its autonomous driving platform Apollo and “conversational AI” platform DuerOS.

by AS

 

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Smart Home Summit: Assessing the Routes to Market

Was the panel I was on a fix?

  • Tripling smart home revenues from John Lewis partners, according to Katrina Mills, Audio & Connected Home buyer, and the continued investment in dedicated smart home areas, growing to 5 stores by the end of October
  • Doubling revenues at Lightwave, with acceleration driven by the introduction of voice control in the Echo, and with the latest range of Homekit-enabled products, announced by Andrew Pearson, CEO, about to be launched in Apple stores from 3rd October
  • 500,000 Hive thermostats forecast to be sold in 2017, doubling the installed base to one million in the course of this year, and a new range of innovative customer focused solutions announced by Jo Cox, Commercial Director of Centrica
  • O2 steadily growing its pilot stores, with plans to sell smart home in all stores, as presented by Richard Porter, head of smart home products

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IFA 2017: The Smart Home Comes of Age

CES and MWC may attract the bigger crowds early in the year, but for many, the original and best consumer electronics show remains IFA. The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin – to give it its full name – has been around for nearly a century, but it can barely have witnessed technological change on quite this scale before. This year VR headsets vied for attention with the usual smartphones, gaming devices, and laptops.

But perhaps the biggest buzz could be found around the smart home, in the proliferation of connected appliances and voice assistant technology, as well as a new agreement behind the scenes designed to drive forward a global market said to be worth over $14bn.

Gadgets galore
As usual, all the major consumer brands were represented this year, from Samsung and Huawei to Sony, Asus, Acer, Panasonic and many more. Smartphone fans were treated to a first look at LG’s high-end V30 device, while Sony unveiled three new models: the Xperia X71, X71 Compact and XA1 Plus. As far as laptops, the Asus 2-in- 1 ZenBook Flip 14, Lenovo’s Yoga 920 ultra-thin notebook, and Acer’s “slimmest ever all-in- on desktop” the Aspire S24 all caught the eye.

VR fans were treated to a major announcement: the introduction of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality headsets, with partners Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo and others all showing off their wares. Elsewhere there were new smart watches from Samsung, plenty to keep gaming fans interested, and even new 360-degree digital cameras from Acer.

But it was in the smart home that arguably the most eye-catching kit could be found, as the battle for consumer hearts and minds really begins to heat up. There were plenty of connected appliances on show, from a new Nest thermostat and Hive smart security camera to the Miele Dialog Oven and even a smart floor cleaner from Neato Botvac.

But notably it was in the virtual assistant space that vendors really vied for consumers’ attention, which isn’t surprising given that these platforms will increasingly sit at the centre of the smart home.

That’s why we saw Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Voice Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby, built into an increasingly wide range of products on show at IFA. Lenovo’s Alexa-powered Home Assistant for the Tab 4 offers an Echo Show experience for a much smaller price tag, for example. There’s also been signs that some players are prepared to work together: Amazon and Microsoft announced that their voice assistants would integrate to allow users to access Windows and Office through Alexa and Amazon sites via Cortana.

Driving smart home success
Behind the scenes was perhaps where the most significant event at IFA 2017 took place, with the signing of a major agreement between three smart home associations in the UK, Germany and France.

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The UK’s Smart Homes & Buildings Association (SH&BA), Germany’s SmartHome Initiative Deutschland e.V. (SHD) and the Fédération Française de Domotique (FFD) represent over 600 OEMs, retailers, distributors, ISVs, integrators, telcos, and energy suppliers. Under the terms of the new agreement, they’ll form a European committee to better coordinate joint activities.

As Global MD for CONTEXT and Chair of the SH&BA, I believe the deal will help the organisations share key knowledge, develop common standards and drive sales. As smart home technologies become increasingly important to us all, that’s great news for the industry, and ultimately consumers.

by AS

 

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What to expect in IFA 2017?

For growth in the tech industry it’s all about Internet of Things and of course the Internet of Playthings – this year’s IFA will be an exciting place to witness this. The pre-show announcements point to make or break smart watches from Fitbit, new wearables from Samsung, a new connected toothbrush from Philips, a “behemoth” gaming machine from Acer, and new mixed-reality headsets from Microsoft.

The agenda of the various conference programmes, shows that IFA, just like its sister shows CES and MWC, give most airtime to the new, and hardly any to how technology companies can optimise the vast but legacy categories such as PC’s, printers and displays. So, for example, the keynotes will focus on digital health (Philips & Fitbit), “building the possible” (Microsoft – could this be related to their mixed reality offering?) and an intriguing topic of mobile and AI from Huawei – are they launching their own Siri/Cortana competitive offering? The IFA+ summit is focused on IOT, wearables, integrating tech in smart home, and the latest on immersive computing. It’s all about the next level – nothing stands still, although there is a timeless element about the IFA show, with its long history stretching back to 1925.

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As you wander around the 155,000 square metres of space, and get to meet the 1,805 exhibitors, do not forget to put the innovation areas on your itinerary.

Here are two of them: in hall 6.2 there are 78 companies presenting smart home offerings – covering security, lighting, home automation, cloud platforms and gateways. Look especially for the advances in voice control and the linking of smart home solutions to this technology, which is less than one year old in Europe and has already made an enormous difference to the smart home market. Then, not far away, there is hall 26 – this is the innovation pavilion where IFA Next is housed (it used to be known as IFA Tec Watch). Here you will find start-ups and all those next generation products, the ones to watch.

In pavilion 26, there is also another smart home area, with another 10 vendors, and associations, which is also not to be missed. And especially at 4pm on 4th September, when three smart home associations – the Smart Homes & Buildings Association (UK), Fédération Française de Domotique (France), and Smart Home Initiative (Germany), will sign an international cooperation agreement working together to build the category across Europe. CONTEXT is associated with all three associations, having been a force in bringing them together, and already collaborated on a number of pan-European projects.

Lastly, and not least, CONTEXT is looking forward to hosting its annual IFA dinner with clients and partners – the opportunity to hear the latest CONTEXT research on Smart Home and Immersive technology, will be delivered in a delightful Berlin venue, providing a great opportunity to relax, meet up and network.

by AS

 

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