The Smart Home: Are we there yet? By Anna Nadolna
Following our latest Connected Devices SIG, Anna Nadolna shares insight into connectivity shaping the future of IoT and industry innovation in smart homes.
The concept of a smart house has always struck me as the one that either out-smarts people and takes control (too much sci-fi/AI goes AWOL flicks I suppose), malfunctions and traps them inside (more probable scenario) or its capabilities are reduced to light dimming functions. But once the smart home became part of the Internet of Things debate I had to revisit my assumptions.
The Connected Devices SIG event (21st April) – built around the theme ‘The Smart Home – Third time lucky!’ – featured talks from Dipak Raval of Cambridge Consultants, Norman Niven of ProtelHealth, Derek Roddy of Climote, Mark Wharton of Iotic–Labs, Jeff McKeown of Semtech, Marius Munder of Telegesis (on behalf of ZigBee Alliance) and Rick Walker of CSR, spanning low power, low cost wireless technologies, indoor location, semantic web tech, solutions (LoRa™ technology) and standards (ZigBee 3.0, Bluetooth® Smart Mesh).
The delegates had a rare opportunity to check out some of Cambridge Consultants’ (event host and sponsor) developments displayed in the networking area, including DropTag®DRIVE and other products based on their new digital service platform, Cradle. There was also a special treat for all wireless tech fans – the Oculus Rift headset demonstrating capabilities of the over-the-air radio performance test facility – Satimo Stargate 64.
The main discussion took an interesting turn when Norman Niven of ProtelHealth started deconstructing the “smart” notion and comparing its occurrence in Daily Mail to Black Tuesday (“you know it’s over when the bellhop in your hotel starts talking about share tips”). “Smart is no longer clever, it’s the fastest and most cost-effective way to the consumer market”, he argued, emphasising the need to “stop our addiction to funding”. “Consumer-led commercialization of ideas is the future”, he concluded shifting the focus to a ROI-oriented and pragmatic approach to tech innovations.
The event’s topics moved from the much hyped wearables towards a wider angle of APIs (API based exchange and integration to enterprise based applications), sensors and connectivity, examining the condition of today’s smart technology and IoT reality, to which the route seems to be solely based on “specific services” like Wink, “Nest, Sonos, Fibit, Apple TV/ Chromecast and so on. This is, one might say, a little more like apps than like the web – with Home Depot as the app store” (Benedict Evans, Internet of Things).
Questions were raised about consolidation and interoperability during the Panel Session – “Are we still stuck with non-interoperable apps?”, “How do we get the silo talking?” – with a strong suggestion to actually add a question mark to the event’s topic “The Smart Home – Third time lucky?” There was a general consensus that we have to be “open and creative about data” and a “hunch that companies that share will succeed” (we will see lots of mashups soon), but “we’re not there yet”. “The real game changer would be the company that figures out how to give smart meters away for free and tie in some kind of contract”, concluded Derek Roddy of Climote, a smart heating, home technology company. “That’s when you see scale, Sky does it.”
I guess there are no shortcuts and the Internet of Things reality is still dispersed. “The full vision of the IoT will become a reality when these billions of end devices can securely and intelligently connect and interoperate, and can simply and securely accessed by application developers without silos based on vertical markets, services or deployments” (ARM). In the meantime, I’ll consider backing the Hook: Home Automation on a Budget project on Kickstarter and remotely control and/or dim my house lights for peanuts.
About The Author
Anna Nadolna is Events and Marketing Executive at CW
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