TREND Smart home: Intelligent living

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After a trend lasting many years, a change of direction means that the smart home could finally achieve a breakthrough. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest this.

Home life looks set to become more comfortable, efficient and safe. Everyone is talking about the smart home, but not everyone means the same thing. After all, it is not just about controlling colorful LED lights or music at home using a smartphone.

The benefits of the smart home lie in the intelligent interaction between components rather than in the ability to control individual hardware. However, this requires a common language. Naturally, people still like to do their own thing and anyone who does not want to buy everything from a single manufacturer must either tinker themselves or pay for expensive service providers. This is without doubt a reason for the still subdued growth in smart home installations.

The "biscuit tin" from Withings is a multifunctional surveillance camera with an ambient air sensor, speaker and many other features.
The “biscuit tin” from Withings is a multifunctional surveillance camera with an ambient air sensor, speaker and many other features.

Another reason is the fact that too much emphasis has been placed on technical aspects rather than the actual needs of consumers. Now, everything looks set to change. After all, the circumstances have improved significantly, with greater digital networking, demographic changes, the growing importance of people’s own homes and greater environmental awareness. At the same time, the widespread popularity of smartphones and tablets as control solutions is increasing the chances of success, especially in the volume market. Clearly, there are many reasons for positive predictions.

Green light from market researchers

The market researchers at Deloitte believe that the “smart home” market in Europe will be worth more than €4.1 billion by 2017. Gartner too expects the smart home market to grow dramatically in the next decade. The falling costs of installing sensors and communications systems in consumer products should lead to a typical family household having more than 500 smart objects in 2022.

The arrival of the big players

With figures like these, IT and energy groups are pricking up their ears. For example, Deutsche Telekom unveiled the Qivicon “smart home” platform with new partners and functions at the IFA. Music systems from Sonos, lights from Osram and washing machines from Miele can now be controlled, and garage doors and surveillance cameras are set to follow. At the energy group RWE, numerous modules can control a house’s electrical and heating systems via an app. With the help of a special radio module, the benefits of cordless smart home systems can be enjoyed even in cellars. Google, Apple and Samsung too are working on “smart” solutions.

Smart home: what do customers want?

Deloitte Smart Home 2014: Requirements, offerings and challenges according to segments
Deloitte Smart Home 2014: Requirements, offerings and challenges according to segments

For the companies, it seems clear what customers want. But do the customers themselves know what they want? According to a study carried out by Innofact AG , half of the house owners questioned said that the term “smart home” has not been defined clearly enough. Nevertheless, the willingness to purchase smart home solutions was surprisingly high. For 80 percent of those questioned, energy efficiency and security in particular play a key role. However, there is increasing demand for complete solutions installed by specialists rather than starter modules for DIY installation. Not surprisingly, this applies in particular to the “landlords” target group who are looking to enhance their properties with such systems.

According to the Deloitte study, these types of installations are performed in the luxury segment. In the volume market segment, the focus is on smart home functions which customers can install with a lower budget – in most cases retrofittable solutions with wireless transmission systems.

“Secure” change of direction

The sector is talking about a change of direction, while Samsung’s CEO refers to a “dramatic transformation” – it remains to be seen whether “mass-market” players such as Telekom, Apple, Google etc. are able to convince customers what they always wanted. With daily reports of cyber attacks and data espionage, customers may still be uncertain.

 

Smart Home RWE

The widespread popularity of smartphones and tablets as control solutions is increasing the chances of success, especially in the volume market.