Into A Decade Of Connected Homes

We are now in the decade of the connected home. By the end of this decade, at least 45 million smart meters will be rolled out across the UK, at approximately 2 per home, which will be able to send readings back to the utility provider on an ongoing basis. In parallel, the majority of TV Sets will have a direct Ethernet connection and/or receive signals via the Internet. Music and movies will be piped in via tools like Spotify, now available on Sonos, and Lovefilm, via Amazon. More and more people will have the option of working from home using cloud based services, and of course the number of social connectivity options enabled by the internet will also keep going up. But the biggest impact may well be in healthcare where increasingly, patients and carers will be provided solutions to monitor and care for themselves at home, with data once again going back to the doctors and medical professionals. Ancillary areas such as home security and education will create markets of their own. And finally, there will be the need to control & manage the connected home, so home automation products will make giant strides.

Let’s look at a few recent developments that will tell their own story. In Michigan, US, Holland Home, the telehealth solution offered to patients at no extra cost provides care at home and has reduced the rate of re-hospitalization by 50% among the sickest patients. No data is reported, so this could well be 2 versus 4, but that doesn’t detract from the obvious value.

M2M (machine to machine) communications has been galloping forward with Intel & Vodafone the latest partnership looking to put atom chips into household devices. According to this article, Deutsche Telecom and France Telecom are working on cross border M2M issues. There might be quibbles about Wi-Fi or WiMax but the general idea is that you can drop a product (such as a weighing machine) into any territory/ home and it will find and connect to a network, if it exists. Of course anyone with interest in this.

On the energy management front, a lot of the interest is of course on smart grids as much as smart homes. Home Control Systems provider – Control4 – is providing energy management and communication systems through utility providers as well as in partnership with Cisco, who own equity in Control4.

Increasingly, for hobbyists and even those with a bit of enthusiasm, there are ever increasing options to have control over the home (audio, video, lighting & heating) at one’s fingertips. Simple home automation projects using your mobile phone, such as this, can be easily managed by the lay user.

Which might make you wonder why, one of the leading providers of smart meters, Landis + Gyr is looking for buyers. With $1.3 billion revenues and 5000 people, Landis+Gyr are well placed to exploit the global explosion in smart meters. Part of the answer is the need for growth capital coupled with the weakness of the IPO market, as this article suggests.

Which reminds me, something I’ve not quite understood, is why Philips closed the Pronto product line. Evolving from the remote control to somewhere close to a tablet, I had thought they were well placed to push on with a tablet of their own. The product had a lot of fans and any number of home automation and home-technology companies were using it already as a controller. They will all shift to the iPad of course, as many already had, but one can’t help that it was an opportunity missed, for Philips.

Especially when you consider the dramatic explosion of tablets in this year’s CES – everybody, from HP, to Motorola and from HTC to Allessi (an Italian Kitchen products company) has their own tablet computers now.

ThinkPLANK are in the process of producing a paper on the Connected Home in the UK, working closely with Intellect and with 10 selected partners (BBC, Sky, BT, CEDIA, Intel, Motorola, Huawei, Qualcomm, SES Astra and Sony). The report looks at market acceleration for the connected home market in the UK and evaluates policy and industry requirements to move the market forward in the fastest possible manner.  The paper is due to be published at the end of Q1, 2011. Watch this space.

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