Home automation: a guide to the smart home market

Home Automation: A Guide To The Smart Home Market

Everything you need to know about the home automation market, including national, regional and global growth rates, barriers to mass adoption, key players and the lowdown on the latest smart home devices and systems. embedded content Home automation: an introduction Home automation has come a long way since the 1960s when British racing driver Stirling Moss fitted his newly built House of the Future in London s Mayfair with the latest gadgets. The extension of commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) controls into the residential market alongside smart lighting and security solutions has since revolutionised how home owners interact with domestic systems and appliances through an expanding combination of hardware, communication protocols and electronic interfaces.

Certainly, the use in domestic environments of IP cameras, motion detection hardware, door opening sensors and remote controls has surged, though from a low base. The ubiquity of wireless networks using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and to a lesser extent ZigBee and Z-Wave in the home has also helped. They have provided the communications channel that devices, sensors and back-end software systems need to transmit, store and analyse the information collected. embedded content Security accounts for most demand among smart home users, with sales of connected cameras and remotely controlled door and window locks driving much usage. But the volume and diversity of deployments and applications is diverse, including connected white goods appliances (fridges, cookers, washing machines etc) alongside audio devices and entertainment hubs, lighting and heating controls, pet and baby monitors, and even products designed to automate the watering and monitoring of plant growth. Developments elsewhere may also have a galvanising affect, particularly the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) which is forecast to connect over devices by 2020. This vast network of interlinked monitors, sensors, computers, controllers, switches and other industrial and consumer gadgets will collect and analyse information from systems as diverse as manufacturing, retail, transportation, automotive and agriculture. The considerable efforts being put into driving the IoT market by the likes of Cisco, Intel, IBM, Microsoft and other heavyweight information communications technology (ICT) companies will inevitably help to push home automation systems (a form of consumer IoT) into the spotlight. Challenges and barriers to mass adoption But while there is a strong feeling that the home automation industry stands on the brink of mass market adoption, significant barriers to its further development remain.

The lack of interoperability between so many different devices, protocols, networks and applications continues to undermine user confidence, for example. Home owners also find systems difficult to use, a problem exacerbated by those incompatibility issues and a general lack of familiarity with home automation in general. Though they have steadily fallen in price, home automation devices remain expensive and are likely to remain so until their popularity reaches a tipping point that will persuade large scale manufacturers to drive down costs further by producing equipment in higher volumes. Long device replacement cycles push suppliers to charge a premium for current deployments and make it difficult for them to build profitable businesses based on recurring revenue streams one reason why many seek to push consumers into managed services contracts wherever possible. Housebuilders are building smart heating controls and thermostats into new homes designed to give residents greater control over their energy costs, but retrofits on older properties remain more difficult and expensive and a thriving DIY market makes it difficult for professional installers to compete. The potential for cyber security breaches to cause disruption is finally starting to be recognised, if not necessarily addressed. But the biggest barrier is the technological fragmentation of the smart home ecosystem that involves so many different types of devices, networks and software systems, and needs them all to work together to deliver value to the house owner. embedded content Market adoption rates One analyst firm has gone so far as to predict that sales of home automation hardware, software and services will exceed US$78bn by 2022, with more conservative estimates forecasting US$20.78bn by 2020. As ever with analyst forecasts, there can be discrepancies of definition that tend to skew the numbers one way or another however, though research firm Gartner has predicted that the average home could contain as many as 500 smart devices by 2022.

Much of that turnover will continue to be driven by the larger population base of the US and China, followed by Japan ahead of Europe and the UK which are collectively yet to show the same levels of enthusiasm. Figures from Statista suggest that the number of smart homes in the US will grow from 4.6m households in 2015 to 24.5m by 2020 for example, compared to 400,000 growing to 3.3m in Japan and 300,000 increasing to 2.1m in China over the same period. Statista calculates Germany to be the single largest European market, with 300,000 smart homes last year growing to 2.4m by 2020 compared to 200,000 in the UK increasing to 1.5m in the same period. embedded content Key players in the smart home Research published by CBInsights earlier this year suggests that a lot of venture capitalist funding is going into home automation start-ups such as Nest Labs. These now fight for market share alongside established industrial automation companies which have moved into the home automation space (Honeywell International, GE, Legrand, Siemens, ABB and United Technologies Corporation, for example) but also home automation specialists such as Crestron Electronics, Savant and Control4. Technology giants such as Samsung, Google and Amazon are also coming to the fore, having spied parallel opportunities for mobile apps, devices and operating systems alongside information processing platforms that they can exploit. Flagship home automation products to date include the Nest smart home thermostats and cameras, Sonos music systems, GE s Z-Wave components and Samsung SmartThings Hub.

Amazon s Echo and Google s Home voice activated smarthubs are also driving usage by delivering Internet connected, multimedia gadgets that can also be used to control smart thermostats and other devices.

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