Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

Home Automation: The next step in Connected Tech

The underlying aim of all tech giants, and the basic fundamental of technology as a whole, is to make things convenient for the end user. Earlier, this aim used to be limited to basic everyday functionalities and communication, but with the rapid progress of technology in recent times, the aim has been modified to cater to more requirements.

So much so, that modifications and innovations are now being carried out on all kinds of devices. I’ve already spoken about the wide gamut of devices in my articles on wearables , connected cars and smart TVs. I’ve also given a generalised overview of the entire concept in my article on IoTs.

But here, I delve deep into the world of home automation. Smart homes, and what constitutes the relevant sectors. Who are the biggest players, and what does the M2M sector hold in the future? In this particular piece, I talk extensively on this concept, with particular emphasis on Google’s Nest, Apple’s Homekit, and the M2M market.

SMART HOMES : A GROWTH IN INTEREST?

Over the past few years, there has been an increased interest in the IoT sectors. This has in turn led to lots of developments in devices, in order to equip them and make them a part of the IoT.

These developments can be categorised into four main sectors – namely the automotive sector, consumer sector, generic business and vertical business. And unsurprisingly, the largest rise in number of bases installed has been in the consumer sector, with a figure of 1.8 billion units in 2013 rising to 2.244 billion units in 2014. At the current rate of growth, it is estimated that it will grow to 13.17 billion units in 2020.

emberify_iot_units_installed_by_category
(Data Source : Statista)

 

Moreover, a lot can be fathomed from the spike in interest from the search trends. I’ve taken three terms into account, and the graph for ‘smart home’ speaks for itself.

 

EASING INTO THE BASICS : COMPONENTS

Prima facie, it is easy to distinguish what goes into making a home ‘smart’ : electronics connected to the internet, with application support on the various mobile/tablet platforms.

But let’s go a level deeper into the constituent categories of a smart home.

A smart home can be classified into the following components:

 ENERGY MANAGEMENT AND CLIMATE CONTROL SYSTEMS,

HOME APPLIANCES,

HEALTHCARE AND ASSISTED LIVING SYSTEMS,

SECURITY AND ACCESS CONTROL SYSTEMS,

AUDIO-VISUAL AND ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEMS,

LIGHTING, WINDOW AND APPLIANCE CONTROL SYSTEMS

Expanding upon these would portray a true picture as to how relevant smart home systems can actually be in today’s day and age.

Energy management would imply selective control of the power supply. This would in turn be related to lighting control and also the appliance control systems.

According to a study conducted by My Alarm Center, the average electricity bill of an everyday household comes to about $110 each month, or $1320 per year. Heating and cooling systems contribute a major chunk to this figure (about 56%), while appliances and lighting together constitute another 30%.

With home automation, there is an improved control on all the appliances, and ergo the energy expenditure drops considerably, with estimates pointing at savings of upto $198 per year.

Now, that’s just the savings aspect. With home automation also comes the option of prolonging device life. A simple example : lightbulbs last 20 times longer if they’re dimmed by 50%. Now, with home automation controls – involving sensors and/or manual controls, the device life can truly be extended.

Finally, there’s the whole IoT concept all over again. With devices such as the Amazon Echo, Google’s Nest and Apple’s Homekit systems, we are heading towards an era when devices within our homes are becoming smarter to the point of being contextually aware.

GOOGLE’S NEST AND APPLE’S HOMEKIT

Now back in January 2014, Google acquired Nest, and this move heralded the company’s foray into the home automation sector. Nest was primarily into making thermostats and smoke detectors, but with more companies showing interest in the acquisition, one can expect more home automation products to come out from Google.

The Nest aims at collecting data and studying it extensively, in order to come up with solutions and customisations suited to the user’s liking.

Coming to Apple now, back in WWDC 2014, they had announced their Homekit system – which basically aimed at connecting home appliances to smart devices. Homekit comes associated with the biggest names in the home automation sector – Philips, Haier, Texas Instruments and Honeywell stand out in particular. Homekit will also leverage Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which Apple phones support, to deliver hub-less home automation.

All in all, the biggest players in the technology sector are gearing up for making their presence felt in the home automation sector, and that says quite a bit about the scenario that is to come in the near future.

M2M INDUSTRY STATISTICS

When we talk about connected devices, or the Internet of Things, we are referring to one aspect in particular – Machine to Machine Interaction. With the advent of technology and communication systems, M2M communication has expanded beyond a one-to-one communication to a more diverse system of networks, which can transmit data to personal applicances – which has been the crux of my article here.

Here are a few interesting statistics to consider:

• A statistic from 2013 showed that there were almost 195 million M2M connections worldwide, which has increased manifold from its previous statistic of 75 million in 2010. The regions constituting the M2M connections are depicted in the following chart.

emberify_m2m_connections_region_wise_stats
(Data Source : Statista)

• The  M2M  industry had a size of around 45 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, and is forecast to reach 200 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, at a CAGR of 18 percent. Of the revenue forecast for 2018, some 8 billion will be generated in the healthcare segment and a further 7.1 billion U.S. dollars in the manufacturing industry. (Source : Statista)

• According to Juniper Research, nearly 80% of total Smart Home service revenues will come from entertainment services. With the improvement in connection speeds, service providers are now able to offer greater volumes of content, delivered with increasing convenience.

This growth has also been enhanced by the emergence of high-profile OTT (Over-The-Top) content providers such as Netflix, LOVEFiLM and Amazon Instant Video, while demand is being further fuelled by mass adoption of connected TVs and Smart TVs.

• Zooming into the regions now, we consider North and South Americas. For 2020, the smart home market revenue in the Americas is projected to grow to 22.4 billion U.S. dollars up from 7.19 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, at a CAGR of 17.62 percent. (Source : Statista)

emberify_smart_home_market_in_north_and_south_america
(Data Source : Statista)

 

• In Europe, the installed home automation systems had a figure of 1.75 million in 2013. It has been projected that the number of these systems will reach more than 17 million by 2017. (Source : Statista)

• In North America, the revenue from installed home automation systems was $3.28 billion, while the number of home automation systems stood at 8.43 million units in 2014. These figures are expected to grow to $9.4 billion and 31.4 million units respectively in 2017.

emberify_north_american_smart_home_market_revenue_units
(Data Source : Statista)

 

CLOSING COMMENTS

Home automation is definitely going to be the defining factor as far as connected devices and Internet of Things is concerned. It will be quite interesting to see home appliance manufacturers adapting to the changing landscapes in order to come up with devices which will be more contextually aware and smart.

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