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15 Feb Home front

Security companies, tech giants and telecoms providers are all jostling for a share of the smart homes market and planning for the anticipated moment when IoT goes mass market

 

Growing awareness and acceptance of automation technology among consumers, increasing internet connectivity and a well- developed infrastructure make the GCC region an important market for companies keen to grow the smart homes sector.

‘Keen’ may be an understatement – globally major brands from Apple to Google, as well as technology developers and local providers, see the market for smart homes as a key battleground in the hoped-for explosion of the Internet-of-Things (IoT). This anticipated boom will be a source not just of recurring revenue but also of all important consumer buy-in to their brands.

Recent analysis of the US market highlights a number of barriers to growth though. Whilst connected, stand-alone devices are becoming more prevalent, according to John Greenough of Business Insider Intelligence, the market overall is currently in the ‘chasm’ of the tech adoption curve. This is the phase between early adoption and mass market take up, during which suppliers have to prove a need for their devices.

“High prices, coupled with limited consumer demand and long device replacement cycles, are three of the four top barriers preventing

the smart home market from moving from the early-adopter stage to the mass-market stage,” says the report.

But while some claims for IoT might be regarded sceptically, others make immediate sense to consumers. Fridges that monitor food consumption and tell you when items are running low or past their use- by date might not be the top of some people’s wish list for a better home life, especially if minor worries about how much cheese is in the fridge are replaced by deeper anxieties about security, complexity, software updates and increased costs. Early adopters might be keen but others will take convincing.

But security and building management functions are where smart homes make obvious sense. More connected, more user-friendly smart home security systems that communicate with the user’s phone as well as (or instead of) a professional 24/7 monitoring centre are clearly an improvement on what has gone before.

These solutions are logical advances whose benefits can be clearly understood and reduce the home-owner’s worries rather than add to them. The hope among security providers is that a system which gives easier control over a property, which can be adjusted and monitored using a smart phone and which allows ‘scenes’ to be pre-set for automated actions in different circumstances, will be of interest to both existing home security customers, and those who currently do without.

So it is in this sector, as well as in smart home energy-management, that the tussle for market share among suppliers may be keenest in the ME region. In advanced markets globally, tech companies with a strong presence and expertise in security believe they are well placed to meet consumer demand as it emerges.

For example UTC’s app-controlled (UltraSync) and wireless (ZeroWire) packages bring together intruder, video and home automation features and add the advantage of 24/7 control via the user’s mobile phone.

This solution, like a number of others on the market, uses the widely adopted Z-wave communications protocol, which is incorporated into thousands of home automation products.

It’s also easy to work with, with no on-site configuration required to establish communication with mobile phones or central stations. The engineer simply plugs in the network cable and the ZeroWire dials ‘home’ itself without the need for port forwarding.

UTC says enthusiasm among its security and fire installation company customers is important because it offers one of the fastest routes to market in a competitive field. The company makes a strong case that security providers are well placed to benefit from the growth of the smart home.

And the company is not alone in believing that the security industry stands to gain hugely if it competes seriously, quickly enough.

There may be lessons here for installers in the ME region. According to 6Wresearch, the UAE Smart Homes market is expected to grow at 14.8% from 2016 to 2022. A key driver of growth is the need for energy management systems to offset increasing prices of HVAC, a particular factor in new-builds, and security systems where there is good retrofit demand.

Leading players here include ABB, Crestron, Control4, Legrand, Honeywell, Siemens, Bosch and Tyco, as well as the big telecoms providers. The challenge and opportunity is to deliver solutions that make clear sense to consumers.

Legrand is promoting its smart home solutions in Dubai, offering domestic customers the ability to control their home’s lighting, security, appliances, thermostat and many other devices. The digital building infrastructure specialist says its users can choose to receive notifications via text message and email, and they can view security camera footage remotely when people enter or leave the protected property.

ADT Smart Home offers home owners new ways to manage their alarm systems remotely using a computer or a smartphone, giving them control wherever they may be – specific scenarios can be created to reflect lifestyle needs. This solution also provides additional devices for managing home automation, including wirelessly controllable power plugs or video cameras, enabling them to switch lights on and off, and view inside their homes.

Etisalat has partnered with Fibaro, the European manufacturer of intelligent wireless home automation systems, and D-link for cameras, to offer its customers ‘Smart Living’, which it describes as a unified

approach to home automation that integrates home monitoring, security, safety, and air conditioning management into one system that can be managed from a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Telecom operator du is working in partnership with PCCW Global to offer smart home solutions, ranging from surveillance and monitoring to entertainment automation, to its customers across the UAE. And axiom telecom now offers smart home solutions, enabling customers to monitor and manage their home, “from locking the door to switching off the light, anytime and anywhere”.

“The home network is a constantly evolving intersection of devices, applications and content that provide both convenience and confusion for consumers,” says Scott Manson, Cisco’s cyber security leader for the ME region. He told Security Middle East that “as technology continues to grow, home security systems are strengthening, and the market for advanced security systems is expanding rapidly, giving the consumer a plethora of options to choose from.” He predicts that the consumer benefits offered by smart homes will soon lead to the hoped for market growth.

“There are more advantages than disadvantages to creating a ‘smart’ home in the long term. Simple things like having lights on timers to make your home look occupied is a major deterrent to burglars. Adding some ‘smarter’ components brings more flexible control; clocks that adjust automatically for daylight saving and light level sensing to improve efficiency and react to local weather conditions. Being able to remotely monitor devices or get notifications and alerts on your Smartphone also provides peace of mind. Remote access to security cameras and captured images and video even more so.”

Smart home components installed correctly will eliminate false alarms, he points out, improving confidence in the alarm system and ensuring that real alarm events are taken seriously by neighbours and the police.

“The power to monitor occupancy and to intelligently control air- conditioning, lighting and appliances around you and your family results in huge improvements in efficiency (and convenience), resulting in large cost savings. In many cases there are obvious financial benefits but in other cases the financial reward is more subtle. A by-product of the smart home is an incredible level of convenience.”

Many are watching keenly in the hope that these benefits are about lead the smart home security market into its next, most profitable phase.

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