In recent years there have been three options for connecting devices to each other and to the web. Each has its benefits.
- Wi-Fi for big bandwidth applications like video, graphics, gaming, and communications. However, Wi-Fi requires a lot of power.
- Bluetooth works well on batteries, but is best-suited for short-range applications like health monitoring, headphones and personal-area networks.
- For networking the entire home—connecting a bunch of sensors to each other as well as to actuators and remote controls—ZigBee is best. ZigBee is power-efficient and can operate via energy-harvesting as well as batteries. In some cases, ZigBee-powered devices can run for a decade without having to be replaced.
The big challenge is interoperability. In the last few years, many major tech companies have started competing to see which will be THE smart-home company. They have developed and launched a number of competing and non-interoperable connectivity technologies that don’t talk to each other. As a result, it is risky for a consumer to try and install a system that uses components from various manufacturers.
This challenge opens the door to third-party service providers who, by their size, can select a specific technology upon which to structure their rollout. Many companies are already moving into this space, especially those that are already providing services to the home and possess both a billing arrangement and hardware. These include cable/internet providers and security companies. However, major retailers are also looking to provide services, as are utility, insurance and health-management companies. There's revenue here. Lots of it.
They all want to be Smart Home as a Service (SHaaS) companies, which manage the complexities of the smart home in return for a monthly fee. And, naturally, they want access to all of the data regarding how you use your home.
Countless surveys and studies (here’s one example) indicate that consumers want smart products and services in their homes. And they prefer bundled services that work together, rather than stand-alone connected devices.
Companies developing solutions for the smart home—SHaaS companies—need to be aware of these trends in this growing market. In addition to creating the products and maintaining the services, these companies need to develop relationships with the new crop of smart-home service providers.
Cees Links is the founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies, a Smart Home and IoT radio communications semi-conductor company, now part of Qorvo.
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