The evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) is driving significant growth and opportunities in a variety of end markets segments and analysts expect the home automation market to reach $16.4B by 2019 as consumer demand for automated control and monitoring of the home continues to rise.
In today’s smart home, any number of devices and systems can be managed remotely including lighting, heating, air conditioning, security, and appliances such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers, and more. Leveraging the in-home wireless network, remote control of such systems makes it easy to know that everything is running smoothly at home, manage energy usage from anywhere and control key features of home appliances.
In these robust early stages of IoT market development, much of the product innovation is coming from startups with great ideas but challenged by staffing, funding and production capacity issues. In order to help these fledgling players grow and keep up with demand, smart home technology depends on a number of elements including a vibrant smart home ecosystem, powerful components, well-designed software and hardware platforms, and, most importantly, interoperability among devices.
The driving force behind the development and adoption of smart home appliances is the wireless connectivity that connects smart devices to the home network for anywhere, anytime control and monitoring of home appliances. Enabled by proven technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Smart, NFC, and powerline communications (PLC), efficient designs continue to reduce the processing and power requirements of smart appliances. These efficiencies, in turn, enable manufacturers to design, produce, and go to market with affordable products that encourage mass consumption.
The smart home market won’t get far with proprietary hardware that operates within a walled garden. This could likely lead to a situation where one product simply cannot interoperate with another, much to the frustration of consumers. Instead, the way to nurture the market is through the development of common industry standards for hardware and software.
In an effort to help establish a common platform for smart home systems, Apple recently introduced the Apple HomeKit at its 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference, a new common framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices. Developers who wish to develop electronic accessories for iPhone, iPad, or iPod can license the technology through membership in Apple’s MFI program.
Also nurturing the market for IoT interoperability is the recent formation of the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), an industry alliance established by several tech leaders including Atmel, Broadcom, Dell, Intel, Samsung, and Wind River to drive seamless device-to-device connectivity. The OIC is focused on defining a common communications framework based on industry standard technologies to wirelessly connect and intelligently manage the flow of information among personal computing and emerging IoT devices, regardless of form factor, operating system or service provider.
In addition to common industry standards, collaborative online forums will help to collectively solve challenges in the connected device world for developers. Online resources offering social engineering will provide a collaborative environment to share ideas and solve challenges, which will advance IoT development in general, and smart home development in particular.
But while connectivity, interoperability, and online collaboration are essential elements to spur smart home market growth, a robust broadband network is also necessary. In China, for instance, an effort known as Broadband China aims to expand broadband coverage in both rural and urban areas of the country by 2020. At the same time, China is encouraging a strong community of developers and entrepreneurs to create products for the burgeoning smart home market. According to a recent report by the China Household Electrical Appliances Association, as many as 97 percent of Chinese consumers surveyed desire more smart home appliances.
And in the smart home of tomorrow, conveniences we already enjoy can be made even better. Take the garage door opener. When a homeowner pulls into their driveway, they push a button in their car and a radio signal travels a few yards to activate the door opener. But a smart garage door opener does more. Say you’re away from home and you’re not sure whether you inadvertently left the garage door open. With the Chamberlain garage door opener with MyQ technology inside, you can operate the door via a smartphone and close or open it as needed without having to be within the short range of a conventional opener.
As major consumer electronic (CE) manufacturers such as GE, Haier, Medea, and Samsung increase the level of consumer awareness, the demand for smart appliances is on the rise. And CE makers are counting on unique connected features as a competitive differentiator. As with any emerging technology, the cost of the technology will continue to fall as it matures. As smart appliance prices continue to fall and consumer awareness gain speeds, increased demand will naturally follow.
The smart home also extends into the yard, with innovations such as the Droplet robotic sprinkler, which leverages real-time data from more than 10,000 weather stations, millions of square miles of soil samples and comprehensive plant biological information to make intelligent decisions on when, where, and how much water to deliver. This innovation leverages integrated advanced embedded processing to potentially cut household water consumption in half – a key consideration in areas experiencing extreme drought.
From smart garage door openers to smart air purifiers to smart refrigerators and smart sprinklers, the possibilities are endless for smart home innovations. But the success of the market depends on a vibrant ecosystem of powerful and efficient processors, well-designed software and hardware platforms, a capable and sufficient network, and an emphasis on interoperability. With all of that in place, consumers will soon enjoy the benefits of a smart home and all that it has to offer.
Brian Bedrosian serves as Senior Director of Embedded Wireless in the Broadband & Connectivity Group at Broadcom Corporation. In this role, he is responsible for the company’s emerging embedded Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Smart business in a variety of end market segments including audio, health care, home automation, wearables and industrial systems. Bedrosian has more than 20 years of experience in digital communications and wireless technologies including mobile satellite, microwave, radio, DSL and 802.11x. Bedrosian holds an Electrical Engineering degree from University of California, Davis.