It's billed as the Internet of Things, but users want integrated solutions, not piecemeal devices for their smart homes.
As more equipment and appliances gain connectivity capabilities, the need for simple connectivity or a one-stop source for all smart-home services -- from attachment to integration to troubleshooting -- becomes more critical for widespread consumer acceptance. Today, though, only 18% of individuals associate the concepts of ease and comfort with IoT, according to "Things Matter," a recently published study conducted for Telefónica by Accenture and Ipsos.
This perception comes from the plethora of smart home hubs that don't interoperate, confusion over whether devices will work together, communication problems from poor or underpowered WiFi and other hurdles that taint enthusiasm for smart homes. Others include data privacy and security, as users worry about who owns the information all these devices generate and possibly store.
Indeed, without coordination between different vendors' platforms almost 40% of IoT potential remains unused, wrote Vinod Singh, project manager at Experiences.Digital.
Some access network vendors are looking to change this with the upcoming arrival of software that sits atop multiple vendors' IoT offerings; in the case of Calix's EXOS, it creates a native container framework within the vendor's customer premise equipment (CPE) that then communicates with smart-home vendors' equipment. (See Calix's EXOS OS Integrates Smart Homes.) Platform vendors and other developers also want to address this challenge, and some service providers are stepping into this opportunity. More fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), advances in Gfast and DOCSIS 3.1 standards translate into more access networks capable of powering smart homes.
Technological steps like this are important: After all, if consumers cannot set up a new connected device within 20 minutes, they'll return it, wrote Neil Lakomiak, business development manager at UL Building and Life Safety Technologies.
Simple deployment and integration are not enough, however. Operators are well situated to deliver the full gamut of necessary services, including high-quality WiFi, device and data security, cloud storage and technical support. Whether offered via internal resources or through partnerships, service providers can build on their existing residential relationships if they deliver an Internet of Solutions to consumers.
Within the growing security segment of IoT, telcos have lost share, claiming 8% market share in the fourth quarter of 2016 versus 9% in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 10% in the same period of 2014, according to Parks Associates. Cable operators fared slightly better, seeing share stay steady at 13% in the last quarter of both 2016 and 2015, down from 14% in the same timeframe of 2014, the research firm found. Security companies were the biggest winners, garnering 77% in the last two years compared with 73% in 2014.
Rather than focusing on a service such as security or entertainment, if operators deliver bundled, holistic smart-home solutions that leverage their network relationships, they can provide customers with the Internet of Integrated Solutions -- something many consumers want to plug into, but currently cannot.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.