Internet of Things

Home Automation – How New Ecosystems Are Emerging To Form Extended Home


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Has Internet of Things finally arrived at home?

Nest introduced home automation ecosystem by announcing a platform called Nest API. Nest API provides a programmable interface to its home automation devices. Apple announced earlier a platform called Apple HomeKit for home automation.

What is now happening in home automation ecosystems?

New Platforms Are Emerging in the Home Automation Arena

Several companies now provide platforms and even ecosystems for home automation:

  • Apple HomeKit: HomeKit is a framework which allows device manufacturers and software companies to connect into a home automation network. HomeKit is as of now just a framework. Companies will soon start announcing products supporting HomeKit.
  • Google Nest: Google acquired Nest in January 2014. Nest supplies a digital thermostat and a fire alarm and recently acquired Dropcam, a video monitoring system.
  • Quirky Wink: Wink has a digital dashboard for Wink-enabled devices. Several companies including GE plan to offer Wink-enabled products.
  • Samsung Smart Home: Samsung provides Smart Home service which controls selected Samsung appliances like washing machine.

These ecosystems are not too clear-cut as devices can to some extent be combined. For example, Nest devices can be controlled by iOS applications from iPhones and iPads.

Will various ecosystems live side by side? Will some of Nest’s features be limited to Android applications only? Can Android smartphones control Apple HomeKit powered devices?

Home Automation Spreads Outside To Form Extended Home

Nest’s announcement included a use case of a family member driving Mercedez-Benz. The car is connected to Nest home automation system. While approaching home, room temperature will be automatically adjusted. This example indicates that home automation extends outside the home boundary.

Extended home will become a reality.

Extended home is a similar concept as extended enterprise. Extended enterprise includes not only the organization itself but customers, business partners and other parties related to the organization.

In the same manner, extended home includes external entities. Extended home will eventually also include wearables like smartwatches and fitness devices like Jawbone UP24 which is already integrated in Nest ecosystem.

What external entities will be included in the extended home? Here are examples of third parties which already participate in automated home:

Will Home Become The Next Wild West Frontier?

Home automation will be a gold rush. Google’s acquisition of Nest and Apples’s announcement of HomeKit opened up the game in the home front. This is great news for startups and device companies, software companies and service providers. Consumerization of Internet of Things is moving forward.

Nest’s recent acquisition of Dropcam will not be the last news in this front. Established companies will buy startups and are launching startup accelerator programs:

What Choices Will You Have to Make As ‘CIO of Your Home’?

Things used to be easier, you just went to a store and took home a home entertainment system, a TV, light bulbs and a fridge. Appliances worked out of the box and you could just connect them using standard cables.

Now you have to consider how these appliances fit together and how they communicate with each other.

Suddendly home automation may bring too many choices you will have to make at home. Some of them are:

  • Platforms: Will you choose to go for one platform only? How will various ecosystems function together or do they interoperate at all? Will there be de facto standards and who will create them?
  • Networks: Will devices use WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee or some other network protocols? Do you need additional routers or firewalls?
  • Devices: Can you mix devices from different ecosystems? How mature are the devices (‘Nothing new works’)? Do you constantly need to install new software versions?
  • Device life cycle: What is the device life cycle? Can device batteries be replaced?
  • Security: How devices, networks and data are secured? How access to devices is authorized and to whom?
  • Data: Where the data collected from devices is stored? Who owns your data? Can you use devices but still opt out from the data collection by third parties?

Home automation can provide extremely useful business cases, for example to save energy and allow elderly people to live independently at home. Scary scenarios may also emerge like hacking the entire home automation system.

Answers to these questions determine how successful and widespread home automation eventually will be.

This is the first blog post in the series discussing home automation today and in the near future. Stay tuned for the upcoming posts:

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Video: Integrated devices by Nest

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