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The automated home is a mess

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Comments (9)
  1. Kenyon Cremin says:

    They will have to keep pouring money in, because I just see this market as very limited right now. It's fun for technically oriented people, but novices are not going to be on-board with home automation until it offers something beyond fun, setting thermostat schedules, and turning on the lights. Right now, it's like the smart watch market. I love my Apple Watch, but only so many will spend $400 on a watch that only does so much.

    Like I said before, there isn't real money to be made here yet. In a large building, there is a lot of money and man hours to be saved by using automation. You save energy that can result in payback of systems over time. You give maintenance staff a tool for troubleshooting issues. You give them trend data that can be used to quantify usage. You provide a single frontend that can control HVAC, energy usage, lighting, fire, and security, cutting training time and costs. None of those things apply in most homes today. There is only so much savings to be had in areas where the price of electricity is reasonable. There is little added convenience in turning on the lights and setting the thermostat when you can do that by walking across the room. The end devices are too expensive and the programming still too complex to get to the scale required to make a profit.

    So, while I agree that Amazon will draw a lot of users, to me, Apple still has an opportunity to lock in a large chunk of their users. Whoever can make it easiest to implement without help has a shot at getting "normal users" to adopt the earliest. But no one is going to make any real money or market share in this venture for several years.

  2. Rahsaan Murray says:

    I believe that Amazon is going to dominate. They don't care how many millions they lose getting there.

    They will win because they have created a product that people love. It's not just about getting your lights to go on or off–that's old news. I can program my cable anywhere on my phone. So what? The Echo is fun. It's a UI that people have embraced and once they've experienced it, they don't want to go back.

    You are totally right when you say that Amazon only works with "Amazon-enabled apps." But a massive campaign has been going on for some years to create a tidal wave of Amazon-enabled stuff.

    I have Google searches running for the Echo and for Apple Homekit. Try it. There is a constant stream of new services that Alexa tech is connected to and features that it offers; Ford Cars, Frigidaire Refrigerators, Uber, Spotify, Domino's Pizza, etc. Don't forget that Apple is a closed system that will never work with an Android or a pre-Siri iPhone. Amazon is not just simply open, they are spending serious dough on aggressive outreach.

    It's going to take years and years, but Jeff Bezos plays the long game in everything he does.. Expect to see thousands of connections to popular web services and machines of all kinds. Expect to see millions of Echo-type devices sold. Expect to see dozens of devices that have Alexa tech built in for no extra charge–like the Tap, which costs the same as similar portable bluetooth speakers.

    There will always be other players, but I believe Amazon will eventually dominate, just as they currently dominate so many of the markets they are in.

  3. Mr. Christophe Greenfelder I says:

    Google are steadily locking down their Android, which is designed around advertising. They already know when you are where. Apple love everything Apple, and make money from phones and iTunes. Amazon just want to make money from people buying stuff on their Web. Just look at the suggestions they provide whenever you look on their site.. The common user wants something cheap they can show Off, so probably don't care how much data they are giving away every time they use a home automation product. Even if that personal data is the cost, it isn't hard earned cash.
    I do hope the commercial sector moves into the home market. But I can't see they have the will, or the support when someone who shouldn't be left in charge of a light switch rings to ask why their thermostat has been changed.
    There will be footballers and others with mega money who will pay architects and installers to fit and support their stuff – it has been going on for many years.

  4. Karlee Krajcik says:

    The article misses what's really going on. Different standards are annoying but not the end of the world. The key to it all is the software message queue/hub joining all this together – that is already in place with IFTTT.

    I'm a little concerned that IFTTT is the only player leading the way currently so they have a bit of a monopoly which may be a problem at some point in the future. But they're good at what they do – connecting together connected things.

  5. Dr. Kaycee Daniel I says:

    Unfortunate that not a single mention of the REAL mess. Privacy and Security are the real issue, and as so many of these IoT articles, sadly left unaddressed.

  6. Dr. Clifford Smith DVM says:

    So basically the manufacturers are so greedy that they're preventing themselves from making money. Hilarious.

  7. Alexandra Waters says:

    IFTTT is nice, but it is like using Duplos as opposed to Legos in comparison to tools available to integrators in my field. It is very, very limited. Until the power that is available in industrial systems is distilled down into something usable for home automation (even if it is cloud based), what consumers can do will be severely hamstrung.

  8. Jared Rippin says:

    I have spent the last 15 years working as a programmer and project manager in industrial and commercial building automation, and continue to be disappointed by the path of the home market. This industry solved these problems over a decade ago and is solidly moving along with open devices that use as many as 4 different open protocols available to use with any modern system, regardless of the vendor.

    Why is the home automation market struggling? Money. That's the only reason. There hasn't been enough money to be made in this market for the major established players to move into it until recently. Systems like the ones from the vendor we represent (Schneider Electric) have focused on the small office/small business/hotel/church market as tech has gotten cheaper, rather than the home. The home market is still very chaotic, but more importantly, consumers are CHEAP. They don't want to pay for the programming that is still required to make integrations work. Cloud services and AI will get there eventually, but the dirty little secret that Google, Apple, and Amazon don't want to admit is that it isn't there yet. They are using the early adopters as beta testers, and are charging plenty of the privledge.

    The big commercial and industrial players are starting to make moves, though. Honeywell has probably been the most aggressive, but they already had some history of Thermoststs geared toward the home. Schneider, for example, just bought the WiserAir smart stat (very feature comparible with the Nest, but with Zigbee and HomeKit compatibility added) and rolled it out as a home product that also works with its Zigbee and EnOcean compatible SmartStruxure Lite small buildings platform.

    The other issue with Money is the greed of the companies who are all trying to own the home automation market. They are all blinded by the dream of owning the market. That will never happen. One of these companies will get smart and take a more open approach (right now, Amazon looks the most promising in this regard), and will end up forcing everyone else's hand. Tridium did this in commercial and industrial 20 years ago, and despite their relatively small size, their approach changed the entire industry. It forced every major player to at least adopt open standards and to make controllers that used the same standards. This was a huge shift away from proprietary systems, but it was required as the market quickly changed. That's all it will take to change home automation, as well.

    What will be really funny is if any of these tech companies think they will be able to come into the commercial and industrial markets and compete after establishing a foothold in the home. This market isn't like the early corporate cellphone situations, and I sn't full of Blackberries and Nokias. I'm not a big fan of Honeywell (although they were smart enough to buy Tridium but keep them open and independent), but if Apple, Google, and Amazon think they can show up and push Johnson, Siemens, and Schneider around, they will likely be very disappointed. Again, our market has already built a better wheel. They are only re-building it so they can lock it down and slap a patent on it.

  9. Mr. Austin McCullough says:

    Good point. Since the Target hack, contractors in this industry have been under a microscope that we never had to deal with previously, except maybe in military or medical work.

    In the industrial and commercial world, we have the luxury of piggy-backing on existing networks and as long as we don't do anything that compromises them. Even when systems are accessible offsite, they are usually behind a firewall and accessed via a secure VPN with 2 Factor.

    Unfortunately, ordinary folks at home can't usually afford that, and even if they could, wouldn't know how to implement it. An inexpensive but highly secure firewall/VPN solution for home automation would be a really killer device that would help fix this problem.

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