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Bouygues Telecom: “Digital home technology needs to be invisible”

Yves Caseau, Bouygues Telecom

Yves Caseau, EVP at Bouygues Telecom

Yves Caseau, Executive Vice-President at Bouygues Telecom, on the large revenue streams which will eventually come from digital home services, the importance of “calm computing”, and his vision for a Maslow’s Pyramid of digital home needs.

Yves will be speaking at this year’s TV Connect show, the world’s leading event for connected entertainment, which takes place in London on 19-21 March. For more information and to register, please visit www.tvconnectevent.com

How big do you believe the market is for digital home services?

It is an emerging market, which will take some time to grow. Short term, our experience tells us it is a small market with few early adopters and “vertical” apps. There is not enough critical mass of usage scenario to produce a virtuous “viral growth”.

Mid-term, when a number of barriers are down (simplicity, usability, cost), the market will get bigger in size but not yet in value. We expect small revenues until we can educate our customers and demonstrate significant value for them.

This will happen eventually – hence we see a large market in the long run – when we combine two streams of revenue: a sum of small apps dedicated to providing better comfort and efficiency to our “digital lives”, and a revenue share from B2B2C services such as health, energy management or security.

The first stream requires an “Appstore model” to emerge. The second stream means that the digital home platform is attractive enough to aggregate services that exist today in a stand-alone manner, such as security.

What role might telcos play, and what are their biggest obstacles?

I believe telcos will play three major roles:

  • Build an integration platform and foster the associated development ecosystem. Telcos are well positioned to bring a home service integration platform, as long as they adapt the standards and the open culture of the Web. The pillars of a platform approach is to provide technology interoperability and to build and share proximity to the end-customer – one might think of Facebook as a good instance. Telcos have developed customer relationships, together with the tools to build personalised, adaptive, learning experiences.
  • Host local apps (computing) on our existing hardware (boxes). Although most of the digital live services will run on the cloud and on the connected devices, there is a need for a “cloud proxy” in the home, that is a computing/store resources that is local, for safety, efficiency and resilience purposes. The operators are well positioned to build and manage this home server, as long as they provide their partner with open hosting standards and the appropriate revenue/cost share model.
  • Digital home services cover multiple boundaries, from home automation, communication and entertainment. The telco operators have built their own infrastructure from the telecommunication and entertainment needs. They are not credible, nor should they, to replace existing actors in the home management / security / automation fields, but they can expand the perimeter of digital home services by bringing their own capabilities to this open platform.

How can the experience be made more seamless for consumers?

We know from the principles of “calm computing” developed in the 90s that pervasive computing services should be invisible, self-adaptive and kept under easy control. Digital home services definitely fall into this category.

The technology needs to be invisible, we must use machine learning to let the system learn from the user and not the opposite. Lastly, our customers fear the “big brother effect” and they need to be in control, with the ability to disable “smart” or automated behaviour at all time.

To make the experience more seamless, the first step is to iron out the interoperability hassles. We need to grow open de facto standards, following the Internet culture. There also needs to be a huge focus on usability and user experience design.

There is no simple and short answer on how to design a seamless experience… Designing with a pragmatic and clear vision of the value that is provided to the customer is a start (where is the pain point?). Then, obviously, co-design with a lot of on-site experimentation is a must.

What is your vision for digital home services from Bouygues?

Our plan to to go one step at a time through the learning curve that represents a “Maslow Pyramid” for the digital home service needs. The first layer is connected objects that bring a clear benefit to our customers, such as the WiFi-enabled home weighing scales from Withings.

The second step is to implement a “home service bus” that makes all these objects connected to one another. This simplifies control and open a path for simple value-addition scenario. The third step is to build the digital home as a “computing platform”, like a huge smartphone.

This is necessary to introduce “mash-up” services that leverage all the connected capacities from the house. The fourth step is to open this platform through API and rule engines, to benefit from the “long tail” effect. There are no killer apps and very few blockbusters.

On the other hand, there are many comfort and efficiency apps that may be built through an open development ecosystem. The last step is to bring learning and big data into the picture, to deliver “smartness” (automatic adaptation to the customer behaviour) through apps.

Our thinking is that one cannot move too fast through the steps: it takes time to grow an ecosystem and it takes time to educate the market. Each step has its own logic and brings its own value to our customers. They need to get stabilised before we can move to the next step (because setting up an ecosystem requires a critical mass to attract partners).

Our model is to install each step with a simple promise to bring immediate value, through a few user scenarios, and to design a viral growth model through usage. The installation (first purchase) act is motivated by a short list of simple benefits. The true value is experienced through repetitive usage and brings the customer to extend their “system of connected objects” within their home.

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