Well ahead of his enticing appearance at The Digital Home World Summit 2014 (3-4th June 2014, Mövenpick, Berlin), IP&TV News talks to Erik Bussé, Program Manager ‘Internet of Things,’ Belgacom…
IP&TV News: Can you give us a sense of the most cutting edge new home control services?
Erik Bussé: Personally, I have been impressed by solutions that combine several existing vertical services into a new richer service. A nice example is the use case in which a person comes home from work in the evening, which causes a number of actions to be triggered: temperature of the house is increased, lights are switched on, music starts playing and on the TV screen you get an overview of the most important facts of the day, including a list of people that were at your door, the new e-mails, the headlines of the day.
Is there a dominant trend you are able to detect among the more popular and interesting innovations?
I notice that several solution providers look into combining the digital home with Big Data solutions like gathering all kinds of medical and health information (blood pressure, heart beat, oxygen level, etc.) which is sent to the cloud where it is analysed and compared with global data. Based on the result of the analysis, you will be advised to see a doctor or the doctor gets a regular report on your medical condition.
What new needs are the new connected home services able to address?
The needs that are addressed most are still comfort and peace of mind services. People want to be sure everything is OK with their health, their children and their parents, their house and their computers and smartphones.
The next topic that might be addressed is the reduction of the government cost related to elderly care. The Digital Home services will allow people to stay longer at their own house or apartment as their doctor and children will be able to take care of them remotely. And even when they go to an elderly home later on, digital home services will make the live of the nurses and doctors easier.
What major advances have there been in the area of security and surveillance for consumers?
For a long time, security services have been affordable only for the wealthy people and for some geeks. Today, a large majority can already afford a basic security surveillance solution. For a few hundred Euros you can find a nice starters package and for a small recurring monthly fee you can be informed constantly on the situation at home. Several of my friends and colleagues are using their surveillance system actively, not really as a security system but rather to be sure their kids got home safely from school. Before, the kids needed to send an SMS when they got home safely (which they sometimes forgot), today, the SMS is sent automatically when they open the door.
What are the main obstacles to consumer adoption of all these services?
According to me, there are a few important ones.
First of all, the fact that there is no standard solution. This makes it on one hand hard for a service provider to decide which kind of solution to invest in and to offer to their customers. On the other hand, this makes it also hard for the customer to choose the best option. It is not obvious to start fixing all kinds of sensors to your doors and windows if you are not sure that the solution is future proof and that you will still be able to find additional sensors within a few years from now.
A second reason I see is the fact that it all sounds still too complex for a majority of the people. They are afraid that they will not be able to install everything themselves and that they need to look for the help of (expensive) experts.
A third reason is linked to the fact that customers just aren’t aware that this kind of services exists. Almost none of the major services providers have invested heavily in educating the market, probably as it is not so obvious to communicate in an easy way about the different solutions. And even if you are able as a service provider to get the customers to your shop, you still need about one hour per customer to explain and demo the different solutions, which is not that obvious.
How can these obstacles be overcome? How can the customers’ awareness and interest be increased?
For sure, standardisation and interoperability will help. Service operators will certainly be willing to invest more in above the line communication if they are convinced their solution is future proof. Something what could work also is having a kind of low cost teaser offering. Suppose you could give a potential customer a door sensor for free which he could than easily pair with one of his existing boxes (modem, router, TV decoder) and finally configure via the web to test the service for free during a few months. This might convince him to invest in a more complex solution, including a dedicated battery-powered 4G service box.
To what degree to you think the connected home will remain a privilege of the (at least) relatively affluent, and to what extent do you expect it to become ubiquitous, in the way smart phones are?
I am convinced that within 5 to 10 years, almost every newly built house will be, in one way or another, a connected home. Not only because people are very interested in peace of mind and comfort solutions but also because there will be a strong push from service operators (telco, electricity, gas) to get into the house of the customer.
Looking forward five years, and using as much imagination as you like, what do you expect the “average” connected home to look like?
I expect the average new house will have sensors connected to doors and windows, a doorbell with a camera, wireless light switches smoothly integrated in a smartphone app.
Apart from the smart phone, the TV screen will become the portal to all digital home solutions. I expect even that appliances like refrigerators and washing machines will become connected. This will enable preventive maintenance but also will allow customers to be informed that it is time to empty the dishwasher or to warn them that the temperature in the fridge is getting to high because someone left the door open. This way, there will always be a nice cold beer waiting for you!