I attended the Connected Home panel discussion at GSMA Mobility Live in Atlanta today.
- Moderator: Jefferson Wang, Senior Partner, IBB Consulting
- Ashwin Karuhatty, Business Development, Smart Home, Amazon Alexa
- Darren Ford, COO, Artificial Solutions
- Joe Wytanis, Senior Director, Business Development, Flex
- Bill Keen, VP, Mobile Solutions, Digital Guest Experience & Applied Discovery, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)
- Joel Evans, Co-Founder and VP Cloud & Mobile Transformation, Mobiquity
The panel first addressed the obvious and compelling reasons why “Smart Home” devices are becoming more popular:
- Energy Savings
- Convenience & Customer Experience
But the majority of the panel discussion centered around the several inhibitors to adoption and how the industry is overcoming them.
Inhibitors to Connected Home:
Interoperability and integration
Interoperability is a major inhibitor (Joe Wytanis, Flex)
“Our model for connected home is that when you plug in any device, it should recognize all the other connected devices in the home and work together in logical ways.” -Ashwin Karuhatty, Amazon Alexa
Price point vs. Monetization / Business Model
The value that end consumers see for things like a smart lock, versus a regular lock – do consumers really see the benefit when price point is still pretty high? (Joe Wytanis, Flex)
Hardware prices are going down so margins are shrinking. So if prices go down, how to companies monetize this space?
For us, it’s in the experience layer. We believe if we provide a better experience, you’ll pay a premium for our hotel. Layering smart home into our hotel rooms changes the way we deliver service. We looked at the questions that people were constantly calling our front desk about, and we built those into Amazon Alexa into the rooms. (Bill Keen, IHG)
Home builders are looking at the smart home as a requisite feature as more milenials are aging and beginning to buy homes. Smart home devices used to be a luxury, an add-on cost. Now home builders can more cost-effectively integrate smart home technology into their homes to differentiate themselves from other home builders. Connected Home is going to be a base level expectation for new homes. But overall, I don’t think the various industries have even had a chance to think through the plethora of opportunities for monetization. There are many and will be many. (Ashwin Karuhatty, Amazon Alexa)
Insurance companies have an obvious incentive to invest in smart home technology for their customers, or to provide a discount to their customers who are using smart home devices for things like carbon monoxide, water leakage or other damage and disaster sensors. (Joe Wytanis, Flex)
Voice as a user interface
Voice will make it easier to use. Connected home has always been around – 30+ years, but has always been reserved for the affluent and/or the technologically advanced consumer. With the Internet of Things and tech enhancements, the cost of building the devices is starting to come down. If an average consumer wants to connect their home, it’s becoming more affordable.
“We believe voice is going to change the way all of us interact with connected devices inside and outside the home.” – Ashwin Karuhatty, Business Development, Smart Home, Amazon Alexa
When many people think about connected home, they see many panels, buttons and devices and feel it’s too complicated. But now with voice, such as Amazon Alexa, you can just control the environment more easily by telling Alexa what to do. Voice adds that simplicity where now you don’t feel it’s a complicated effort to have a connected home. (Ashwin Karuhatty)
“There is a tidal wave of interest in voice-enabled products.” – Joe Wytanis, Senior Director, Business Development, Flex
I think voice is the future, but not the only way of interacting. You’re not going to get rid of touching glass, and the big thing that will happen – look at Viv being acquired by Samsung. When you think about voice interaction, Siri had some issues with responding properly, and Alexa was an improvement and allowed developers to expand on the voice interaction, and now Viv is Siri to the next level, so as a human, I can start really having the interactions with my Echo/Alexa that I want to have, by saying “It’s cold in here” and Alexa should say “would you like me to turn up the heat?” (Joel Evans, Mobiquity)
“The ultimate interface is primarily voice-driven but with the ability to introduce some kind of GUI aspect as well.” – Darren Ford, Artificial Solutions
We store customer preferences ahead of time so when you show up in the hotel room, your profile preferences are saved and used ahead of time (temperature, lighting, etc.) (Bill Keen, Intercontinental Hotels Group).
“Machine language and natural language understanding and voice recognition wasn’t good decades ago. 99% accuracy is where we are today with Alexa. That’s a game-changer, and that’s why you see voice changing everything. At the end of the day, it’s not just about voice. It’s about making the experience meaningful for users.” -Ashwin Karuhatty, Amazon Alexa
Devices as a Replacement
Connected Home devices used to be a supplement and not a replacement. New lamp instead of replacing the overhead lamp. But now these devices are starting to see connected devices replacing things. Wemo switches replace existing. The big question is do I invest and replace everything in my home or just do it one by one? (Darren Ford, Artificial Solutions)
Ease of Use
Consumers afraid that these tools are for limited individuals at the house. Does the technology pass the “wife test” where my husband or wife can easily understand and use the technology too? (Darren Ford) Right now, these devices are for enthusiasts and not simplistic, end-to-end solution from network to device to operating system. Things like the Echo where voice is removing the friction will enhance ease of use and make it simple for the masses (Bill Keen, Intercontinental Hotels Group)
Travel can be a disorienting experience. Your house is different because you know where everything is. You end up digging around for plugs and switches and thermostat to find things. We want to make your travel arrival experience non-disorienting and we want our customers to feel relaxed when they arrive. But we want to make it simple for them, simplifying the interface, and that’s why I’m a big fan of natural language voice recognition and understanding intent. (Bill Keen, Intercontinental Hotels)
If you have to send an engineer to every home that wants to install a door knob, it won’t scale. But to scale, there has to be an appropriate support channel. If you can provide the same level of ease of interaction in support with pre-charging, self-diagnostics and personalization, that will ease scale. (Darren Ford, Artificial Solutions)
“The devices and technology we use are only as good as the quality of experience they create.” – Ashwin Karuhatty, Amazon Alexa
Security and Hacking
The advice is to keep your devices up to date in terms of the latest software, and keep your network up to date. This is going to be a real problem moving forward. (Darren Ford)
Devices in the home are now on the internet and available to hack into. Firewalls, updated software and ensuring there are things in place to prevent hacking are important. Hacking and security has been an issue since the computer was invented but from a home perspective, safety and security is paramount. (Ashwin Karuhatty, Amazon Alexa)