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Content, not Energy can make 2011 the Year of the Connected Home

15

connected-home-media

CES was an amazing experience for me this year.  I can’t help but get giddy with excitement like a kid on Christmas morning as I see the latest and greatest in technology innovations and imagine this upcoming year as we look forward just one week into it!  To me, it is easy to predict that 2011 is going to be a huge year across a multitude of platforms and niches.  I believe that tablets and the Operating Systems (OS) that power them will be a major battlefield in the upcoming months, especially after having the opportunity to play around with Blackberry Playbook and Blackberry 6.0.  Yes, it’s going to be a good year!

Perhaps I am biased, but there sure seems to be an even more intense buildup of excitement around the concept of the “Connected Home”. Not only could you find this particular buzzword plastered all over CES this year, but you can see the trend in the products that are coming to market.  From Audio & Video products to Energy Monitoring & Control products to devices and systems used to control both categories, it’s all here!  Better yet, the technology is finally prevalent enough to be affordable to the general public!

While the genre of the Connected Home (also known as Home Automation) has been around for well over a decade, it has, until recently, been more of a playground for the rich and well-to-do DIYers out there.  As technology innovations increased, the momentum of growth finally allowed for mass adaptation and combined with competition from other manufacturers, the prices of all this awesome technology is finally within reach of the general population.

So now what?

The technology is here, in abundance, and the prices are affordable for the average consumer to start implementing the technology to create a Connected Home.  Do we have all of the necessary pieces in place to make 2011 the year of the Connected Home?  There are many out there who would say yes, though for different reasons as it seems that those singing the praises of the Connected Home are split between two categories of “controllable” systems.  Those created to control and monitor our Energy consumption, and those systems created to provide us with Entertainment or, more technically, Content.

Energy

Many of the “Connected Home” and Home System Integration professionals advocate Energy (and thereby money) savings with the introduction of smart technology in the home that gives the home owner much greater control over how the power within the home is consumed.  We now have unprecedented access to the data behind our energy consumption and with systems like Control4 and others, we have the ability to control how that energy is utilized by using intelligent systems to control and even monitor the health of appliances within our home.

There is no doubt that saving money is important; whether we are in tough economic times or not, no one wants to give the utility company any more money than they have to.  Beyond saving money, the most important thing is to save our planet’s resources and lessen the footprint that we as humans have left on our planet.  It is just responsible behavior for all of us to be more attentive to the energy we consume in our homes these days!

The problem is this:  saving money and saving the environment is (unfortunately) just not that exciting to most people.  Those reasons are just not motivating enough to cause the vast majority of people to want to invest in the infrastructure and equipment needed to create their own Connected Home, and if the reasons are not motivating enough then we can easily come to the conclusion that 2011 will NOT be the Year of the Connected Home.

No…we need something different.  Something that will get people excited about the concept of home system integration, something they want to spend their money  on because the value is easy to see.  We need something… Sexy.

Content

Content is Sexy! Give me a second and I will explain.  See, people love their entertainment:  they love to watch TV from their cable / satellite provider,  they like to rent / buy DVD and Blu-ray disks to watch on their home theater in surround sound.  They like to stream that movie they haven’t seen in years not only where they want it, but when they want it!!   The same thing goes for Music, and Pictures, and heck…even Facebook!  Giving people access to their content when and where they want is a great way to get people to stop and listen to the explanation of what living in a Connected Home is really all about.

The truth is that people are getting used to an “always connected” world with information, contact with others, and lots of entertainment at their fingertips.  This is the type of passion that needs to be tapped into!  This is the type of stuff that motivates people to consider the Connected Home!

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The key to making 2011 the Year of the Connected Home

The Key to making 2011 the Year of the Connected Home is very simple:

Raise Awareness

I think this is the most positive and effective way of “manifesting” a huge year for the Connected Home in 2011.   From my experience, most people do not truly understand what the concept of a “connected” home means.  I believe that even those who are even fairly well versed in Home Technology don’t have a complete understanding of the broad range of options available to them!  (I was humbled at CES by the number of brands I had never heard of!)  The great thing about Home System Integration is that there are any number of ways to implement this or that technology.  Raising the awareness of the general population about what “Home System Integration” (or, alternatively “Connected Home”) is a major goal of this website in the first place.  My goal is to share my vision of the Connected Home with as many people as I can,  but imagine if some of the major players got involved, the people who actually can drive the direction that their company takes with marketing to this growing market!  Imagine how much faster we can educate people on the Connected Home with these companies actively working that angle!

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On Saturday at CES, there was a panel discussion on the “Home Entertainment and Lifestyle Technologies” track that was entitled “2011: Year of the Connected Home?” The panel had key members of the industry represented, to include:

Christopher Albano – Senior Director – CPE and Home Networking, Comcast – Office of the CTO
Dan Marotta – Executive Vice President and General Manager, Broadband Communications Group
David McCalpin – General Manager, Home Energy Management, General Electric
Neil McPhail – Senior Vice President & GM, NBS-CSG, Best Buy Co., Inc.
Will West – CEO, Control4

The esteemed panel were all in agreement on one thing, that 2011 is going to be a big year for the industry, although there was some hesitation on whether 2011 is going to be THE year for the Connected Home or not.  Interestingly, the conversation kept going back to the Energy side of the argument, as opposed to using Content as a focus for growth this year to the chagrin of at least two of the panel members.  As the focus continued to remain on the Energy argument, the “time line” for Connected Home adaptation seemed to be a lot harder to nail down and it certainly seemed to put 2011 out of the running to be THE year.

There was one quote I believe that was made by Neil McPhail of Best Buy that summed it all up very nicely.  He said basically that “until the user experience exceeds the complexity and cost, nothing much will happen”. The reason this quote is so poignant to me is because of his use of the word “experience” and the words’ easy correlation with using content as the catalyst for igniting the Connected Home revolution!  People will remember a content based “experience” much longer than the experience of saving money on their electric bill each month.  Again, this in no way diminishes the importance of saving energy, it’s just human nature to be drawn towards pleasure even over the desire to avoid “pain at the pump”.

In Conclusion

Since we know that we can already support the bandwidth requirements, and although energy is a very important topic; streaming content is what really gets people excited and interested in the technology needed for a Connected Home It seems then, that raising awareness and educating the general public about the capabilities of a Connected Home from the content and entertainment perspective is the key to making 2011 THE year. Integration of the Energy control and monitoring technologies then becomes an easy sell because the infrastructure is already in place and the “Connected Home” concept already proven viable!

2011 can be the year that the Connected Home takes off!  I believe that if we focus on creating the Integrated Home around a Content and Streaming Media based marketing platform as opposed to Energy, that we will have a larger segment of the population interested in implementing the needed technologies in their homes and the growth will increase exponentially faster.

What are your thoughts?  Is 2011 the year for the Connected Home?  Can it be with the right factors involved?  Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment!

Tom

[Jetson's image thanks to Hannah Barbera, thx to Yahoo and CES for pics]

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About the Author

Tom AbellPut simply, Tom loves technology! Having been involved in the IT world since leaving the US Navy Submarine Force in 1992, Tom has moved his way up to the top as an IT Systems Engineering. But having spent some time in the Home Automation industry early in his career, he’s never been able to shake his love for creating integrated Home Technology environments and has been running HTPCs and Windows Home Servers for years. With 17 years of IT Systems Engineering experience, Tom's recent OIF 08-09 deployment has rekindled his love for the Connected Home Industry and hence, the website. We hope you like the site, please share it with your friends and follow us on your favorite Social Networks! Read more about Tom on the "About Us" page.View all posts by Tom Abell

  1. Avocation Systems
    Avocation Systems01-10-2011

    Interesting take on the "connected home" future. You're right – seems like people aren't talking too much about content.

    • Tom Abell
      Tom Abell01-10-2011

      Hey there, appreciate the comments. People ARE talking about content, and a lot. Much of CES was content driven. The problem is that trying to sell the "connected home" via an energy argument as opposed to showing them what they can do with their content. They'll get a lot more excited about the content! Thanks again!

      • Cem
        Cem01-20-2011

        Well I think the same Connected Home system has to service both scenarios.
        Was there also a discussion on infrastructural costs?
        Still bus systems to control, regulate and steer the infrastucture are not that expensive, but the attached switches for lights etc. are.
        I think experience on one hand is the main driver, but costs on proprietary systems will be as well for a long time.
        Very good article and glad I read it, because I couldn't make it to the CES this year.

        • Tom Abell
          Tom Abell01-20-2011

          Thank you so much for the comment, I appreciate it! I agree wholeheartedly that the connected home needs to service both sides (content vs energy), in fact it's not much of a connected home if both aren't integrated. But I think that the infrastructure, cabling within homes as well as the pipes that feed neighborhoods, is pretty much there now. Many (if not most?) new homes are built with Ethernet throughout. You are right, the switches are expensive, but on the energy side, isn't more about the long term savings? Yes, you have to pay a bit more up front, but not only are you saving money, but you are saving the planet as well. Thanks again for the comment. Tom

  2. Bjarne Hadland
    Bjarne Hadland01-24-2011

    hi Tom, thanks for your enthusiasm and interest to share your views. I am one of these consumers that have realized the fun part not only the necessary part of a smart home. I am coming from the energy side of this equation, not the content, why?
    I have two homes, one in Europe and one in US (San Diego), and I started a complete rebuilding process on my home in Europe three yers ago, …and two years down the line I discovered that the HA technology was there (wireless), the prices were acceptable and I could justify the investment due to significant cost savings on reduced cable installations.
    However, the important and fun part of this is the control of the home using the combination of the web, iPhone and touch panels (iPad), wow that was the key trigger to me!

  3. Bjarne Hadland
    Bjarne Hadland01-24-2011

    I am very pleased with the system (Moeller), owned by Eaton, and they are the market leader in Europe. I use the home as a vacation home, and spend less than two months per year there. I am able to control entire house from my iPhone, the energy consumption taking into effect the outside temp, smoke and motion detectors that help me keep the house safe and insurance low, opening up doors automatically when my friends or professional vendors need access to the house. The house has always an ideal temp to prevent damage to the interior like furnitues etc.

    Now I have a complete HA installed, however except the other part, the entertainment system. Yes I have a WI-FI directly connected to the HA system, but the problem is that I have not found a partner that can help me to find a solution whereby the entire entertainment suite will be wireless! I hate proprietaty boxes that gets out of fassion even before it is installed. When this guy or company comes along that can offer a complete wireless solution based on open standards, I will definately invest!

  4. bjarne hadland
    bjarne hadland01-24-2011

    I live in Switzerland, and the main telecom provider here offers phone services, Internet services, and International TV services through a wireless Wi-Fi router. I even use wireless transmitters/receivers between the router and the different TV units that I have installed in various rooms without any cabeling.
    I asked Time Warner in San Diego if they provide such a solution!….and they were astonished that Switzerland could offer a system as I have described!

    I am now planning a total HA in our San Diego home this year, and yes I will only consider a wireless infrastructure!

    Anyway, I agree that 2011 is the year that quite a few early adoptors will not only consider but buy a HA due to user experience and engagement. In US, I agree that the entertainment part of the equation will be the key trigger!

    I wish you all the best!

    • Tom Abell
      Tom Abell01-24-2011

      Thank you so much Bjarne! I appreciate your perspective and please do not misinterpret my article for not believing that Energy is the most important aspect of the Connected Home. I'm just saying that the way to get people really interested is (sadly) the entertainment factor in my opinion. I just think that people are more easily motivated by fun than they are by necessity, as necessary as necessity is! ;) I'll bet that a wireless solution is very close, if not already in the works. Thanks again for the great comments! Tom

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