May 31, 2016

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Smart Homes of the Future: What Will they Look Like?

“So far we are still in very much the early-adopter phase” of the smart home, says Michael Philpott, principal analyst at Ovum, an independent analyst and consultancy firm which specialises in smart cities and home automation.

Philpott tells IFSEC Global how the industry can give home automation mass market appeal and imagines what the smart home of the future might look like – a subject he is also exploring at IFSEC International 2016, which runs between 21-23 June at ExCeL London.

Control4 security panel

A touch-screen smart home panel from Control4

IFSEC Global: What does a smart home of the future look like?

Michael Philpott: The smart home of the future will be able to think for itself and make decisions based on occupier preferences as well as a host of data from a variety of different data sources. This will include localised data such as the status of various home devices, as well as external data and information such as weather, traffic conditions etc.

The user will communicate with the smart home through a variety of devices, but the home will also react based on other factors. So for example, in the future the user won’t need to tell the smart home they are stuck in traffic and therefore delay turning on the heating/cooling system; it will just know that this is the case.

IG: How vulnerable are smart homes to cyber attack?

JH: Consumers certainly need to be aware of the risks that introducing new connected devices into their homes can bring. Many connected/smart devices today don’t have the required security to stop malicious attacks.

The consequences of this for the user can range from hackers being able to control certain devices, such as lights, to being able to access webcams, microphones and speakers. The consequence for the industry as a whole is that it holds the market back as consumers are not confident in the devices’ security and therefore prefer not to install them in the first place.

Larger smart home players such as AT&T and Deutsche Telekom as well as vendors such as Philips are trying to differentiate their smart-home ecosystems around the level of security they provide. However, it is an area that the industry will need to continue to invest in if smart homes are to remain safe homes.

IG: What other challenges does the industry face?

JH:  Probably the biggest challenge is simply trying to convince the mass market of the value of the smart home. So far we are still in very much the early-adopter phase. To enter the mass market the industry needs to produce solutions that bring true value, are flexible enough to meet the needs of every household, are safe and secure and are easy to install and use.

IG: What are the benefits of smart home/connectivity?

JH: To be honest no one really knows what the use cases of the smart home of the future will be. Every home is different and people will use such technology in a variety of ways. All the industry can do is create solutions that enable such use cases to be created and used.

IG: What are the most popular smart home products? Why do you think these in particular are the most popular?

JH: Today the most popular products are around home security and smart energy. This is because they meet basic needs, i.e. to feel safe in our homes and have energy (in the most efficient way) to heat our homes, cook, provide lighting etc.

Not every household of course feels the requirement to install smart home technology to meet these basic needs, but at least they are products consumers can understand and relate to and there is a certain proportion of households that are willing to spend money on them. The challenge now, as discussed above, is to expand out into wider consumer segments.

IG: What will your session at IFSEC be about? Who should attend and why?

JH: My session at IFSEC is on how the industry can expand the smart home opportunity beyond professional home security. What are the other options around home security/home safety and how can security service providers expand into other smart home segments. I also talk about the big challenges i discuss above, and how other players are trying to innovate to get around such barriers.

Michael Philpott will be speaking on this topic at IFSEC International 2016, which takes place between 21-23 June at ExCeL London. Smart homes of the future: an assessment of the prospects for home automation will run between 11:00-11:30 in the Smart Theatre on Tue 21 June, followed immediately afterwards by a Q&A and meet & greet with speaker Michael Philpott.

IFSEC will also for the first time feature a Home Automation Zone, comprising a mock ‘smart home’ that also features products from the likes of Comnet, Merit Lilin and Control4, among others. 

Register here to attend IFSEC

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