Uncategorized April 2, 2014

Smart Times Ahead for Homes

Recent reports forecast that smart home automation will turn into a $19 trillion industry in the ensuing years, led by Google’s recent $3.2 billion investment in Nest Labs, creators of smart thermostats and smoke detectors. The Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant joins a number of other big industry players such as Honeywell (HON) and Microsoft (MSFT) as well as a slew of startups that are already betting this market will take off in the near future. A connected home by today’s standards is one that can be rewired so household appliances such as refrigerators, light fixtures, security systems and thermostats communicate to the homeowner via a mobile app, enabling the user to manage household operations from afar.

The 21st-century house doesn’t have a “Star Trek” food replicator or George Jetson’s robot maid just yet, but “smart-home” technology available today can text you if there’s a break-in or scold toddlers who get too close to the hot tub. Smart-home systems start at around $2,000 and top out at more than $1 million, offering homeowners remote-controlled lighting, window shades, swimming pools, door locks, thermostats and security cameras –  not to mention cutting-edge sound systems and home theaters. The latest trend involves tying your smart home into an Apple iPhone or other smart device, letting you unlock the door for the plumber or check security cameras from halfway around the globe.


Today’s smart homes typically include:

One central system that allows you to press a single button and get lights in multiple rooms to dim, brighten or turn on or off for supper, movie night or other daily activities. You can even program in your home’s longitude and latitude so the system knows exactly when sunrise and sunset occur throughout the year, turning lights on or off accordingly.
Computerized thermostats that let you turn the heat or air conditioning on when you’re heading home from the office or an out-of-town trip. These systems can also shut off the heat or air if someone accidentally leaves a door to the outside open.
Pool and spa controls that let you crank up the water temperature via your iPhone when you’re out for the evening, allowing you to swim comfortably when you return.
Burglar alarms that call your smartphone if there’s an intruder, allowing you to view remotely whatever your security cameras are seeing.
Customers can also augment basic systems with everything from 20-foot video screens to in-home discos that turn on with the touch of a single button.

The industry still needs a turnkey product – think of what the very first iPhone did for the smartphone industry – that can take these already existing home automation systems and repackage them in such a way that the consumer can’t live without them. Warren, the lead innovator at one of the largest home automation companies in North America, says the industry is ready to accept that challenge. He believes connected homes will reach smartphone penetration (about 60%) from a paltry 1% today not too far in the future. Google, Siemens (SI), Lowe’s (LOW), AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), even Staples (SPLS), are all betting this market takes off.