It’s starting to feel a lot like the Jetsons inside the walls of the Consumer Electronics Show! The Connected Home has been a hot area for years, but the more futuristic aspects haven’t really caught on with consumers in a big way. Will this year, with the next evolution of the connected home, finally parlay into a day-to-day reality for consumers?
One thing we know for sure…mobile is at the center of the Connected Home…smartphone app integration makes your phone a remote control or command center to make your home environment exactly the way you want it, at any time, from anywhere. And homes are not only more connected, but they’re smarter. Near-field communication (NFC) and sensor-technology make household living more automated, intuitive and “connected” in a way that makes previously separate household functions play well together.
Some of the more exciting developments in this space, and a glimpse of what the Home of the Future might look like, include…
Ever drive home and wonder if you are out of milk? Calling home to ask someone to check is so inconvenient, right? Well, the next generation of appliances is designed to take convenience and efficiency to a whole new level. For example, LG’s line of Smart appliances (oven, refrigerator, washing machine, and vacuum cleaner) use smart control technology, including NFC, for a variety of functions with just a simple tap of an NFC-enabled smartphone on the fridge or oven or from a wi-fi connection anywhere else to trigger a remote smart experience. This can include monitoring the fridge’s inventory from a smartphone in your car to tell you if it’s time to hit the store on your way home. The fridge can even suggest recipes based on its actual contents and “talk” to the oven to start pre-heating for that recipe. I’m not sure that I want my life THIS automated, especially given the time it would take to log every item bought at the grocery store, but it’s a step in the right direction to make our day-to-day lives easier.
Although consumer convenience took center stage at CES this year, smarter appliances also mean being smart grid-ready so that those appliances or HVAC systems can “talk” to the grid to find the off-peak times to, say, run the washer or crank up the heat in your home.
The Next Generation of Home Automation Systems
Remote control of household functions like HVAC, LED lighting, locking doors, etc., have been around for a while but those functions, for the most part, haven’t been integrated into one app….Nexia Home Intelligence, Belkin’s WeMo, and many others are rolling out integrated home intelligence systems, but Lowe’s Iris, announced at CES this year, leverages Lowe’s connections with the hundreds of manufactures of products for an app that controls a wide variety of elements in your home through a single, unified system. This goes well beyond HVAC and lighting functions. The Iris system includes remote control of the lawn sprinkler system and even a “smart” pet door that tells you know your pet’s whereabouts.
Taking the home automation one step further is the idea of creating different environmental “sessions” within your home that are triggered by where, phsyically, you set your smartphone. For example, with a mobile sync pad strategically placed by the bed, laying a mobile phone down on that sync pad when you go to bed would trigger the instant shifting to an environment you might desire when you go to sleep: temperature goes down, blinds close, maybe some calming music plays…or Barry White…you get the picture. This technology even works with proximity control technology so that your home instantly adjusts the environment you want prior to your arrival and as you near home…temperature goes up, door unlocks, oven pre-heats, TV turns on to the evening news. Allure Energy’s EverSense Proximity-based home management system among others offer this heightened and customized level of home comfort and control.
The Second Screen
No connected home would be complete without the icing on the cake…the connected TV. TVs are even more tricked out with gesture and voice based controls. But this year the level of synchronicity or “pairing” of mobile devices with the big screen would make any multi-tasker happy. The Panasonic Swipe and Share and Samsung’s Swipeit do exactly what they imply, bringing a second-screen experience where the TV and tablet or smartphone are simply screens and content moves seamlessly aross devices. Similar to Apple’s AirPlay technology, pictures and video are easily flipped to the big screen. In the case of the Swipe and Share, photos are even editable and re-shared.
Of course these second screen experiences most likely require a specific hardware and operating system combination to work. For example, Samsung Swipeit is not currently available for iOS in the US, so it’s important to know what ecosystem you want to adapt to your existing device configuration or adopt an entirely new one.
The over-arching theme of 2013 CES, the “Internet of Things”, truly comes to life in the area of the connected home. Clearly, the higher level of mobile and smartphone device technology and app integration finally brings the Home of the Future into focus.
So what does this all mean for marketers? While it’s easy to be seduced by new seemingly space-age gadgetry, CES and the connected home drive home the fact that consumers are living more mobilized lives and quickly untethering themselves from their PC world. The connected home with all of the screens, devices and apps present limitless opportunities to find new inventory to communicate with consumers and to navigate new ecosystems that can translate into fruitful strategic partnerships.