FEATURES - Connected Home Supplement
August 10, 2015

Where We Live: The Connected Home is the Face of the IoT

For those of us working on the IoT every day, the industry is a bit of a hydra. One big data body, with dozens of vertical heads feeding it with supply chain logistics, semiconductor development, cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, driverless cars and telematics, utilities and all of the other parts of what makes the IoT so important.

To consumers and the mass media, the IoT is only visible in one place: their homes. Smart thermostats, security systems, lights, voice controls and the rest are the way that folks can understand what we’re all doing here. And we’re not doing a great job of communicating that. Most consumers don’t even know the terms, and many are skeptical about what are perceived and inflated costs, with not enough reward.

Argus Insights recently issued a new report that indicated the connected home market has dropped from a year ago, and it puts the blame on ease of use. We should all see this as a red flag, because without consumer buy-in, the IoT will never reach the critical mass it needs to meet the optimistic projections made by Gartner and others of the next decade.

Nest and Dropcam are doing a good job of giving folks easy-to-use solutions that tie to familiar controls via smartphone apps, but we all need to think about more plug-and-play. Let’s not get bogged down in doom and gloom though. There is hope. The smartest minds in technology and systems development are in this IoT room, and it is time to understand that we can make it work better.

Security is a big point of interest for consumers, so let’s work on making that, and privacy, a big part of the story. And don’t forget user-friendliness. Tools like NFC and BLE can make controls automatic, instead of a chore.

Technology should be invisible, and even more so IoT technology.

“Consumers are not seeing the value yet from these home automation devices,” said John Feland, CEO and founder, Argus Insights. “There is a lot of confusion about standards with Google introducing Brillo and Apple’s new HomeKit. Add in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-Wave, and there is a lot for any consumer to grapple with during installation. Until things become easier and consumers don’t have to cobble together a total solution, I believe we will continue to see this stagnation continuing for the rest or 2015 unless a new offering addresses these issues and revitalizes the market.”

We will be exploring all of the issues at the upcoming IoT Evolution Expo running Aug. 17 through 20 in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace. For more information, visit IoTEvolutionExpo.com.

Consumer Expectations: Fully Connected Homes This Year


The time for the connected home is now, and there isn’t any time to waste.

Homes are getting more and more hooked up, with lights, thermostats and security systems leading the way, but developers aren’t predicting fully connected homes to become a mass market phenomenon for quite some time. Nonetheless, a ThroughTek study released on June 11 indicates that consumers are expecting just that, despite a reality that is very much to the contrary.

The “2015 Internet of Challenges Report” about consumer adoption of IoT technology reports that one third of Americans believe that fully connected homes are possible before the end of 2015. Sixty percent of folks surveyed were on board within the next five years. Energy efficiency driven from IoT technology is what is attractive to about 60 percent of respondents.

However, the study says, that to get to widespread IoT adoption, two major obstacles must be overcome: cost and security. A large percentage of consumers, almost 90 percent, said they are unwilling to pay more than $250 for a connected device, and nearly a third reported anxiety about lack of security for personal data.

“Full IoT adoption is no longer a loose possibility within American homes. It’s a reality that will come to fruition in the near future,” said Daniel Collins, chief data officer, ThroughTek. “Concerns regarding cost and cyber security are to be expected. However, benefits such as improving home energy efficiency will begin to outrank skepticism – especially as IoT adoption continues to become more widely implemented.”

Another interesting finding was that consumers are concerned about connected devices becoming obsolete or out of date, while the technical complexity is no concern at all for 84 percent of consumers.

“We’re greatly anticipating how consumers will respond to the benefits that a fully connected home will provide – especially as their anxieties are addressed through IoT advancements,” said Collins. “As devices continue to emerge within the market, IoT adoption within the home will become the norm.”

We need to move fast now folks.

To learn about how the connected home needs to be built, make sure you hit the IoT Evolution Expo, coming up Aug. 17 to 20 in Las Vegas. For more information, visit IoTEvolutionExpo.com.

Why Security Needs to be Priority in the IoT


It seems that everywhere we look, more home devices and appliances are receiving smart functionality. Today, consumers can buy refrigerators that will email them when certain items run low, smoke alarms that will text them when they detect smoke, and cameras that will stream videos of pets, or even intruders, as they move from room to room.

The conveniences of a smart home are undeniable. But each amenity we add to our homes comes at a cost – and too often that cost is paid in terms of security. Each smart device we add to a home is equivalent to adding another door or window. Without the proper embedded security within the device, the lock is nonexistent.

It’s so easy to connect things to the Internet these days, but the harsh reality is that smart devices can be dumb when it comes to security. Anyone with a little more than basic understanding of computers can gain access to a home network and any devices connected to it. Symantec recently reviewed the security controls of 50 different connected devices, including many home devices like smart thermostats, locks, light bulbs, smoke detectors, energy management devices, and smart hubs.

The results were sobering. The reviewers found that not only is security lacking across the board, but that in some cases security was completely nonexistent. One out of five devices did not encrypt its communications, and many did not lock out attackers after a certain number of password attempts. This should be a wake-up call to the industry and is a harbinger of government action.

The FTC just announced that it will have further oversight of the industry by introducing the creation of a new Bureau of Consumer Protection division called the Office of Technology Research and Investigation. This group will be tasked to oversee everything smart device related, from Apple Pay to Nest.

This is a welcome step – but let’s be honest, it’s a finger in the dam. The speed of oversight is no match for the velocity at which new devices are launched – and the speed at which security flaws are identified and exploited. The smart home security problem needs to be solved at the device and system level. Companies need to design devices and cloud architectures with security in mind from the start – not as an afterthought. It isn’t enough to have a security consultant offer insight at the end of the design process.

Instead, security experts need to have the same credibility and respect that the industry gives UX gurus and software developers. Security teams need to be given a full seat at the table throughout the entire design and build process. After all, what is the real net benefit of a refrigerator that can text you when you run low on milk if it’s also the gateway that allows a hacker entrance into your home network and access to your entire digital life?

The amazing thing about this is that fixing the problem is easy when the right attention is devoted by the right people. While some companies will have to redesign some of their systems to be more secure, these are changes that can happen in months rather than years. If the smart device industry woke up, took this threat seriously, and adopted industry-wide encryption standards, this might not even be an issue a year from now.

Without such steps, we will see exponential growth in breaches, hacks, and attacks on personal networks through seemingly smart devices. Security should not be an afterthought of smart device design, but the foundation.

Dip Patel is CEO and co-founder of Ecovent

Cybersecurity at Home: It’s Time to Move – Fast


Over the last decade, home environments have gotten more digitally advanced and now, many are progressing into communication-rich living spaces. As a result of this growth, consumers are getting a host of new smart products and opportunities for experiences, including in energy management, interactive home devices, connected appliances, and real-time security solutions.

And that is great, except that all this connectivity has left an open door for security risks.

The Continental Automated Buildings Association is out to prove what it already knows: that the power of the connected home industry is huge. And despite the consumer concerns about security, CABA members think it’s only beginning to gain momentum.

“Connected homes are prime examples of innovative applications of technology that usher in new convenience for consumers,” said Ronald J. Zimmer, president and CEO, CABA. “Industry, however, has acknowledged that associated with such convenience is risk.”

To investigate the risks and potential rewards in the connected home market, CABA has commissioned a study from Frost & Sullivan to investigate the issue of cybersecurity in the context of connected homes and the risks and susceptibilities associated with them. The goal of the analysis is to create an understanding of the magnitude of cyber threats and how they can be managed and eliminated, while figuring out how to solve the challenges of adopting and implementing security measures.

This study is a key step to understanding how to fix these problems and establish consumer confidence.

“Although meant to enable connected experiences, allowing third parties open access to home networks exposes both the consumer as well as the service providers to the potential vulnerabilities of cyberspace,” said Konkana Khaund, principal consultant for energy and environment, Frost & Sullivan. “Collaborative research projects like these, supported by industry participants, establish the fact that cyber threats to the connected home are indeed being taken seriously by such participants.”

But the study only goes so far. It’s also time to take proactive steps, and that’s what Novatel Wireless is doing, with the help of AT&T. Novatel is creating a platform designed specifically to work within the control and automation market, and AT&T has given it the OK to operate on its cellular networks. The series, known as SA 1100, will present customers with opportunities to create differentiated services that drive business growth, beginning with the home security solutions market.

Home security alarms and automation systems will be easier to install because this system will make it simpler to send smart home appliance communications through one touch point, via Wi-Fi and Z-Wave protocols. This is the kind of active step that every connected home developer can take to ease consumer concerns and drive adoption. Look for more such solutions at the IoT Evolution Expo, Aug. 17 to 20 in Las Vegas. For more information, visit IoTEvolutionExpo.com.

Use Your Tools


There are many M2M tools in the toolbox for developers to emulate and improve upon. And the best ones will help get consumers excited. A recently released report that surveyed the smart lighting industry indicates that the last 18 months has been huge for the space, and opened opportunities for expansion in several areas of the vertical. The study was compiled by ReportsnReports.com, an online market research reports library. Many of the changes are coming about because of the cool factor, according the report.

Smart lighting systems have historically been sold as the newest versions of traditional lighting systems. In the last year and a half, smart lighting has become a cool electronic product, and the report sets itself the goal of determining whether this shift is creating new smart lighting markets.

Now, that’s great news. It means that consumer mindset might be shifting away from thinking these smart bulbs are just expensive toys. The research forecasts 36 percent annual growth for the lighting market until 2018, and indicates that energy-efficiency is a key contributor to the growth. Along those same lines, we find the growing popularity of smart meters, like Nest. Homeowners care about how much electricity they’re using, not just because of the expense, but also because of climate change concerns.

According to ABI Research’s “Smart Metering Devices and Services Update” study, which came out of the firm’s M2M and IoT research division, the worldwide installed user base of smart meters will reach 780 million by 2020. Now, much of that growth is going to be due to mass rollouts in China, where there were almost 210 million units installed by the end of 2014, and the Asia-Pacific region will account for almost 65 percent of the predicted 2020 total, but that doesn’t leave Europe or the Americas out. In fact, seeing that kind of growth will help bolster more hesitant consumers with proven cases.

“In Europe, nationwide rollouts in E.U. member states are expected to drive the smart meter penetration. This will make Europe the second biggest market for smart meters by installed base,” said Adarsh Krishnan, senior analyst at ABI. “The region will overtake North America, where mass rollouts by large utilities peaked already in 2012, leaving the next wave of installations driven by smaller municipal co-operatives.”

One developer thinks that sensor output belongs not just to the makers and developers, but also to the consumers, and has rolled out a solution to make that happen. This is a huge step in the right direction. Tend, maker of a developer platform incorporated by Kodak and other major brands, has set itself the mission of bringing IoT innovation into the service economy.

Tend is promoting the idea of vision-as-a-service as it applies to the company’s connected video cameras, which have been built into baby monitors, security systems, and other home video applications. “Once you have a service, which should be application-centric, and a customer asks for something, you can find a way to do it,” said Herman Yau, CEO, Tend. “We’re incorporating vision technology with our emotion recognition engine so we can help customers make more informed decisions.”

Tend sees itself as a cloud services company that happens to provide hardware and software within its vertical expertise. Other technology developers within the IoT would be wise to look at this kind of model, Yau said. “Products are turning into services,” he said. “You create something, and then you turn around and continue to add services and features to it.”

Voice, too, has a place in making connected things more accessible for consumers to control. Siri for Apple, Google Now, and Microsoft’s Cortana keep getting more and more sophisticated and every day more people rely upon them to control their mobile devices. It is almost inevitable that smart homes will at some point be programmed to respond to commands for lights, HVAC system adjustments, and other key M2M functions.

Amazon’s Echo is a powerful and simple voice solution. A wake up command gives access to a variety of controls, but it can only do what is available through the Amazon Web Services ecosystem. SPLICE Software has created what it calls a Dialogue Suite of products that allow IoT developers to leverage an API to produce voice-controlled devices for many different applications, both inside and out of the smart home.

Tara Kelly, CEO, SPLICE Software, said, “Voice controls really make sense in home, car, and retail environments, where ambient noise is at a minimum.” Although many IoT solutions are designed with mobile device controls for monitoring sensors or issuing commands for control services, voice can feel more natural if it’s executed well. “I think speech is better. But, it all comes from context: Use the right mechanism in the right context,” Kelly said. “Voice is currently the easiest way for us to communicate.”

We need to start putting our tools to work to build concrete, accessible solutions for consumers. They need to understand what we’re doing here, and the connected home is where we can talk to them. Want to learn more about how, or teach your colleagues how you’re doing it? Make sure you attend IoT Evolution Expo, which will be held Aug. 17 to 20 at Caesars in Las Vegas. For more information visit IoTEvolutionExpo.com.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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