High Stakes in Home Electronics Management

Carl Weinschenk
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It’s a bit counterintuitive to think of home networks as a key to the future of telecommunications networks. After all, how much data does a home consume compared to a business? That is, of course, the wrong way to look at it.

The correct way is to consider all the millions of homes in aggregate. This collectively represents a massive end-user market. It creates demand for an almost limitless ecosystem of vendors, most of whom focus on a limited piece of the home networking pie.

It’s a roiling world of functionality extending from energy management to security, health, home office, entertainment and miscellaneous applications.

During the next couple of years, the battle will be about the approaches to consolidate the management of all these discordant technologies and applications. It will be a billion-dollar battle: The big winners will be the companies and techniques that become the gatekeepers that present these networks and applications as a single entity to the outside world.

Companies are lining up to take their shot. CNET reports on Dropcam's introduction of a new version of its video camera. On one level, Dropcam Pro is an improvement on the previous version’s video capabilities. The story says that the new device can view 20 percent more of its surroundings.

The more subtle news is that the company is looking to be the beach head in the home:

To you and me, the new Pro model might look like a jet-black paint job on last year's HD model with some better specs, but to Dropcam it's a Trojan horse that could unify and harmonize the onslaught of smart appliances. That's thanks to the addition of Bluetooth low energy (LE) and a new API that lets other companies tap into the Dropcam Pro's Wi-Fi connection and ferry information through Dropcam's existing app and notification service.

Dropcam isn’t the only company moving in this direction. A Connected World story about smart thermostats mentions a similar functionality that is built into Nest:

Another name in smart thermostats, Nest, www.nest.com, recently announced a new developer program for its device. Nest introduced a Web API (application programming interface) that will allow developers to build connected experiences for the home. Nest hints these experiences could allow the Nest thermostat to integrate with things like appliances, lighting, and home automation.

Last month, Greentech Media posted a story focusing on the growth of the home energy management systems (HEMS) market. The news is good, according to the piece. At least five HEMS vendors—Alarm.com, Opower, Tendril, Vivint and ADT—are past the 1 million customer mark. The story suggests that the definition of HEMS is changing, and his explanation suggests that it still is fluid.

That fluidity fits nicely with the home management category. The bottom line is that bits are bits: Outside of some add-on elements such as data security, managing energy is similar to managing health apps, entertainment, home office and video monitors. Thus, the businesses will flow into each other. The management suite that most elegantly controls the whole package will make people’s homes their castles.

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