With high speed Wi-Fi now the norm, powerful smartphones ubiquitous and a host of internet-connectable gadgets appearing on the market, many of the obstacles preventing a breakthrough have been overcome. But clearly not all of them. Because as smart home blogger Rose Thibodeaux wrote on IFSEC Global last week, demand for smart home products in the US actually fell 15% between May 2014 and May 2015, according to a report by ArgusInsights.
And home automation, which broadly speaking means controlling everyday household items likes fridges, TVs and lights with your smartphone, tablet or PC, still remains the reserve of the affluent and, like the internet in its early days, technophiles. So when is the explosion in take up among the wider public going to happen? When will the average Joe start turning the oven on when he s down the pub?
Or checking on his pet dog via his smart surveillance camera? When at least some of the following remaining barriers to adoption are overcome. Security fears Surveillance cameras, window and door opening sensors, remote door locking and motion detectors hitherto tools deployed only in business premises or public buildings are now also affordable for, and marketed at, homeowners.
Likewise smart fire safety equipment, with remote alerts from smoke, carbon monoxide and water leak detectors promising lower insurance costs. Many service providers are starting off with security, because there s an existing home security business model in place, Michael Philpott, principal analyst at technology research firm Ovum, told the BBC. In the UK about 30% of homes have some kind of home alarm, and about 10% of those pay monthly for a professional home security service.
But if fear of crime and infrastructural readiness makes security an early growth segment, then fear of crime and infrastructural vulnerability also make security fears of the biggest barriers. Yes, cyber security concerns means that home automation actually introduces a risk where before there was none (PCs and laptops aside). Only by addressing these concerns and perhaps introducing failsafe defaults to manual operation can these concerns be assuaged.
Lack of interoperability As yet there is little cross-industry agreement on a common standard for interoperability and as the entire concept is predicated on the idea of devices talking to one another this is a huge problem. Efforts to tackle this issue are being made unfortunately these efforts are disparate. Way back in 2004 broadband service providers set up the Home Gateway Initiative.
In 2013, the Linux Foundation allied with Qualcomm, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Sharp and others to establish the AllSeen Alliance. The following year, Google s Nest and Samsung were among those behind Thread, while Intel, Samsung, and Dell formed the Open Interconnect Consortium. True to form Apple has eschewed the open platform option while Amazon is also going down the proprietary route.
Anything that confuses the consumer will be a barrier, says Philpott. Consumers are only going to buy into the smart home if it makes their life much better or much cheaper. We re not there yet.
The fiddle factor A report from ArgusInsights said many of the gadgets flooding the market remained difficult to use. The technology is at least falling in price, making it affordable to the less affluent. Unless operation is also simplified then it will remain the preserve of techie geeks.
Nice to have , not must have Amid the hype that often surrounds the launches of innovative products it s easy to forget a mundane truth: technology s popularity is ultimately dependant on whether it solves a problem, making your life easier or simply more enjoyable. Consider Google Glass, released to much fanfare early in 2015 and promptly abandoned after just a few months. It was supposed to liberate users from the constant need to pull their phones out their pockets to check notifications, but Google s always-on alternative arguably irritated consumers more by removing their choice especially at the cost of $1,000.
Smart home innovators are trying to convince consumers that their products will make a positive difference to their lives. But how many people would rank turning lights on and off at the wall among their top irritations? Even solving these very minor irritations, this still relatively new technology introduces new irritations such as intermittent connectivity, software bugs and so on.
But systems will improve, become cheaper and shift the balance between problems solved and problems introduced. Plus home automation has one major trump card: it has the potential to save the homeowner money. It s no coincidence that perhaps the most famous company to emerge from this new market Nest Labs specialises in this area, namely through energy savings.
Should energy prices surge then the economics of home automation become compelling. Government incentives help too. Michael Philpott, principal analyst at technology research firm Ovum, believes energy will be the thing that accelerates the adoption of smart tech.
Speaking to the BBC he suggested it was a case of when, not if, the market takes off. By 2020 the majority of us will have a smart energy meter and smart thermostats, and other devices will be connected to it, such as your fridge, so it becomes more efficient in its energy consumption. Once consumers start to use this technology they ll start to wonder what else can they do with it.
Reaching the tipping point Which brings us to the final obstacle. There comes a point in any trend where herd instinct kicks in. If everyone else is doing it, we start to feel a little left out.
And when people visit other people s houses and are wowed by the tech on show, the process of adoption can only accelerate.
Sino-Japanese ties, long plagued by conflicting claims to an East China Sea group of islands and by the legacy of Japan’s World War Two aggression against China, have thawed somewhat since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2014.
But China’s successful bid last week to include documents related to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in a programme by the U.N . cultural and heritage agency UNESCO has become a new irritant.
Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, and Shotaro Yachi, the head of the secretariat of Japan’s National Security Council, agreed in Tokyo to press ahead with bilateral dialogue including one between top leaders, the Japanese official said.
“There still exist some issues between the two countries like the East China Sea situation . But I would like us to exchange views candidly today to advance bilateral relations further,” Yachi told Yang before doors were closed to reporters.
Issues discussed include overall ties between Asia’s two biggest economies, their security policies and a continuing effort to set up a emergency communication mechanism between their militaries, the official said .
He declined to elaborate.
Yachi, also a national security adviser to Abe, reiterated in the Tokyo meeting Japan’s stance regarding China’s move to have documents touching on the Nanjing Massacre registered in UNESCO’s “Memory of the World” programme, the official said.
China says invading Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in the massacre . A post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at about half that number.”
Japan’s top government spokesman said earlier on Tuesday that Tokyo might halt funding for UNESCO over the U.N . heritage body’s decision to include the documents .
This drew a sharp retort from China, which called the threat “shocking and unacceptable”.
State Councillor Yang, who outranks the Chinese foreign minister, is set to meet with Abe on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Supported by IFSEC and FIREX International the awards span 23 categories, from CCTV System of the Year to Event Security Team of the Year. Now in its 17 th year the event recognises the skill and often bravery of professionals whose play a role that can be life-saving and yet unsung, serving as the Oscars of the security and fire industries, an opportunity to network and, of course, a great night out. The ultimate winners will be announced live at the London Hilton on Park Lane on Wednesday 25 November 2015.
Stand-up comedian and host of 8 out of 10 Cats Jimmy Carr will host the event, a job undertaken last year by impressionist Alistair McGowan. Places to attend are limited and 2014 was a sell-out so book tables for your teams as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. A large number of entries were submitted and assessed by a panel of expert judges.
The panel is yet to be confirmed but last year included some of the industry s most preeminent figures including Dr Alison Wakefield FSyl, senior lecturer in Security Risk Management at the University of Portsmouth (number four on the Top 50 Most Influential People in Security and Fire); Alan Hildage FSyl FCMI MBCI RISC, chairman of the Association of Security Consultants and MD of Griffin Security Solutions; and Don Randall MBE, then CISO at the Bank of England. Many of the finalists exhibited at IFSEC and FIREX International, including MorphoWave by Morpho, which made the cut in the Access Control Product of the Year category; Cirrus Hybrid by Protec Fire Detection in Active Fire Innovation of the Year; Sony s 4k camera, the SNC-VM772R (CCTV Camera Equipment of the Year); SleepSafe (Combined Security & Fire Solution); and Kings Security (Large Security Installer), whose installers won prizes in the Engineers of Tomorrow competition. Xtralis, the pioneer in early and reliable detection and remote visual verification of fire, gas and security threats, is the headline sponsor for the 2015 edition.
Other sponsors include Magenta Security Services, Bouygues Energies & Services, Fire & Security Jobs, Servest and the Security Industry Authority. This year s charity partners are the Ghana Education Trust and Suzy Lamplugh Trust. The event has in the past raised funds for the Children s Burns Trust, ActionAid and Victim Support among others.
Click here to find out the shortlist of finalists, to find out more about the event or to register to attend.