Picture the smart home of the future. From connected lighting to IP home security cameras, and from intelligent energy usage monitoring devices to internet-enabled television, all these things will undoubtedly be present. And yet, despite the picture forming in your mind being one that’s several years away, these technologies already exist.
We have smart fridges, TVs, and thermostats. Internet-enabled home security has been around for a while, and so too have services such as Nest that can control your home energy usage from anywhere in the world. What’s missing, though, and what is holding us back from creating a truly ‘smart’ home experience, is uniformity in how these connected devices are managed.
This has led to a wealth of new approaches being introduced in recent years. It’s also opened the floodgates for internet service providers and mobile operators to step into the breach as a uniform connectivity provider for these devices. However, before we can understand how this will materialise in the near future, we first need to consider the way that manufacturers are currently looking to address this problem.
The battle to control the smart home
There’s no doubt that the TV is going to have a central role to play as the smart home hub of the future. In fact, as we move towards the roll out of truly smart homes, the TV is set to become the central nervous system of our IoT-connected households. As a result, there has been a lot of talk among the industry about how smart TV can bridge this particular gap, with this year’s CES kick-starting the trend.
Reports from the event highlighted how big names such as Samsung, LG, and Hisense are pinning their hopes on consumers running their homes through a Smart TV. Many have started to add digital assistants to these devices in a bid to turn this from concept to reality. But while the smart TV will be important as a central device for accessing and viewing information from other connected devices in the home, it’s not best placed to become the control and input mechanism for it – and that means TV manufacturers almost certainly won’t become the connectivity layer via which third-party smart home devices can interact and be controlled.
The reason behind this is due to:
- The lack of innovation in terms of how input devices for TV have evolved.
- How we control media across the board.<
If you consider the TV to be an integral part of the smart home, then the remote control is going to represent the way to manage this capability. And it’s for the reasons outlined above that it’ll therefore be controlled via the smartphone in your pocket rather than the dumb button-based input device on your coffee table.
A direct route into the consumer’s pocket
This is where service providers have a stronger hand in the ongoing battle to control the smart home. ISPs and mobile operators already have a valuable route into the consumer’s home, often via the phone in their pocket. They’ve got a direct billing relationship and, equally as importantly, a wealth of valuable data that can be used for the personalisation of the smart home experience.
Putting all your smart home technology under the same roof via a single, connected mobile app is a no-brainer, which, as the pipe that smart home devices used to transmit data and send information, puts service providers at the heart of the ecosystem. In doing so, service providers will be in a position to become the central hub for the smart home as a result, bringing together services from a range of third parties into a single, unified platform for the consumer.
For service providers, integrating themselves into the smart home in this way is an avenue through which to gather more data at scale, and in real time, that can be used to personalise the user experience further. For example, a consumer’s smart TV could pause the show that’s being streamed when the doorbell rings or turn down the lights when playing a movie. And although this functionality will become automated over time, it’s still going to need a central device through which to manage all those smart home features – and that’s where the smartphone comes into its own as a control mechanism.
Making this a reality
The question, then, is how to make this a reality and where to start? The good news is that service providers already have the foundations in place. The OTT TV streaming services they operate are an ideal route to the consumer. Those services are already in a position to become the ‘smart video’ platforms of the future that can unlock next-generation broadcast and revenue capabilities, and via which a service provider will be able to fully integrate themselves across the smart home.
What’s necessary for this to work, though, and what is missing for many providers at present, is an advanced layer of big data analytics baked into the heart of the platforms they currently operate. This is needed to identify user behaviour in advance and underpin their future offering as a connected provider for the smart home of the future.
Ultimately, the concept of OTT is changing as we know it, and it’s focusing more on a broader range of services rather than simply delivering media. If service providers get this right, everything from media to energy management and security could soon be delivered in a comprehensive package underpinned by their connectivity suite. All that’s required is the right delivery platform upon which to build this functionality.