Charles turns on the lights on ’Smart Home’

Charles Cheevers, CTO, Customer Premise Equipment, ARRIS, provides his vision of the smart home

Increased emphasis on convergence will benefit the IoT consumer

Today’s smart home is fragmented, with ‘best-in-class’ applications from cameras to lights to thermostats. But imagine a single application to control all your IoT (Internet of Things) devices — that is powerful proposition where you get to experience a mix of applications and devices from different vendors. IoT hub functionality will also converge into devices like gateways, extenders, set-tops, or smart assistants.

Home automation moves up a gear, increasing penetration

Connected devices are entering the home at pace. Just look at the number of new smart switches that are controlling holiday lights recently! Once we are initiated, more devices flood in.

The rise of smart assistants to control devices through natural language is also dropping the barrier quicker than you can say ‘Alexa, turn on the lights’. IoT is successful when devices automatically work together, and voice enables this. Expect more integration of smart assistants — such as voice-enabled showers!

Moving away from dedicated IoT control panels

The smartphone is the foundation for interaction within the smart home. However, this will be augmented with more input/output devices as we move away from single-use screens such as dedicated alarm control panels.

The smart home is optimised when all tablets, smartphones and TVs interact with IoT devices. Couple these screens with voice input and video and graphics response, and you have a powerful canvas to engage with the smart home.

Security is vital to removing smart home inertia

Continued focus on improving IoT device security will build consumer confidence. This includes enhanced cryptography and improved security of IoT protocols and solutions that work from multiple sources. Service providers and IoT solutions providers are developing new solutions to leverage trusted devices and networks to provide equivalents of LifeLock support for IoT devices. Advances in fingerprinting and other forensic schemes will seek to foster device trust.

Machine learning will simplify IoT and further lower inertia

Simplicity is achieved when the device or cloud makes decisions automatically but this poses a dichotomy — some value automation while others worry machines are making too many decisions. With the right security and incremental growth of automated actions, appreciation for machine learning and AI will grow. Applications such as smart heating will provide real value — imagine smart thermostats automatically preventing frozen pipes.

Home networks will adapt to accommodate more IoT devices

Increases in IoT devices will mean home networks adapt. Typically, access points support up to 50 devices — which is sufficient today — but will need to increase. Moreover, Wi-Fi range will be challenged by devices such as doorbells and sprinklers connecting at the edge.

Inside and outside IoT networks offer convergence opportunities

Finally, while the home is well served with connectivity solutions for IoT, there are several inside-out considerations for macro IoT applications. The move to 5G and the unification of protocols present some interesting opportunities to converge IoT, giving us an exciting space to watch. Looking ahead, the home could act as the small cell for macro IoT applications.

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