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Connected Homes July 2014 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Kyle M. Whitman

Home Automation from Samsung

Why is this topic significant?

Samsung's forthcoming entry into the consumer home-automation market promises to implement a more inclusive approach than has previously been commonplace among major home-appliance and mobile-device players. If Samsung finds success with this approach, an overall reduction in home-automation-market fragmentation could occur.

Description

Samsung has been in the commercial home-automation business for many years, offering products such as smart door locks and connected security-camera systems mainly for large-scale multidwelling installations. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, Samsung demonstrated a prototype home-automation controller for the consumer market, together with a software platform and communications protocol that could allow mobile devices and Samsung smart televisions to monitor and control appliances and home-automation peripherals from Samsung and other manufacturers. The software can control Wi-Fi–connected devices and can run without the controller unit—for example, on a tablet. Use of the controller unit—Lumen—allows compatibility with Z-Wave devices. In contrast to companies such as Vera Labs and Revolv that also offer home-automation hub devices, Lumen functions also as a user interface: The device mounts on a wall and features a touch screen that allows users to monitor connected peripherals' status and control their functions.

Implications

Samsung promises to take a more inclusive approach to consumer home automation than many of its competitors in appliance, consumer-electronics, and mobile-device markets have done. Samsung has significant market share in all these segments and could well have adopted a consumer home-automation strategy that centers on its own family of products, using business devices such as proprietary communications protocols and certification processes to attempt to lock end users into a home-automation ecosystem consisting of devices from Samsung and its partners exclusively. Instead, Samsung officials express intention to take a manufacturer-agnostic approach and to differentiate the company's own wares by delivering superior user experience.

Impacts/Disruptions

Could Samsung's approach finally help popularize home automation in mainstream households? The home-automation market has long suffered from fragmentation, lack of compatibility, and resulting poor usability. Samsung at least aims to support multivendor interoperability, in contrast to the fragmentation that has been the result of initiatives of disparate players, including Apple and Google.

Yet Lumen also appears not really to resolve all incompatibilities that impede home-automation progress. So far, Samsung has not indicated that Lumen will be compatible with ZigBee (which, for example, Google's Nest smart thermostat supports) or powerline networks (which millions of homes use for controlling lights). Moreover, multiprotocol support is not a full solution to the fragmentation problem; software must also support the connected devices that use the protocols—ideally in a fashion that requires zero configuration from the end user. No home-automation controller on the market today performs this difficult task, and Samsung faces a significant challenge to recruit its competitors to rally around its proposed home-automation solution.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now

Opportunitites in the following industry areas:

Home automation, building automation, smart buildings, Internet of Things, mobile devices, smartphones, telecommunications, cloud services, security, elder care, health care

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Connected-Health Developments

Why is this topic significant?

Connected homes may play important future roles in reducing health-care costs while improving patients' quality of life. But adoption of technologies for personal connected health care has lagged behind many analysts' expectations. The formation of a new advocacy group—the Personal Connected Health Alliance—could improve coordination among device vendors, health-data brokers, health-care providers, and other connected-health stakeholders.

Description

The Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA) is a nonprofit advocacy organization that "promotes the global adoption, standardization and appropriate regulation of personal connected health devices and systems to empower people to self-manage their health, while creating stronger links between healthcare providers, consumers and their social networks," with an avowed "consumer-first" focus. Founded in April 2014, the PCHA represents a collaboration among three leading nonprofit health-industry organizations: Continua Health Alliance, mHealth Summit, and the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Continua is the leading global private-standards body that governs connectivity among personal health devices, mHealth Summit organizes connected-health-industry conferences, and HIMSS is an advocacy group with over 50 000 members who promote the use of information technology in health care. The PCHA emerges in the context of a market for personal connected-health solutions that has grown much more slowly than analysts expected. Many personal connected-health solutions have failed to catch on with end users, and long-term user engagement with related solutions such as personal fitness trackers has been low. Meanwhile, a recent survey of US physicians suggests that health-care professionals have low expectations for the near-term future of connected health.

Implications

Notwithstanding the anemic growth in connected health, Continua has had a good track record in establishing industry standards for connected-health devices, and thus industry enjoys more favorable opportunities to produce interoperable personal-health-care solutions than does, for example, the home-automation industry. Market conditions may improve with help from efforts that coordinate Continua's standards-setting capability; HIMSS's lobbying, education, and advocacy capabilities; and a reinvigorated global profile arising from the contribution of mHealth Summit.

Impacts/Disruptions

Ideally, the PCHA will be able to focus stakeholders' efforts on compelling connected-health-care needs such as providing automation support for the growing base of users who are also caregivers themselves, improving quality of life for people with chronic disease and enabling aging in place. Thus far, however, little indicates that the new advocacy organization has any clear idea of how to go about addressing vital issues in a way that will prove effective. Among the many applications for connected health care, each has its own value proposition, stakeholder network, and user base. Some applications with seemingly straightforward value propositions, such as solutions for making electronic health records accessible on physicians' mobile devices securely, have proved to be exceptionally difficult for organizations to implement. Many connected-health applications will depend on large-scale, standardized implementation of a health-record system. Crafting solutions that fulfill needs of technology suppliers, medical providers, users, regulators, and other parties is an enormous challenge—one that will end up being outside the scope of any single organization.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years

Opportunitites in the following industry areas:

Health care, elder care, aging in place, home automation, telecommunications, information technology, cloud computing

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: