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Connected Homes November 2019 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Christian Feest

RoomMe: Smartphones Enable Greater Personalization

Why is this topic significant?

Intellithings has begun shipping sensors capable of distinguishing between individual people within a room. Such sensors could enable connected-home devices to provide a greater degree of personalization.

Description

In September 2019, Israel-based start-up Intellithings began shipping its RoomMe personal-location sensor devices following a successful crowdfunding campaign. The RoomMe sensors are capable of identifying and distinguishing between 16 individual people, which enables triggering of connected-home devices according to these individuals' preferences. So, for example, smart lighting connected to RoomMe could automatically turn on and adjust to a bright and warm setting when one individual enters a room but adjust to a less bright and cold setting when a different individual enters.

The system consists of a sensor and a smartphone app. The sensor uses Bluetooth to create a virtual "curtain" at a room's entrance. When a smartphone configured with the accompanying app passes through this curtain, connected devices react according to the specific preferences associated with that smartphone. The system operates according to a hierarchy consisting of three levels: At the top of the hierarchy is the room master, followed by parent and then child. When multiple individuals are present in a room, connected devices default to the preferences of the individual highest in this hierarchy. In cases in which individuals are of equal status in the hierarchy, the system defaults to the preferences of whichever individual entered the room first. According to Intellithings, RoomMe is compatible with many ZigBee- and Z-wave-compatible devices and several connected-home brands such as Wink, Sonos, and Philips Hue.

Implications

"Ambient Intelligence" in the September 2019 Viewpoints describes technological bottlenecks—such as the intrusiveness and cost of equipping homes with many sensors—preventing connected-home systems from recognizing specific users and automatically personalizing outputs for them. Systems such as RoomMe, however, could overcome many of these issues—albeit with some limitations. Perhaps the biggest limitation with RoomMe is that it requires the user to have his or her smartphone on his or her person for the system to work. If an individual is charging his or her smartphone in another room, say, then the system will be incapable of automatically personalizing devices' actions to the individual's preferences. Further, the scope of data provided by the presence or absence of a smartphone may be insufficient to provide the high degree of personalization that typically constitutes ambient intelligence.

Impacts/Disruptions

Integration with other software applications and other hardware devices could enable on-person systems such as RoomMe to achieve more seamless and accurate personalization of connected-home devices. For example, integration with other smartphone applications—such as social media—could provide additional data points—such as indications of mood—to enable greater personalization. On the hardware side, wearable-technology companies could manufacture devices, such as smartwatches, that are compatible with RoomMe (or other personalization systems). Such hardware integrations could enable connected-home devices to respond to an individual's presence without requiring the individual to wear his or her smartphone. Further out, manufacturers could even develop sensors embedded within the body that are capable of triggering connected devices. However, convincing consumers to adopt such embedded sensors may prove to be a greater challenge than actually developing them.

Scale of Impact

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

Time of Impact

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

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Home appliances, wearable technology, lighting, heating, entertainment, ambient intelligence

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Watch Parties

Why is this topic significant?

New services from Facebook, Amazon.com, and others combine video streaming with social media. The social aspect of watching TV and movies as part of a group—albeit remotely—may disrupt the video-streaming market as well as video content itself.

Description

Facebook officially launched its Watch Party feature worldwide in July 2018. This feature enables Facebook groups to watch video content hosted on Facebook together and react and comment along with the streaming video in real time. Since the launch of Watch Party, Facebook has expanded the range of content available as part of its Facebook Watch video-streaming service to include original TV series and live sports events. According to June 2019 figures from Facebook, 140 million people spend at least 1 minute in Facebook Watch per day, and the average watch time among these daily visitors is 26 minutes per day. In addition to being accessible via Facebook's website and app, Facebook Watch is also accessible via Apple TV and Samsung smart TVs.

Facebook is far from the only player in real-time community video watching, however. In October 2019, Twitch.tv—a live-streaming platform owned by Amazon.com—began testing its own Watch Parties feature. According to an announcement that circulated to some Twitch affiliates and partners, Watch Parties will enable Twitch streamers to stream a selection of Amazon Prime Video movies and TV series to viewers (providing they also have an Amazon Prime membership). Just like Facebook's Watch Party feature, Twitch Watch Parties will enable communities to watch and react to video content together in real time. Twitch and Facebook face further competition from the likes of social-broadcasting platform Caffeine—which 21st Century Fox invested $100 million in in September 2018—and YouTube, which is owned by Google.

Implications

Watch parties and similar social-viewing services add a further dimension in the ongoing video-streaming wars (as "Fragmenting TV-Streaming Services" in the August 2019 Viewpoints describes). In addition to considering on-demand content catalogs, video-streaming service operators may also have to consider streaming rebroadcast rights and social-interaction functionality to stay competitive.

Impacts/Disruptions

Although Facebook lacks the extensive content catalogs of Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, Facebook does have the advantage of an extensive social network. The new social dimension of streaming video is likely to prove particularly popular for watching live events, such as sports and developing news stories, which could boost the popularity of Facebook Watch and potentially enable Facebook to keep users engaged with its platform.

Closer integration between video-streaming platforms and social media may also change video content itself. For example, the producers of Red Table Talk—an original Facebook Watch chat show—source ideas for future episodes from members of the accompanying Facebook group. Further, Facebook's reaction functionality—the ability to "like" or communicate other emotional reactions in response to content—is likely to provide more granular engagement metrics than traditional alternatives such as viewership figures and focus groups provide. These data, if in combination with machine-learning and artificial-intelligence software, could enable a more scientific approach to creating engaging TV and movie content.

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 to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Social media, video streaming, content delivery, live TV, movies, media

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: