This is the first blog post in the partnership between my website Qioto and Residential Systems, in which we will be sharing blog posts following the “IoT Watch” theme. With these first posts, we will share some of our views on the systems integration market, the Internet of Things (IoT) for the home, and the smart home market in general. Providing some thoughts will hopefully connect us to the regular readers here on some level. If you have not read the introductory post to Qioto by Jeremy Glowacki, make sure to check it out here.
Home technology…not so long ago
Remember this amazing touchpanel by Crestron?
This was one of my first glimpses of home automation. It’s remarkable that this product is not really that old! I’m sure there’s a few people still enjoying this in their living room (if you are an integrator and have not contacted these clients for upgrades yet, then you have been postponing it for way too long). My first impression was “wow, this is really cutting edge!” Of course the backbone of the system was impressive as well. Coming from the electronic engineering world, I could understand how it worked in the background, with a processor handling all the systems, including cool automation scenarios that work like magic. With some advanced networking you could also have your client control the home remotely. I wonder how many IoT enthusiasts knew you could do this six to seven years ago. And how many of them know that Lutron introduced the first whole-home lighting control system called NeTwork, back in 1990?
How it started to change
Of course everyone knows what happened in tech in recent years, but it’s worth a quick mention. Apple introduced the iPhone and then the iPad, with multi-touch, the new trend of minimal graphics and apps that can nearly do anything (“there’s an app for that”). Other manufacturers followed, and now everyone has a smartphone in their pocket and a tablet on their coffee table.
People with home automation systems already installed in their homes started to ask if they could control their systems with their new and shiny smart devices, and manufacturers responded quickly with apps that did the job better than their expensive but low-quality touchpanels. Low quality? I thought they were cutting edge some might say. Yes, that’s how fast thing have changed in only a few years. Thankfully manufacturers were also quick to release better quality touchpanels as well, though still expensive.
How it’s continuing to change
Let me share a short story from my sales experience as an integrator. A couple of years ago I was trying to sell a small lighting control system to a young IT guy who was building his first family home. From the options of Lutron HomeWorks QS, Radio RA2, and Grafik Eye QS, the guy almost signed up for a couple of Grafik Eye QS units.
It seemed to solve his problems, fit his budget, and could easily upgrade in the future if he wanted to. He also wanted a small standalone home cinema system and an outdoor projection system. At the end I lost the sale of the Grafik Eyes, but not to a competitor, but to a few smart lightbulbs the guy had found online. That’s when it hit me. It was a “lightbulb moment” (pun intended) on how the market is changing. I don’t want to digress here by going into my sales skills, or the pros and cons of the options the guy had, but let’s rather see how the DIY smart home enveloped in recent years.
The first “mainstream” consumer IoT products that hit the market from 2010 to 2013 were the Nest thermostat, the Philips Hue lightbulb, and the Belkin WeMo product line. Then came SmartThings, Wink, and many more platforms, claiming to connect all your disparate devices under one hub, all claiming to make your home “truly smart.” Apple announced HomeKit, Amazon released the Echo, and Google announced the OnHub. Most recently Savant introduced a DIY product, the Savant Remote. Also let’s not forget that a lot of DIY solutions have been appearing at CEDIA the past few years. My friend Jason Griffing wrote a post about this called “CEDIA is Wise to Embrace the DIY Convergence,” on which I totally agree.
For the second part I will share who I believe are the main smart home consumers in this day and age, and how can we start to embrace the DIY convergence.
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Finally, please comment below on what thoughts you have on how home technology has changed in recent years.