Musing on Mobile’s Role in the Future of Home Automation

Looking forward, markets, all markets, are and will be driven by the Internet of Everything (IoE). By 2020 there will be 50~100 billion devices connected to the Internet, according to Cisco; today there are 8.5~12 billion devices generating 15 quadrillion connections to the Internet.

These are not simply passive connections, they’re live, interactive connections generating value.  Cisco’s predicted that these connections will unleash $19 trillion dollars in economic value throughout the world over the next ten years.

One area where connected devices, including mobile, will play a huge role is in automating the home.

Home automation is a growing market segment. It is expected to be worth $48.02 billion by 2018, up from $19.15 billion in 2012, an estimated CAGR of 16.9%. A number of factors are influencing this growth, including:

  • Government regulations
  • Home owner cost-saving efforts
  • Growing consumer awareness and access to wireless technologies
  • Integration of wired and wireless technologies
  • Regional considerations (e.g. California now officially in draught conditions)

In the IoE nearly everything has the potential to be connected, monitored, controlled and automated within the home. Home automation, the broad label for the market category for these activities, is represented by many individual products and integrated systems within the home or business. Home automation products and systems are intended to give home owners and businesses security, provide convince and drive cost savings.


Through home automation, home owners control their home’s climate, energy, entertainment (watching, listening), appliances, security, family health, communication and other connected items and systems.

For example, home automation sensors and monitors can alert home owners when: 1) there is a break-in, 2) presence of noxious gasses, 3) when utility consumption thresholds (e.g. water or electricity) are near to or have been met, 4) when a door or window has been opened, left opened or closed, or 5) when the stove or a light has been left on and 6) so much more. Home owners can respond to these alerts immediately or engage their house on demand; for example, they can turn on and off lights or the stove, answer the phone when the lights blink on an off for incoming calls  (i.e. with “smart bulbs”), unlock and lock doors, trigger the coffee maker or washing machine, and log on to the home’s camera network to check in, etc.

When it comes to home automation, monitoring, alerts and control are just the tip of the iceberg. Home automation systems are smart, they’re intelligent, they can learn. Home automation services are capable of adjusting to the life patterns of the occupants within the home or business they service. For example, when no one is home, the thermostat can turn down the temperature. They can also help with the shopping. The refrigerator can update or modify the family’s shopping list when the trashcan has told the refrigerator that the milk has been thrown away or when the home scale recognizes weight gain. Washing machines can measure the level of dirt in clothing and ensure the right amount of cleaning is done. These new “smart” devices in today’s home can even nurse the home owner’s plants and flowers, both in and out of the house; they can alert the homeowner when a plant in the corner needs to be watered, or needs better light or nutrients, in order for it to flourish. All these use cases are possible, but many are a ways off, much of the market is still focused on point rather than integrated offerings.

Leading products in the home automation category include independent solutions like Nest thermostats and sensors, the Kevo wireless deadbolt, a host of lighting, control, sensors and related services from a wide range of companies including Kwikset, Netgear, Radio Thermostat, Centralite, Withings, Waxman, Goji, Koubachi, Rachio, Lutron, Philips, Linksys, Honeywell, First Alert, Yale, GE, D-Link, Cooper, Leviton, Schlage, and more. There are even hubs, like the revovl, which will aggregate and link multiple devices together.

Competition in the home automation marketplace is fierce. Consumers and professional builders have many choices and sources for information to make a purchase and service their needs when it comes to home automation. They can visit retail stores to learn (e.g. The Home Depot, Lowes, Staples), gain insight directly from brands and source everything they need form one-stop solution aggregators like AT&T’s Digital Life and the Staples Connect services. They also have unfettered access to professionals and do-it-yourself installation and service options. Moreover, the competitive landscape is guaranteed to become even murkier than it is today. With Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, there are clear signs towards companies both large and small, having the capability to easily enter the market and compete alongside each other with in the home automation market.

Looking ahead, the mobile device (phone, tablet, wristwatch, phablet, etc.) will be the central controlling devices for home automation. Home owners, through an app or app-like experience via their mobile devices, will monitor and control everything. In addition to control, the home’s connected devices will also create new opportunities for value exchange. These devices will also generate digital signals, signals that home owners and their trusted partners (the local supermarkets, dry cleaner, airline, etc.) can harvest in order to create predictive models to enhance the connected life. Marketers, with the right permissions, can in turn use these data and predictive models to better target and engage customers and prospects. For example, these models will enabler marketers to provide more utility to home owners as well as services that trigger highly relevant next best offer and next best action solution. These type of services have the potential to create more efficiency and value within the marketplace, possibly even more than the $19 trillion that Cisco has already predicted.

Looking forward, if we think we’ve become dependent on our connected device, watch out, our obsession has not even begun.