Are “Smart Home” technologies ready for mainstream?

30-page Virtual Trip Report of CES 2011

30-page Virtual Trip Report

An article prompted me to write this article. As a long-time Connected Home consultant and marketing strategist, I have developed strong opinions about what it will take. Find me at

Back in 2004, market research that I did for Parks Associates concluded that the Connected Home industry is “finally poised to cross a 30-year-old chasm separating high-end new homes from much bigger opportunities in mainstream retrofit markets.” That was based on my observation that several new networking standards finally allowed products to scale up- and down-market, from DIY projects in small homes to complex, system integrator projects in large homes and commercial office buildings. The promising new technologies included HomePlug & Insteon (powerline), MoCA (coax), HomePNA (phone lines), and Wi-Fi, Zigbee & Z-Wave (wireless).

But it’s been seven years now and so far no one’s got the right formula for success – not Cisco, GE, IBM or Microsoft, and not AT&T, Verizon, Comcast or Time Warner.

Will home healthcare and smarter, energy-saving appliances finally help people understand what’s possible? Yes, but will this be enough to drive mass market adoption of smart, networked sensor technologies? Or will the real driver be new apps on the iPhone, iPad and Android-based phones, tablets and TVs? Apps get my vote.

Internet Service Provider role

From its announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show (read trip report), Verizon may be finally ready to drive its Connected Home vision into mainstream markets. But what about the markets they don’t currently serve?

Verizon said (Verizon’s keynote speech:) it already covers ~30% of the US with 4G LTE, delivering broadband speeds of 5-12Mbps. They also described aggressive plans to reach 50% penetration this year, including in rural markets, and 100% in 3yrs, overlaying competing wired nets. Verizon also announced new home energy and security services for broadband consumers later this year. These services will let people track energy use and program thermostat and other appliances. (Might home healthcare apps be next?)

Besides partnering with Motorola and 4Home for Smart Home technologies, Verizon’s ultimate success depends on two other factors: (1) accommodating the wide range of legacy home devices and networks that are already installed in the homes they serve, and (2) utilizing Cloud Computing to eliminate problems associated with “I installed new PC software (or devices) and now my Internet is down.”

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