Building a Seamless Smart Home Experience - Insights from Essence USA

by Parks Associates | Jun. 3, 2019

Prior to Parks Associates’ 23rd-annual CONNECTIONS: The Premier Connected Home Conference, Josh Locke, Director of Sales, Essence USA spoke with the firm’s analyst team to his thoughts on independent living in the smart home.

Josh participated on the Special Session: Independent Living in the Smart Home panel on Wednesday, May 22, at 3:30 PM. Panelists who joined him on this session included:

Jeff Cutler, Chief Commercial Officer, Ada Health
Chris Gibbons, MD, Founder and CEO, The Greystone Group, Inc.
Chuck Hector, Chief Revenue Officer, Papa
Sean Kane, Client Engagement Manager, Mayo Clinic

Q: As the number of connected devices in consumers' lives increase each year, what solutions need to be created to allay rising consumer concerns around data security and privacy?

A: This concern is precisely why we are seeing an increased awareness in the cybersecurity space.  There are a number of new entrants that are focused on solutions to securing data and providing privacy around connected devices.  See our cyber security division of Essence, sigmadots, here:

Q: With the rollout of 5G technologies nearing, what impact will this technology have on connected consumers?

A: With respect to connectivity and my perspective as a manufacturer in the home based solutions space, very little.  Most service providers have already made or begun the switch from 3G connectivity to 4G LTE.  4G will be relevant for many years to come and provide, in most use cases, enough bandwidth to perform the necessary solutions within the home.  5G will certainly be relevant for those functions and use cases requiring additional bandwidth such as automated cars. 

Q: As the smart home experience expands outside the home, how will the role of the car evolve as part of the smart home ecosystem?

A: Of course.  Driving is a key component of living independently.  Uber, for example, has already dedicated to this space with Uber Health.   In addition, automatic driving cars certainly have an application in independent living and furthermore the integration of vital sign monitoring within vehicles certainly makes a lot of sense.

Q: What is necessary to build a seamless smart home experience that crosses brands, platforms, and ecosystems?

A: It goes without saying but a key necessity is fast and reliable connectivity.  That aside, what is necessary is consumer readiness.  The typical “senior” today, aka the mass market, in my mind is not necessarily demanding a smart home experience in order to maintain independence.  I believe wide adoption and ultimately appreciation for technology that extends living independently as well as making it easier to do so is imminent in the next 5 to 10 years.

Q: What impact will emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and blockchain have on the smart home? What are the associated challenges with implementing these technologies in the home?

A: AI is a key component in smart anything.  A partnership between AI and the service provider making human judgements is what our customers are doing today in the independent living space.  For example, fall detection (FD).  Our FD uses a proven scientific algorithm to define whether the user has fallen or if just the help button itself had been dropped.  In the event of a false positive fall, the service provider/operator has the ability to verify this via two-way-voice communications.  This is an example of a symbiotic relationship between AI and the human mind.The challenges is finding the fine line between AI and the human mind. 

Q: With smart home adoption flattening in 2018, what must the industry do to reach new buyers?

I believe in order to reach new buyers there needs to be a convergence between facial/individual recognition and the home automation platforms.  What I believe caused a flattening of the smart home market is the fact that these systems still required human intervention.  For example, I still need to go into my app to shut off the lights or create a hard rule that I likely want to divert from fairly often.  I believe that the next generation smart home that will reach new buyers is fully automated based on recognizing and getting to know the home owner(s) through AI. 

A: What innovations have you seen that will address the existing needs of the elderly to enable independent living in the smart home?

At Essence we continue to innovate to enable independent living to be more passive i.e. the user doesn’t have to wear the help button.  For example, we’ve had wild success with our voice activated and two-way-voice extender.  It is a great solution for those who won’t or don’t want to wear a button.  Another solution launching this year is the use of radar technology to passively monitor for falls within the home.

Q: How will the continued rise of DIY security expand the smart home?

A: DIY will continue to expand the smart home if it becomes more simplistic to add devices and is integrated with other common smart home components.  It needs to be simple and easily expandable.  For example, I already have a wifi enabled garage door opener but it isn’t integrated into my security system aka a separate app for a smart home function. 

Q: What new energy management scenarios are emerging from industry partnerships and crossover use cases?

A: An example of an energy management partnership is between connected thermostats and energy providers getting together to manage peak and non-peak power usage.  This is a great step in my opinion.

Q: What strategies are needed to achieve a unified experience in the home for consumers between smart home and connected entertainment products and services?

A: I believe the strategy for achieving a unified experience is simplicity.  Every connected product supplier has their own ecosystem, for good reason.  This is a big challenge because not one product supplier can get you everything you may need all on one platform.  

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