Mitch Klein, Z-Wave Alliance highlights 2020 Market Growth and Impact of COVID-19

by Parks Associates | Jul. 23, 2020

Parks Associates launched the CONNECTIONS™ Community in 2020 as an online conference and networking experience focused on the connected home and IoT industries. The CONNECTIONS™ Community will host multiple special networking events over the next three months, leading up to the main virtual conference on November 10-12, which will bring together industry leaders to network and discuss the growing smart home market.

Ahead of the event, Mitch Klein, executive director at Z-Wave Alliance and supporter of the CONNECTIONS conference, shared his thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on the smart home industry with the Parks team:

Who is Z-Wave Alliance?

Established in 2005, the Z-Wave Alliance is a member consortium of over 700 global companies supporting the popular Z-Wave smart home wireless protocol, with over 3,300 certified interoperable products worldwide. Our members include every kind of voice in the industry; from large, public manufacturers to startups and OEMs, to integrators and industry partners.

What is your organization’s mission?

Since 2005, the Z-Wave Alliance’s mission has been to drive support of and interest in adopting the Z-Wave protocol -- from manufacturing certified Z-Wave smart devices, to installing them in consumer homes, to educating the industry on the benefits of mesh networking and the importance of secure and interoperable networks – we work alongside our members to expand Z-Wave’s footprint in the smart home and IoT industry. Since its inception, Z-Wave has stood as a leader in the wireless protocol segment with a robust certification program, security standards that are among the most rigorous in the industry, and an Alliance made up of a diverse group of manufacturers, integrators, and others all driving forward growth in the residential market, as well as other market verticals. And now, with recent changes to Z-Wave and the Alliance, we’re looking forward to contributing to this mission in new and exciting ways.

What are your goals for 2020?

Z-Wave and the Alliance continue to evolve and grow to support market requirements for IoT and smart home growth. We first announced in 2019 that we had big changes coming, and now, in 2020, we’re excited to share that the Z-Wave Alliance’s role is changing to that of a Standards Development Organization (SDO), along with technical changes, including opening the Z-Wave network layer and communication protocol for the Z-Wave Specification. The Alliance is driving forward progress in standards unification by opening the Z-Wave Specification and inviting new companies like silicon vendors and software stack providers to contribute to the ongoing development of the Z-Wave standard. This will inspire deeper interoperability and accelerate a unified smart home ecosystem. Under the new SDO, members will have a voice in shaping the technology and companies will leverage their diverse backgrounds and experience to work cooperatively to mold the future of the smart home.

We see a future where all standards can work together to create a seamless product experience for consumers, as well as an easy-to-navigate development process for manufacturers. If you’re interested in joining us, head over to https://z-wavealliance.org/sdo/.  

 

What new smart home technologies are you following closely this year?

One of the top trends that will continue to impact the smart home and larger IoT market growth in 2020 and through the next decade is AI and contextual awareness.

As the market matures, the possibility for truly intelligent homes that go beyond simple connectivity and control become a reality. Artificial intelligence, voice control, contextual awareness, and machine learning will all play a role in future solutions, and the sensors baked into smart devices on neural networks are the catalyst for data, power and memory that can then make what we refer to as context aware decisions. Essentially, the context aware smart home is a distributed system, perfectly aligned with the architecture of a mesh network. With sensors at the heart of the context aware IoT network there is a need for chipsets, like Z-Wave, that offer longer battery life, increased range, improved processing power and security built in.

 

What are you looking forward to most about CONNECTIONS 2020?

We’re looking forward to continuing to be a part of the conversations and industry education, even though they are going to happen virtually this year. CONNECTIONS is among the most important and impactful events for the smart home and IoT industry, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to participate alongside some of the most disruptive brands and voices in the space.

 

What do you anticipate the impact of COVID-19 to be for the smart home industry, in the short term and long term?

The impact of COVID-19 on the smart home industry has been similar to other technology industries. Supply chain impact overseas as well as in the U.S. that have caused massive shipping delays and have hurt the entire logistics cycle, and the economic downturn has impacted consumer demand for technology like smart home. But we have seen that retail sales at big-box stores that carry smart home technology, like Best Buy and Home Depot, have remained quite strong amid COVID-related social-distancing, as many homeowners have opted for home projects, so this will likely continue to help keep sales steady.

It’s also important to remember we’ve been through crises in the past – of course, not all of them have had the same impact and magnitude as COVID, but it’s important to remember that the smart home industry has weathered storms before. To chart a path forward, we look to the unforeseen challenges of the past, such as the recession of 2008, to see how our industry fared and learn how companies came out on the other side -- oftentimes better off than they were prior. Examples include providing remote video support options, whether you’re an integrator or a manufacturer, to stay in touch with current and potential customers to ensure that they’re able to effectively troubleshoot through any issues. For integrators, this also minimizes time spent on job sites, allows for better planning and coordination, and frees them up to work on other projects, which in turn impacts their profitability.

 

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

Building a seamless smart home experience is impossible without taking into consideration the networks in which it is built upon. Connectivity and interoperability continue to be critical to the success of smart home -- if devices cannot communicate with one another effectively a roadblock is put in place that hinders the smart home experience. This roadblock surfaces every time a consumer or an installer has to stop, troubleshoot, and conduct extensive research in order to figure out how to get devices to connect -- and it can have a big impact on their likelihood to adopt and even recommend smart home tech to others, now and in the future. Interoperability is such a critical part of ensuring success in the smart home and connected technology market -- it’s important that manufacturers, technology and standards groups, and others with crucial roles in the industry, come together to find ways to ensure that interoperability remains a consistent priority as the smart home continues to grow and mature.

We see a future where all the standards, including Z-Wave, and others, can all work together seamlessly to create more freedom of choice for consumers, a better product experience, and an easy-to-navigate development process for manufacturers.



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