Smart home products may use a centralized control architecture, a distributed control architecture, or enable both. Consequently, consumers may be able to control their smart products individually, or as a group through a central control point (hub, app, voice assistant, etc.), or have options for either. In a distributed control architecture, individual products perform specific jobs for consumers, but those products also benefit from collaboration with other products. A loose collaboration between autonomous products is sufficient for many jobs; however, many tasks are better served if they are coordinated as a system.
Platform usage by smart home device owners falls into tiers. Personal assistant-enabled platforms are the most highly used by smart home device owners, followed by platforms offered by companies with strong consumer brand awareness — Samsung, Apple, Nest (Google). Finally, start-up or niche/high-end brands are last in usage for smart home device owners either due to lack of familiarity or due to the relatively small size of the luxury segment (Control4, Crestron, Savant).
Interoperability can enable more than just automation. It also can allow data sharing between devices that enables additional services by providing more contextual information for other devices. Interoperability can also inform AI and machine learning algorithms that require data points from a variety of devices.
As the smart home industry looks to extend beyond early adopters and general tech enthusiasts, integrations and partnerships will be critical for the smart home to cross the chasm into mass-market adoption. Controlling the ecosystem will provide industry players with additional hardware revenue from current and future complementary devices and provide improved data collection capabilities that drive alternate revenues for advertising, ecommerce, and adjacent services.
The proliferation of smart speaker devices with voice assistants has allowed some consumers to build their own smart home ecosystem, but this group does not represent the general population’s willingness to do so. To maximize success, business models similar to that of Comcast and Vivint are needed that include installation of an interoperable group of devices and provide a seamless experience for end users. This will allow these companies to cover all possible consumer segments, such as DIY and do-it-for-me segments, as each group has differing needs and preferences.
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