By John Maguire and Paul Lalancette, Accenture Digital Video
However, to be truly smart, all devices—whether thermostats, security, digital assistants or others—in the home should be connected with each other and accessible through one central point.
Although the consumer demand and technology is there today, there is still some way to go to achieve the smart home where everything is connected and can learn and adapt to consumer behavior.
Consumers now expect constant online connectivity, wherever they are. Smart homes are a gateway to vast opportunities—for example, providing new services such as digital health care or home energy management—and now is the time for operators to develop an offer that fully meets the needs of the digital consumer.
Today, smart services are mostly brought to consumers through a variety of channels. But the future of smart homes is in the development of a fully integrated offer, giving customers a highly-personalized service, with everything they need brought together through one platform. The demand is certainly there; Accenture research found that 80 percent of consumers surveyed want a single provider for all of their digital needs.
The technology and consumer appetite for the smart home exists; now companies need to develop platform businesses and ecosystems that bring everything their customers want together into one integrated offer.
Smart home technology uptake has been slowly building over the last few years, with early adopter consumers introducing elements such as connected security, smart thermostats and voice activation systems into their homes. At the moment we have an aggregated system, where consumers engage with each home device and application separately. They might use one company for broadband/TV, another for their connected security and numerous other providers for other services.
Consumer mass market uptake and ease of use for the smart home will be driven via integration of these various services, blending traditionally operated delivered services, such as broadband and TV, with newer smart home services.
Self-monitored home security via cameras, door locks, motion sensors enable people to receive notifications and remotely monitor their homes and to store footage of any activity.
Peace of mind
Homeowners can monitor the inner workings of their homes from afar. If they have a water leak or a smoke alarm goes off, they can identify it and, where possible, take appropriate action to resolve it remotely.
Energy and energy
From energy consumption to renewable energy production, smart technology can enable individuals to manage the energy use in their homes.
From tools to monitor hydration and heart rate, fitness devices and nutrition trackers, to services supporting the elderly and aging in place, tools will bring a range of services to support healthier living.
An interconnected digital TV and entertainment system can be managed in multiple rooms and across numerous media sources, and used to visualize and interact with all the other smart home services.
IoT commerce and the
The incorporation of multiple applications and services operated by third parties into the home. Full integration of such services will be central to the future of smart homes.
Underpinning and essential to all of the other elements is the requirement for reliable broadband connectivity into and around the home, both wired and wireless, as well as the confidence of being able to trust as a consumer that the data and services travelling over those networks are secure.
Ten years ago, the idea that you could start watching a film on your television, leave the house, and then continue to watch it in your car was visionary, but far from reality. So too was the idea that your home technology system would know to dim your lights as the film starts, and let you order a pizza to eat while you watch it—but this is the future we’re moving towards.
A truly smart home will employ machine learning and AI, learning its resident’s behaviors and preferences, and connect every element of their house to meet their needs. For example, before they even wake up in the morning, their coffee will be heating up in anticipation of their alarm. They’ll get out of bed to be told to the quickest route to get to the office, current weather and news, and any messages for them, whether personal or business.
If a light bulb in their house runs out while they’re at work, they’ll receive a message on their personal device to say that a replacement has been ordered, as per their preference for such repairs to be resolved automatically. Or if a bigger issue arises with a larger appliance or utility, details will be provided regarding options for repair, replacement or scheduling of outside assistance.
For a smart home to run in this way, every service operating in the house needs to talk to each other. At Accenture, we help our clients build platform businesses with open APIs through which they can connect to other services and applications in the ecosystem, and bring every element of a smart home together through one central hub. The key to success is for every part of this journey to be built from the consumer perspective.
This principle is also central to how technical issues in a smart home are resolved. Today, when there’s a problem with a television, consumers might ring their media provider or manufacturer for help. But, in the future, the data available to smart home operators about the applications people are using will enable problems to be detected and resolved remotely. Or if somebody needs to seek assistance, augmented reality will let them see through a personal device how to fix their issue, or their digital assistant will talk them through the process.
Voice, text and images are helpful, but video is critical to the richness of engagement operators can offer to their customers—not only for the maintenance of their devices, but throughout smart homes. Video remains the main way in which people consume media and information, so it should be at the center of any smart home offer. In addition, we are increasingly seeing the growing potential of voice as a control interface, and while significant improvements are still required before it becomes the ubiquitous interface to smart home services, we can expect to see it playing an increasingly important role.
Smart homes offer communication service providers (CSPs) the chance to build a sustained, personalized consumer connection. As an established provider of valued services to consumers, operators are well positioned to upsell other services. If the quality of their existing broadband connectivity and customer support services are very high, customers are likely to be open to additional offers. Working with customers to create their smart home will only increase this personal connection, providing a deeper understanding of their needs and preferences and which applications they’d benefit from. Creating a smart home platform will also help reduce customer churn, one of the costliest items on a CSP’s bottom line. Research found that 71 percent of consumers surveyed believe that “having a single bill integrating a bundle of products and services” will motivate them to purchase additional products and services. Deliver a great and comprehensive, integrated, service and people won’t want to move to another provider.
Communication service providers need to create a platform that third-party organizations want to leverage to reach customers. From a financial perspective, this opens significant revenue opportunities, as well as ways to incorporate operational efficiencies by running an integrated service. The data available through the platform about consumer behavior will enable companies to identify potential additional services, and to pass these vital insights onto service partners. Create the platform of choice for customers and third party businesses alike, and the smart home opportunity will prove extremely fruitful.
Bringing together multiple parties to deliver smart home services is what makes it such an exciting opportunity, but is also the core challenge. Effective, mutually beneficial collaboration is crucial, and operators running smart home platforms will be at the heart of this relationship. They need to create platforms that businesses want to work with, to connect invaluable data about consumers and to facilitate easy, highly personalized customer interaction with services. This is the foundation of a successful and thriving ecosystem. The offering starts with getting the in-home connectivity experience right and migrating to the next generation hub that will enable the smart home to take off.
If companies act independently, the rapid innovative nature of developing services to the smart home will keep many from reaping a financial benefit. But developing a platform which truly meets consumers’ and service providers’ needs will bring about numerous financial rewards for all involved.
As ever with online business, data security remains paramount. This is an even more pressing concern when dealing with individual, highly personalized, consumer data. Central to any platform business will be its ability to operate securely, and to ensure any services accompanying services do as well, in order to maintain and build on the established trust relationship companies have with their customers.
Technology is no longer holding companies back from delivering on the promise of the smart home—it’s only imagination and the ability to collaborate effectively that can limit what’s possible. People want integrated digital services that make life easier, and communication service providers are well positioned to provide them. In fact, 71 percent of consumers would choose a communications service provider to manage their connected home. As businesses already operating in people’s homes, communication service providers can ensure they deliver an excellent broadband service and then build on it to provide an integrated, customer-centric smart home offer.
Because if they don’t take up this opportunity,
somebody else will.
John Maguire is managing director, Accenture Digital Video and Paul Lalancette is global lead, connected home, Accenture Digital.
As seen in CSI-Cable Technology Special, June 2017