5 improvements smart home manufacturers in Taiwan are working on

5 improvements smart home manufacturers in Taiwan are working on
How good has it been so far for smart home manufacturing in Taiwan? There is no definite answer yet. But while the majority of makers anticipate mass delivery, they are nonetheless keeping pace with international buyers’ true demands. In this report, SMAhome is detailing five improvements in which Asian manufacturers are putting their efforts into the growing smart home market.

1.    Completing full product lineup, not just single products

Understanding the strong requirements of solution products in a smart home rather than supplying a single device or service can satisfy potential buyers. Asian manufacturers are beginning to broaden their product lineup based on their professional background such as home security, gateway, telecommunication system, storage or lighting device. Not only is selling solution products more profitable, but it also indicates the scenario that the Asian smart home industry is gradually stepping out of the initial stage.  

Offering solution products is the approach taken by big Asian IT brands to enter the smart home market. ASUS has debuted it’s first-ever series, “ASUS Smart Home” this June. It is a complete DIY ZigBee smart home solution, consisting of a smart gateway, door lock, temperature & humidity sensor, door/window sensor, meter plug, motion sensor and siren. Jim Yeh, senior director of ASUS smart home team, highlighted the free scenario settings to achieve better intelligent performance according to users’ needs. For example, “when the sensor detects unusual motions, the system triggers the AiCam and video recording in the cloud,” Yeh said.

According to Yeh, the retail price of ASUS Smart Home has not been set, but the series will be sold separately in either a kit box or single device. Not just the retailer channels, “we are also talking to B2B channels such as telcos and MSOs. The discussions have taken place at ASUS.”

In addition to IT brands, the networking specialist is Taiwan’s A-team to supply the smart home products across the world. Senao Networks, Inc. offers smart IoT gateway, personal cloud service, indoor and outdoor network cameras to complete its product lineup. Based on Senao’s background as a long-range wireless phone provider, it has begun supporting a wide range of wireless, PoE Ethernet switches, VoIP, and IP surveillance products. Its home IP surveillance lineup includes network cameras, gateways and cloud service. Vincent Hsu, product manager of branding business division at Senao Networks, indicated that the company will release a series of network cameras for smart homes and the next-generation router will be embedded with a network video recording functionality in 2016.

Backed by its expertise in telecommunication technologies, Tecom has begun to develop its own smart home platform since 2011. In addition to the professional installation market, Tecom is expanding the applications of IP cameras for security as well as the auto controlling at home. As a subsidiary company of TECO, it has already integrated TECO air conditioners into its system and enabled cloud management to enlarge product lineups. 

2. Underlining openness

From the perspective of an end user, the home gateway or hub plays a role of the interface for network connectivity. As an important control center for the smart home, it solves the interoperability of connected products provided by different companies and different supporting standards. “Challenges of the IoT market include interoperability, development complexity and security,” said Dr. Bernard Shung, secretary of Open Interconnect Consortium/MediaTek. Consequently, as more and more people talk about mass devices and protocols, manufacturers in the first half of 2015, including Acer, Gemtek, Avadesign, and as such, have begun launching solution services, system integration and open platforms for customers to solve the interoperable and integrated problems of software and hardware. They are paying higher attention to customization services, which is also a facilitating factor for solution products in the Asian smart home industry. 

Another major consumer brand, Acer, has taken a different approach to the smart home. “To effectively achieve Acer Open Platform, we have to work with both sides: SOC providers and device manufacturers. We are recruiting device manufacturers in various industries to join our BYOC (Build Your Own Cloud) ecosystem. Smart home is the highlighted industry. The partner manufacturers can leverage our cloud system and joint marketing promotion campaigns,” said Gibson Lin, partner account supervisor of IoT Solutions Division in Acer. According to Lin, Acer BYOC is currently working with more than 10 Taiwanese smart home makers, including EcoLumina, Astak, and STCloud. “We also shake hands with SOC makers such as MediaTek. Acer now is cooperating with MediaTek to offer Acer BYOC Mobile Sensor Hub DevKit.” With MediaTek MT2502 (Aster) integration, the DevKit comes complete with functions such as data statistics of current and certain period data from sensor hubs. 

Also, Gemtek is demonstrating its TD-LT/Data Wi-Fi Cloud and ZigBee IR gateways for smart home solutions, including its IoT gateway used for smart grid. 

Not only do they offer a solution on gateways, they also enable manufacturers to integrate hardware devices into their system. “Avadesign has integrated other hardware providers’ products via the gateway, which helps to form a platform base,” said John Chen, general manager of Avadesign Technology. “As for the application layer, it is impossible for a company to provide all the required services in smart home,” commented Chen. That is why companies like Avadesign, CAP-TECH, ASKEY and so on chooses to adopt an open strategy and they welcome collaboration with hardware and software service providers who can utilize the platform to create their own applications. 

On the finished-product level, BTstar offers customized smart home solutions based on Z-Wave technology for more possible openness. It showcases the Z-Wave Plus gateway “Heimdall” and a portfolio of connected devices ranging from IP cameras, sensors, switches to sirens and more. 

ICP DAS provides building and home automation solutions including lighting, HVAC, security and safety system, power management, and central monitoring systems. The company also offers DGW DALI gateway for flexible expansion for lighting systems. Considering the fact that simple, easy-to-use and cost-effective products are preferred in the smart home market, YODO Technology demonstrates its Mini NVR Cloud and Wi-Fi plus IR gateway solutions.  

Other than the gateway solution, cloud management is also highlighted. SUNIX Group, a 29-year-old veteran specializing in computer boards for industrial PCs, is introducing IoLife (Intelligent/Internet of Life) and cloud management for smart home. “SUNIX Cloud service is dedicated to bringing partners a flexible solution and high customization; we will keep on developing gateway solutions to be applied on not just the home category but also other sectors in the future,” said Sam Wang, sales project manager at SUNIX.

From the above products, the next-generation of smart home gateway solution or open platform issues may be considered to develop in the following features such as intelligent management, open protocols, hardware supported ability and cloud-based updates. When there are more and more connected devices linking to the home network, the more efficient home network becomes essential.

3. All-in-one trend: small and compact 

Based on data collected from 1,600 North American consumers, the 2015 State of the Smart Home Report found that interest is driven by simple devices with obvious benefits and to drive mass adoption, device makers must show how products solve real, everyday problems. Asian manufacturers also recognized the trends and showcased products which combined many functions to demonstrate the simple, compact and convenient using experience. 

Under the concept of all-in-one devices, manufacturers have integrated their products to become more compact in order to boost competitiveness. Torch  is presenting an LED bulb with embedded IP camera and PIR. “The need for IP surveillance is rising and many IT companies have been moving forward to home security arena. Torch, as a lamp and lantern provider, also decides to join the competition,” explained Alan Fan of Torch Industrial. When the all-in-one feature becomes more and more popular in smart home, the LED camera is Torch's first try to integrate its specialty in developing lamps and IP surveillance technologies. 

“With the burgeoning IoT market, simple and compact is the trend to follow in terms of product development,” said Sherlock Shih, general manager of i-TRINETECH. i-TRINETECH showcases MediaWalker963, a Wi-Fi LED Module. With multiple built-in media and network camera in the LED lighting, users can control all these functions using their smartphone app. “We expect MediaWalker963 to be more than just for entertainment as it can also be used for surveillance,” Shih added. 

Besides, some companies such as CoAsia and XYZprinting are launching new products equipped with all-in-one features. XYZprinting integrates service robot with three form factors for beacon, IR, smoke and IoT sensors. CoAsia Microelectronics Corp. presents Air Mentor, a 6-in-1 air quality sensor. Air Mentor monitors the following parameters: temperature, relative humidity, concentrations of CO (carbon monoxide), CO2 (carbon dioxide), VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and PM 10 & PM 2.5. 

Featuring a creative design, the all in one product is a challenge for manufacturers to collocate more functions together in order to improve the convenient and compact strategy. 

Finally, the Advanced Semiconductor Engineering, Inc., the semiconductor assembly and test service provider also noticed the trend and showcases SiP technology. “We got a lot of customers' inquiries about the needs of multiple semiconductor chips and passive components to be integrated within a smaller and more compact module,” said CP Hung Ph.D., corporate R&D center vice president of ASE. Compact and small will be a future trend for the market of smartphones, wearables, homes, and sensor applications. “That’s why we want to introduce SiP solutions to more manufacturers, although we have already worked on the technique for over 10 years.” 

4. Eyes on DIY

SMAhome already observed in its previous issue the DIY momentum during the International CES 2015. Similarly, the pattern can be seen amongst Asian manufacturers in the first half year of 2015. From this perspective, it is safe to say that the DIY business model is a trend that is rapidly expanding worldwide. 

The DIY pattern projects a one-time buyout of the hardware, where it generally comes with complimentary cloud or software services. Moreover, there are some key factors which customers care about such as easy installation, after-sales service and stable quality. For instance, Grandex is introducing DIY home automation solution oTTo running on RF2.4GHz frequency with local storage for better security. The DIY home automation solution oTTo allows users to control door/window sensors, and home appliances through light switches, dimmers and power outlets. Besides hardware, the company designed its own cloud platform. oTTo provides schedule setting and smart rule designs for user to automate their homes in an intelligent way. 

Home security still occupies a place in the smart home industry and end users are considered potential consumers, as observed by Asian manufacturers. KGUARD, the surveillance brand is announcing its new DIY alarm system, Easy Link PLUS Series Combo Kit lately. Easy installation, quick setup, good performance, and affordable pricing are the four main qualities that KGUARD outstands.  “We have been committed to achieving these qualities and we will continue to be,” said Gary Yang, chief of engineer department of KGUARD. Also, OPCOM presents OPCOM Home, offering a DIY selection of lighting, security and energy management products for building an IoT home.

Even Tecom, a manufacturer who used to run the contract business model to provide residential construction projects, also explained that they are planning to showcase the DIY products in the market. However, the launch schedule has yet to be confirmed. 

5. Better user-friendliness via integration 

No matter how manufacturers create innovative devices, if they do not pay attention to integration, they may submerge before next intensifying large-scale completion. “We developed self-designed app and manufactured own devices because we know that the integrated problem is the most severe challenge,” commented Eason Lee, sales executive of T-MOD. T-MOD showcases HD Smart Alarm and Surveillance System as an integrated home care for providing customers a better user friendly experience. 

The connected home is not always relevant to customers who are not addictive about modern technologies. Furthermore, there are companies to integrate different software and hardware together. CELS System presented its first generation Candle Wireless Speaker model, showcasing a shortcut to smarter life via the combination of the wavering (but electric) candle light and delightful music playing. With the Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) and Bluetooth capabilities, this wax-covered candle speaker can be further utilized as an IOT hub which enables remote control over other Bluetooth home devices.

Additionally, some manufacturers combine the gateway with other devices. NxControl provides its innovative “NxPider & NxBee” solution to simplify home control over multiple IR devices. The NxControl’s solution embeds a ZigBee gateway into the remote control “NxPider.” The “NxBee” is a round-shaped gadget with the size of a coin and able to convert ZigBee commands into IR signals. Also, ABELTECH combined the camera with a built-in ZigBee gateway and other accessories for users to remotely monitor and control their home devices anytime, anywhere. “We have collaborated with partner companies to produce ZigBee accessories which can be paired with the IOT Camera,” said Jojo Chang, specialist of marketing department of ABELTECH. The gateway embedded inside of the camera can therefore act as a control center which sends commands to sensors, controllers and smart plugs in the home. These manufacturers pay attention to customers’ user experience and try to reduce the inconvenience with the integrated applications. 

Generally speaking, devices from different platforms should be connected. Rather than adapting to a certain organization or company standard, expansion of the ecosystem in the industry has to be promoted. In order to achieve the vision to provide a variety of services that are valuable to our lives, it will require active cooperation across sectors. This will allow Smart Homes, Smart Healthcare and Smart Buildings to be realized.

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