Five major trends to watch in the U.S. home automation market

Five major trends to watch in the U.S. home automation market
Undoubtedly, audio and video equipment has been U.S. homeowners’ favorite when they consider purchasing home electronics at home. Recently, there have been more and more affordable and easy-to-use home automation and security add-ons released and promoted to the masses. When the end users find that controlling their home devices can be as easy as swiping on their smartphones, they will be more likely to upgrade to a connected home and be able to enjoy the benefits it brings. Moreover, new entrants and offerings have expanded the market scale and lowered the price level. In this uprising market, we can see more and more new technologies being deployed. For example, there are multifunctional devices or voice and gesture controlled products for more intuitive operation. It is essential to reduce installation cost and effort for the price-sensitive masses. Hardware suppliers and platform providers are making it easy and affordable for users and system integrators by utilizing wireless technology.
 

(1) Multi-Functional and All-in-One
(2) Internet-Connected and Remotely-Controllable
(3) Intuitive Operation – Voice, Gesture Controls
(4) Wireless Installation
(5) More Affordable, More Accessible

 

All-in-one

All-in-one or so-called multi-functional devices are getting popular. There are more DIY-like devices that connect with the whole-home systems. According to Richie Scholl, President of Worthington, “All-in-one systems are getting popular because of lower-cost of the system, and that the one device can reduce the three separate items.” For example, LUCIS NuBryte is an all-in-one smart home system that combines smart lighting, intercom, security camera, energy and household management into one device. The Novi Security 4-in-1 home security sensor provides HD camera, motion and smoke detection along with a siren. Gavin Tanner, VP of Marketing of Novi Security said, “You can adjust the motion sensor’s sensitivity. When you or your pets are at home, you can decrease the sensitivity of the motion detectors to avoid the false alarm.”
 
Oomi Cube is a wireless home hub integrated with network camera and eight kinds of sensors. Brian Hirsh, Marketing at Fantem Technologies said, “We take different approaches. We focus on user simplicity, making smart home accessible to everyone with our useful and smarter system. We simplify the pairing process with our tap-and-touch technology by using NFC technology.” Users can just use the Oomi Touch controller to tap the accessories and then confirm the pairing by touching the icon.
 
Darryl Minkin, DataComm Product Manager of Border States Electric said,” We see continuously increasing demand of multifunctional devices from the climate control side. We see the multi-functional model is more popular than the security side because we can control thermostats based on ambient humidity.”
 

Internet-connected and remotely-controllable

Thanks to the development of Internet of Things, the connected home makes a big leap to the smart home. Previously, homeowners control their home appliances with the remote and keypad. Now, they can control via a touchscreen display, iPhone, iPad, smart watch, or PC.
 
Homeowners have more flexibility in controlling their home automation devices with schedule setting, personalized system scenes, and notification creation with DIY-like ease without asking system integrators for help. At the same time, integrators can see the changes made and remotely view, add, delete, reconfigure, and recover previous versions.
 
Remote controller have expanded its functionality, and becomes connected as well. For example, URC and RTI released remotes with built-in color touchscreen LCD displays for audio intercom, monitoring surveillance cameras, and other functions that are found in the smartphone. When someone rings the doorbell, the homeowners can switch the screen to the surveillance camera or front door to see what’s happening on the TV.
 
The suppliers think the dedicated touchscreen displays and remote controllers are still important. Suppliers such as Remote Technologies Inc. (RTI) think that dedicated remote controls are important elements of any control system. Brett Stokke, Director of Communications at RTI said, “Relying solely on an app on a smartphone or tablet for control can lead to a frustrating user experience because these devices are not always available and can be inconvenient for simple adjustments, like turning down the volume. Remote controls offer the simple, tactile control users are accustomed to, making it important to always include a dedicated control in any installation.”
 
Platform suppliers are trying to make their customers' homes smarter, not just connected. Control4’s new OS 2.8 includes new features that exhibit this fact entirely. Added with this recent software release are a whole host of user-interface updates for smart home entertainment and security solutions that not only give the customer control over their smart devices, but also orchestrate events and smart home scenes. Smart home scenes coordinate all of the customer’s favorite devices into one unified environment where for instance, you can come home from work and by simply opening your garage door, your front door unlocks, your lights turn on, your thermostat adjusts to a comfortable temperature, and your favorite music starts playing.
 
Lutron’s RadioRA 2 and HomeWorks QS systems support Geofencing to turn on lights, shades or adjust temperature based on a user’s location for ensuring a warm welcome home and added peace of mind.
 
Using a smart watch as a mobile controller is getting popular. Lutron’s RadioRA 2 and HomeWorks QS systems support AppleWatch notification besides geofencing. It offers users the ability to make changes and receive alerts from a remote location.
 

Intuitive operation – voice, gesture controls

With the proliferation of smartphones, consumers now feel comfortable with smart technologies. Beyond mobile apps, manufacturers are trying to develop solutions that support more intuitive operations. This year, we see new offerings supporting voice and gesture control to make the home control easier. For example, the Savant Remote features voice command function that users can activate their own Savant scenes.
 
When they say “RELAX,” the system will dim the lights and play music. When they say “GOODNIGHT,” the system will turn everything off. Fibaro Swipe is a Z-Wave wireless gesture-control panel that allows users to control home automation devices through gestures without touching any devices or using a smart phone or tablet. It can recognize six simple gestures—up, down, left, right, circle to the left, circle to the right for users to perform home control activities like turning lights on/off, lowering and raising blinds, dimming and brightening lights, running complete automated scenes and more.
 

Wireless installation

Z-Wave, ZigBee and Wi-Fi are three major and popular communication standards for smart home. For system integrators and installers in the United States, Z-Wave and Wi-Fi are popular. Scholl of Worthington said, “Z-Wave is a popular technology for system installers because most control panels are Z-Wave based so far.“ Easy to install, and reliable systems are important factors before the system integrators and end users make a purchase.
 
Tim Dinkel, Lighting Controls Specialist for Wiring Devices at Eaton, said, “At the moment, we focus on Z-Wave only. One advantage is its interoperability with different devices. If you want to integrate a system with door locks, thermostats, lighting control, the protocol allows you to do that in a very structured manner. The customers may want to the control the door lock with the system that controls the lights, and Z-Wave does that.” Eaton’s Anyplace RF battery-operated switch enables homeowners and contractors to install a switch anywhere in the home without additional wiring.
 
Although Wi-Fi dominates Internet connectivity and home network infrastructure, there are attractive protocols on the horizon. “Customers tend to shy away from products that are difficult to install, which also results in a lot of product returns,” said James Hsieh, Chief of Staff at MivaTek. “We chose Wi-Fi and RF433 protocols for our products. RF433 allows us to pre-pair our devices at the factory, so they’re easy to install.
 
We’re also looking into incorporating ZigBee and Z-Wave into our DIY kits next year.” LockState provides Wi-Fi smart locks. Nolan Mondrow, President of LockState said, “We did this because everybody has Wi-Fi in the home and business. With Wi-Fi, users don’t need any smart home gateway. The infrastructure has already built. They don’t have to worry about the network, and can have long range of coverage.” He indicated that the Wi-Fi enable devices are popular for installers. Mohan Vellanki, Co-Founder of Orvito indicated, “If you get all the products with Wi-Fi, it would be easy because you’ve got the consistent interface and experience.”
 

More affordable, more accessible

For the mass market, the price point can be a crucial factor for a wider adoption. From the HomeAdviser, the average amount spent on home automation systems is around $1,188 in the United States. The report shows most home owners spent between $623 and $2,052. The market base contains 64 million potential clients. From the CEDIA Expo 2015, we could see the systems have been lowering down to less than $1,000.
 
Clare Controls offers the new CLIQ.mini controller with a MSRP of just under $400 to its dealers. In addition, its products support Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) featuring auto-discover capabilities for Clare cameras, Sonos, and Sony products, requiring no additional equipment or licensing fees.
 
Kwikset’s Signature Series with Home Connect is priced at $149, available in security and consumer electronics professional distribution outlets. The smart lock is operated on 4 AA batteries that will last for approximately one year. The lock utilizes a single-cylinder deadbolt as its foundation, and it features easy installation, targeting first-time homebuyers or homeowners.
 
Smartphones and tablets provide a more affordable interface than dedicated control panels. It creates a new market segment and lowers the barriers to the mass adoption. Amy Jalili, Director of Marketing at On Controls said, “iOS and Android tablets have become more accessible to the mass market which definitely gives consumers an incentive to consider this kind of a solution. In the past we relied on a dedicated control panel and/or remote. But now we want to provide a solution that is available to the larger public. By allowing individuals to leverage the familiarity and convenience of their personal iOS or Android device we've created a far more attractive and user-friendly solution.”
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