Can Wearable Technology Occupy the Smart Home Space?
Aug 06, 2015
Today, wearable technology uptake is limited to a niche market mainly constituting tech enthusiasts. One of the biggest challenges restraining mass market uptake is the absence of strong use cases. Though there are some wearable device applications such as fitness bands that have caught the customer’s eye, there is still a strong need to develop suitable applications that can push forward adoption of wearable devices on a wider scale. In this respect, wearable device integration into the connected home is an opportunity that is worth exploring.
The smart home market is at an early growth stage fueled by increasing customer interest in deploying smart home hubs, especially for cost and energy efficiency. Moreover, recent Frost & Sullivan research has revealed that some customers are already open to the idea of employing wearable technology to control smart home solutions, despite the low level of market penetration of these devices.
The smart home opportunity is not just an indication from the consumer’s end but is exhibited in many of the latest smart home solutions in the market. Some providers are already launching the capability to integrate wearable devices with their smart home solutions. Nest, a popular smart home solutions provider (now owned by Google) is enabling wearable device integration into its platform. Staples, the US-based retailer launched Staples Connect, which is a suite of connected devices that integrates wearable devices for easier control.
Wearable devices can be designed to be more intuitive and seamless than smartphones. Smartphones are always at arm’s length whereas wearables are physically attached to the user. This advantage can enable an intelligent and contextually aware wearable device to perform tasks seamlessly, for example, unlock the house door as you approach it, avoiding the hassle of digging for house keys in a bag or pulling out a smartphone to unlock it. This makes it a perfect remote control device for certain smart home solutions such as thermostat or lighting control. The most obvious opportunity is the use of smart bands or watches to control specific smart home applications such as lighting, thermostat or music. In addition, there are newer devices that are being launched that use speech and gesture recognition technology. Nod and Ring, are interesting examples of wearable devices – rings - that enable control over smart home devices using gesture recognition technology. Amazon Echo employs speech recognition for smart home control. Though there are a range of technologies flooding the market, it is likely that only a handful will succeed commercially while others either fade away or cater to a niche market sector.
With advances in wearable technology, its role in the smart home can be expanded to include newer applications such as real-time monitoring of basic health metrics, personalization of the ambient environment (automatic adjustment of the home environment such as lighting, heating, air conditioning around the house according to the individual’s preferences) and identification of the resident for home security.
Despite the range of possibilities for wearable devices in the smart home ecosystem, commercial take-off is curbed by technical limitations. Wearable devices need to be able to capture contextual information about the user such as location inside the home to ensure services are enabled accurately. It is also important to address issues caused by the presence of multiple individuals in smart homes. For example, in cases where there is more than one individual in a room, the device needs to be smart enough to detect and switch the thermostat to a pre-determined setting chosen by the user.
Another issue preventing the development of an Internet of Things ecosystem is the lack of interoperability caused by competing network protocols. Smart home solution providers need to collaborate and embrace open standards and while there are already several initiatives in this direction, it is likely to take some time to materialise.
It is also important for smart home solution providers to decide on the most suitable go-to-market strategy, such as the type of device, partnership with a wearable device manufacturer, or most suitable smart home applications for wearables.
It is still early days for wearables in smart homes; however it is likely to remain a niche market, at least for the next 5 years. It will be a challenge for wearable devices to overcome the existing comfort levels that consumers experience with smartphones. Even if it does, initial use of wearables will likely be limited to the control of thermostat or lighting applications as well as monitoring of basic health metrics. Automatic adjustments of the ambient environment by wearables will likely be a reality in the next 10 years and beyond, provided advanced machine-learning capabilities are integrated with the device.
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