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Don’t Trust the Research on Home Automation

Latest study points to home automation “moving into the mainstream” via Comcast, Verizon, Lowe's and others, but will these players actually succeed?


Don’t Trust the Research on Home Automation
Julie Jacobson · May 21, 2012

ABI Research is a fine, well-respected organization, but I can’t trust their research (or anyone’s research) on home automation. The latest study finds that 90 million households worldwide will employ home automation by 2017. That may well be true, but ABI’s reasons are dubious.

The PR notes:

New subscription-based home automation offerings are rapidly transforming the way consumers will monitor, secure, and control their homes. Long the preserve of more expensive, custom-installed technology, home automation is moving into the mainstream, with companies such as ADT, Comcast/Xfinity, Verizon, Lowe’s, and many others all adding home automation to their customer services.

Yet subscription-based home control is not “rapidly” doing anything, and certainly not due to the efforts of “Comcast, Verizon, Lowe’s and many others.”

Comcast and Verizon just launched their home-control services, as did AT&T. There is no indication that they have enjoyed any success, or that they will thrive in the future. Perhaps they will, but it would be a first, and probably not something to hang your research hat on.

I don’t think Lowe’s has even launched yet. Besides, the home improvement store is selling a DIY product, the likes of which has never succeeded at retail.

When I interviewed ABI in 2009 about a similar survey, the researcher told me the information was based on interviews with select home control “leaders.” Control4, he said, had the majority of the mainstream market, followed by Lifeware.

Lifeware?!

Home Automation Inc. (HAI), which probably has the largest install base of mainstream home control systems, didn’t register on the study. The researcher put them in the “luxury” category.

I hate to pick on ABI , because they do good work. They just happen to be quite visible. Most of the research I see on home automation these days is based on the dubious assumption that utilities, cable companies and other service providers will be able to do this year and in the future what they have failed to accomplish before.

Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But my money is on the ADTs of the world, as well as other security providers and traditional home systems integrators.

I have no doubt we’ll see more smart homes in the future. Lots and lots more. Maybe 90 million worldwide, as ABI suggests.

But where do these numbers come from?!



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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