The Cloud: Why 2012 Will Be a Breakout Year
Managing security, phone systems, thermostats and more with the cloud.
Cloud computing is one of CE Pro’s Top 5 Home Technology Opportunities for 2012. We will be profiling each trend over the next week as part of our State of the Industry Report.
But there are additional opportunities in cloud-based services. We believe 2012 will be a breakout year for hosted home control, including security, energy management, telecommunications and whole-house automation.
We hear this often from integrators: “I don’t trust the cloud for my clients. It isn’t reliable.” And the LAPD recently dumped Google’s Gmail email service, saying it could not meet the required security needs.
Yet many CE pros entrust their entire business to the cloud (also known as SaaS or software as a service), sharing Google documents, for example, and using Salesforce.com or some other cloud-based sales and CRM software.
“We’ve moved from all internal Microsoft products to manage all communications and documents in the cloud,” says Scott Newnam of Raleigh, N.C.-based Audio Advice.
While his company does offer cloud-based security services (via Alarm.com), “there’s not really a marketing push for it,” he says.
But he’s “not nervous” about moving more home technologies to the cloud, just as the company has done with content. In fact, Newnam thinks it may make more sense to manage some home-control functions in the cloud than it does to manage audio/video systems.
“They’re very, very different from music systems and HD switching systems, which have lots of permutations that can change on a regular basis,” Newnam says. “You don’t have to go and change them [home automation devices] every day, and it’s much easier to provide that without a lot of custom logic.”
He foresees hybrid solutions where some of the less complicated subsystems like thermostats - “You might not see a new thermostat for 10 years” - are managed in the cloud, with more dynamic systems like audio and video managed locally.
Also, says Brett Price of the startup home-automation company Clare Controls, “when you look at those types of products, the user sensitivity to response time isn’t going to be that great. No user is going to be that aggravated if it takes a second-and-a-half for a key press on a thermostat to actuate something.”
Clare was launched in 2011, along with several other companies and products with the cloud at their core - and not just security and home automation, either. Several companies including startups Allure Energy, EcoFactor and Nest, as well as old-timer Honeywell, bowed cloud-enabled (not just IP-enabled) smart thermostats. Newcomer Navvo launched the Voco music management solution with a speech-recognition engine hosted in the cloud. And virtually all of the leading power-management providers now offer cloud-based solutions.
And then there’s Panasonic, which released a cloud-based phone system that does away with the typical PBX hub. It starts with an Internet-connected telephone base station that can communicate wirelessly with up to six extensions. The handsets cost about $300 each and the extensive telecom features cost $40 per month per line.
Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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