Control & Automation

CES 2019: Wi-Fi Looked Like a Home-Automation ‘Standard’

Even the most faithful Z-Wave, ZigBee and BLE adopters went W-Fi with new home-automation devices at CES 2019. Adios IoT hubs?

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7 Comments
Posted by SpivR on January 18, 2019

I hate to sound like some of my fellow CEDIA cranky oldsters against anything new, but IMHO CES is still the bastion of gadgets, toys, and shiny new things for consumers.

Success in the consumer space requires product features not aligned with smart homes and home automation and that’s why Wi-Fi (and even Bluetooth) are so popular.

Product vendors are desperate for easy selling, inexpensive products that are throw-away, not long-lasting or supported for the long run.

Latching onto the coat-tails of the big guys (Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung) is the most important priority in their product design.  Even if it means severe compromises in battery life, usability, and cross-system/cross-platform compatibility

Wi-Fi is popular because it is already installed in the vast majority of homes and any gadget with WifI is the closest IoT vendors can get to “plug and play” instead of “plug and pray”.

Issues of battery life, network addressing, and other subtle considerations that only become important when one grows from a room of one or two gadgets to a multi-room, or whole-home system are not what consumer’s wants to hear.

After all, the huge growth in Bluetooth and BLE (which we all know is far inferior to long-standing technologies like Z-wave, Zigbee, and vendor solutions such as Lutron Clearconnect) is 100% driven by the fact that BLE is built into every iPhone, iPad, & Samsung smartphone, tablet, and computer.

The opportunity for us is to take this consumer excitement for single-room, easy to use gadgets and as as the “adults in the room” providing education and consultative assistance to help guide consumers, after they have a simple taste of these devices, towards more holistic solutions that encompass many devices, multiple rooms, and even multiple homes.

Those of us that see this as a glass half-full will do much better than those that want to insult the consumer by telling them all this stuff is “worthless junk” and then trying to sell them superficially similar products at 3 times the price without any education or justification first.

Posted by Robin Ford on January 18, 2019

Coming from the IT world many years ago, my guru/hero has always been Regis McKenna. I was fortunate enough to meet him and hear him speak back in the day regarding his stance on technical standards. It resonated with me when he said that a standard is not a standard because a body of experts or self-promoting vendors puts it forth, but rather because it’s present in the market. In IT we saw “standards” put forth and they would often come and go, but the real standards were the ones the industry adopted. It became obvious what the true standards were by their presence in the market. WiFi is inevitable and has been since day one of home automation because of its presence. In the end, the market tells you—and it is coming through loud and clear—that WiFi is a home automation standard.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on January 18, 2019

Thanks for your insights, Robin and Spivr. I see opportunities like this: Here’s a $50 Google mini and a couple of $35 GE LIghting “sleep lights.” Try them out as a poor man’s circadian lighting system. If you like the results, let’s move you to something more practical ....

Posted by Tink on January 20, 2019

Truly, only the uninformed consumer is asking for WiFi and no hubs. The media keeps reporting that people do not want hubs, but after doing shows like CES for 20 years, I am definitely not hearing the same thing as the media because I am hearing from people who love the features and integration that only a hub can provide. WiFi is like eMail in that it is a means of moving information back and forth - both ends still have to know the language of the information for it to work. When you have a hub that speaks Z-Wave or Zigbee which have their own standard languages for everything that uses it, you can have true integration of all of the devices in the home. At the same time the media writes that people love WiFi and hates hubs, they are also writing about how the WiFi door locks are the most insecure out of all of the connected door lock technologies.  Let’s get the media straight - WiFi is great for entry level products for people getting started in SmartHome, but as soon as they realize that they like it and want true integration, and not having to run 6 apps every time they leave the home to turn off things, they turn to a technology rich with integration such as Z-Wave or Zigbee (and in the future, perhaps BLE).

Posted by SpivR on January 20, 2019

Complaining about hubs seems to hit the media every year like clockwork.  The synthetic objections bothered me enough that over a year ago I wrote a blog post about it.  I hope it is ok to share it here:

https://www.doitforme.solutions/blog/2017/9/21/whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-hub

Posted by Julie Jacobson on January 21, 2019

Obviously right, Tink, but you can’t ignore the “truly uninformed” consumer, as they represent 97.2% of the population when it comes to smart home.

Posted by Robin Ford on January 24, 2019

I don’t understand the hub vs WiFi issue here at all. There is a place for both in the smart home. Lower cost Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth have their place, as does WiFi technology. There are important benefits to cloud-based systems using IP/WiFi, and benefits to low power mesh networks as well—and no reason that one can’t be used with another. In many ways the argument here is semantics, what is a hub, what is a router? Is it where the control software sits? And yes, low cost battery powered products can be a gateway for integrators to introduce more powerful, stable and multi zone solutions. I won’t get into all the benefits of analytics and AI here, but that is something a true IP based system can offer that a low cost RF system can not. Why do you think Nest went with IP for their learning devices?

7 Comments
Posted by Robin Ford on January 24, 2019

I don’t understand the hub vs WiFi issue here at all. There is a place for both in the smart home. Lower cost Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth have their place, as does WiFi technology. There are important benefits to cloud-based systems using IP/WiFi, and benefits to low power mesh networks as well—and no reason that one can’t be used with another. In many ways the argument here is semantics, what is a hub, what is a router? Is it where the control software sits? And yes, low cost battery powered products can be a gateway for integrators to introduce more powerful, stable and multi zone solutions. I won’t get into all the benefits of analytics and AI here, but that is something a true IP based system can offer that a low cost RF system can not. Why do you think Nest went with IP for their learning devices?

Posted by Julie Jacobson on January 21, 2019

Obviously right, Tink, but you can’t ignore the “truly uninformed” consumer, as they represent 97.2% of the population when it comes to smart home.

Posted by SpivR on January 20, 2019

Complaining about hubs seems to hit the media every year like clockwork.  The synthetic objections bothered me enough that over a year ago I wrote a blog post about it.  I hope it is ok to share it here:

https://www.doitforme.solutions/blog/2017/9/21/whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-hub

Posted by Tink on January 20, 2019

Truly, only the uninformed consumer is asking for WiFi and no hubs. The media keeps reporting that people do not want hubs, but after doing shows like CES for 20 years, I am definitely not hearing the same thing as the media because I am hearing from people who love the features and integration that only a hub can provide. WiFi is like eMail in that it is a means of moving information back and forth - both ends still have to know the language of the information for it to work. When you have a hub that speaks Z-Wave or Zigbee which have their own standard languages for everything that uses it, you can have true integration of all of the devices in the home. At the same time the media writes that people love WiFi and hates hubs, they are also writing about how the WiFi door locks are the most insecure out of all of the connected door lock technologies.  Let’s get the media straight - WiFi is great for entry level products for people getting started in SmartHome, but as soon as they realize that they like it and want true integration, and not having to run 6 apps every time they leave the home to turn off things, they turn to a technology rich with integration such as Z-Wave or Zigbee (and in the future, perhaps BLE).

Posted by Julie Jacobson on January 18, 2019

Thanks for your insights, Robin and Spivr. I see opportunities like this: Here’s a $50 Google mini and a couple of $35 GE LIghting “sleep lights.” Try them out as a poor man’s circadian lighting system. If you like the results, let’s move you to something more practical ....

Posted by Robin Ford on January 18, 2019

Coming from the IT world many years ago, my guru/hero has always been Regis McKenna. I was fortunate enough to meet him and hear him speak back in the day regarding his stance on technical standards. It resonated with me when he said that a standard is not a standard because a body of experts or self-promoting vendors puts it forth, but rather because it’s present in the market. In IT we saw “standards” put forth and they would often come and go, but the real standards were the ones the industry adopted. It became obvious what the true standards were by their presence in the market. WiFi is inevitable and has been since day one of home automation because of its presence. In the end, the market tells you—and it is coming through loud and clear—that WiFi is a home automation standard.

Posted by SpivR on January 18, 2019

I hate to sound like some of my fellow CEDIA cranky oldsters against anything new, but IMHO CES is still the bastion of gadgets, toys, and shiny new things for consumers.

Success in the consumer space requires product features not aligned with smart homes and home automation and that’s why Wi-Fi (and even Bluetooth) are so popular.

Product vendors are desperate for easy selling, inexpensive products that are throw-away, not long-lasting or supported for the long run.

Latching onto the coat-tails of the big guys (Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung) is the most important priority in their product design.  Even if it means severe compromises in battery life, usability, and cross-system/cross-platform compatibility

Wi-Fi is popular because it is already installed in the vast majority of homes and any gadget with WifI is the closest IoT vendors can get to “plug and play” instead of “plug and pray”.

Issues of battery life, network addressing, and other subtle considerations that only become important when one grows from a room of one or two gadgets to a multi-room, or whole-home system are not what consumer’s wants to hear.

After all, the huge growth in Bluetooth and BLE (which we all know is far inferior to long-standing technologies like Z-wave, Zigbee, and vendor solutions such as Lutron Clearconnect) is 100% driven by the fact that BLE is built into every iPhone, iPad, & Samsung smartphone, tablet, and computer.

The opportunity for us is to take this consumer excitement for single-room, easy to use gadgets and as as the “adults in the room” providing education and consultative assistance to help guide consumers, after they have a simple taste of these devices, towards more holistic solutions that encompass many devices, multiple rooms, and even multiple homes.

Those of us that see this as a glass half-full will do much better than those that want to insult the consumer by telling them all this stuff is “worthless junk” and then trying to sell them superficially similar products at 3 times the price without any education or justification first.