After much deliberation among CE Pro editors and other smart-home experts, we have selected our Top 5 Home Technology Trends and Opportunities for 2017. To be featured in the January 2017 (CES) issue of the magazine, the Top 5 trends affecting the installation channel in the coming year include:
- Virtual and augmented reality
- IoT device discovery and data collection
- Voice control and other emerging UIs
- New business models for an on-demand economy
- Whole-house prewires, including fiber
A Closer Look
1. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, 360-degree video
There was a time when home-technology integrators made a bundle from gaming, serving as experts in system hook-up and the whole-house distribution of audio and video from gaming machines. The same opportunities now are emerging for virtual reality and augmented reality, both of which provide entertainment for consumers and user interfaces for home control. But VR and AR can be even more value to integrators and their businesses. Think virtual walk-throughs of an automated home or the virtualization of home theaters for system design.
2. IP Device Discovery and Data Collection
Never has IP device discovery and monitoring been more important than now. At the premises level, new products and “crowd sourcing” are improving the identification of IP devices on the home network. The data collected from these devices can be used for wide-ranging purposes including remote monitoring and diagnostics, machine learning for “artificially intelligent” systems, network security, and much more. The data is being used by integrators for remote support, insurance companies for risk mitigation, manufacturers for research, and marketers for targeting individual users with specific messaging.
A/V and IoT Trends at CES 2017
3. Voice Control and Other UI Paradigms
Back in 2012, we named voice control, gesture control and other “alternative inputs” as a Top 5 Trend for the coming year. But 2017 will be the obvious break-out year for the category. Clearly voice control has arrived for home automation – with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri – but there’s a bigger trend at play: a rethinking of user interfaces that used to be defined by a touchscreen or push-button remote. Today, in addition to voice, we’re seeing single-purpose buttons scattered throughout the premises, beacons that push the appropriate UI to a user’s phone, and other UI vehicles such as gestures and QR codes.
4. New Technology Deployment Paradigms
The traditional models for selling and installing home technology were turned upside down in 2016. There used to be just a few: 1) buy online or at a local shop and install it yourself; 2) hire a mass-market provider such as the Geek Squad, Comcast or ADT; or 3) commission a custom integrator to design and install a fairly complex system. Today – inspired by Millennials and the larger on-demand economy – new choices have emerged for deploying both DIY and pro-centric solutions. Providers now offer same-day delivery, on-demand installs, remote commissioning, pay-as-you go security monitoring, leased equipment for itinerant Millennials, corporate brick-and-mortar stores, and “free” gear from utilities, homebuilders and other self-interested parties. B2B sales models also continue to change based on the needs of dealers and new developments in e-commerce and logistics.
5. Prewiring Back to the Future
Two things happened around 2008 that changed the way builders prewired for home. After years of embracing “structured wiring” for new homes, builders saw 1) the collapse of the economy and 2) the rise of wireless. They skipped the “expense” of generous prewires because the economy was bad and, well, who needed it when “everything was going wireless anyway”? That tune is changing, not necessarily because of the economic rebound but because we need wires more than ever. Applications such as 4K video and high-resolution audio demand direct connections for best results. For these applications, fiber inside the home could be a big factor in 2017. Even high-speed wireless in the home requires Ethernet for the most effective access points. At the same time, so many wireless signals in the home … and in the neighbors’ homes … and in the wider area … are wreaking havoc on unwired home networks.
Here are some other potential Top 5 Trends that we debated and dismissed for 2017.
Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) – New wide area networks are creating the ultimate “Internet of Things” platform for connecting devices directly to the cloud. As standards get hashed out, however, it will not influence the home-technology channel. We're still a couple of years away.
Trends in TV Content Delivery – This one almost beat out “prewiring.” New content packages and delivery methods from a wide range of providers — Dish, Netflix, Facebook, cable, TiVo and others — are changing the way we consume content. However, there will be little effect on our channel except the need to be an expert adviser when it comes to content delivery and consumption.
Tunable White Lighting – There is no doubt that tunable white lighting — the ability to adjust color temperatures for optimal productivity, restfulness and mental health — will come on strong in 2017. But it will start in commercial applications and then really hit the residential market probably in 2018.
4K Ecosystem – Now that we content, standards, bandwidth, Blu-ray players and discs, HDR and other services associated with 4K, this topic really should be in the Top 5 in 2017. Alas, we included it in our 2016 list.
Cybersecurity – Especially coming off the DDoS attacks this year, Cybersecurity should be a hot category for home-technology integrators in 2017. Instead of calling it out as a Top 5 for 2017, we are including it as a subset of IP Device Discovery and Monitoring.
Big CE – Google Home, Apple Home (Homekit), Samsung (SmartThings), Amazon Alexa and so many other initiatives from giant CE companies have already disrupted the marketplace for home technology. It was a Top 5 for 2014 and will be covered tangentially in the 2017 feature under New Technology Deployment Paradigms.
Recurring Monthly Revenue (RMR) Beyond Security Monitoring – We sure hope that 2017 will be there year that integrators finally start building RMR through services such as remote monitoring, technical support and ongoing client care. Many of the requisite tools emerged this year. Mostly, RMR will be covered under IP Device Discovery and Monitoring for 2017.
Z-Wave – 2017 could be a breakout year for Z-Wave, given its new remote-diagnostic tools, dealer training and certification, and new UL listings for IoT security. We thought our other Top 5 choices were more compelling.
Production Homebuilding – New construction is breaking records and builders are incorporating more technology than ever, largely due to the Millennials who demand it. But we included this trend in 2015, so … more of the same. Much more.
Top 5 Home Tech Trends: Looking Back
- Audio and Video Analytics
- DC Power Distribution
- 4K Ecosystem
- The Front Door
- User Empowerment in Home Automation
- Production home building
- Immersive home entertainment
- Engaging home automation
- The aware home
- Cloud-based networking
- High-Resolution Audio
- Mass-Market Home Automation
- Cloud Video Surveillance
- More Sensor Opportunities
- Automated Door Locks
- Enterprise-Grade Home Networks
- Wireless Audio
- Motorized Shades
- 4K Ultra HD TV
- Self-contained security/automation
- LED lighting
- Computer audio
- Voice, gesture, alternative controls
- The cloud