The annual Connections Conference 2018, produced by leading smart-home research firm Parks Associates, just wrapped up in San Francisco. It was packed with some 650 leaders from industries including cable, energy, insurance, home-tech manufacturing, cloud services and others that want to own the smart home (and some that already do).
We didn't see much representation from “our” industry, though, either manufacturers or home-tech integrators that have been doing this smart-home stuff since way before it was called IoT. Only a handful of custom installers and manufacturers attended the event. One of those integrators was Jennifer Mallett, CEO of Level Up Your Home, based in Marlborough, Mass.
Mallett, who wasn't shy about quizzing the panelists in several sessions, shares her thoughts about the event.
5 Takeaways from Connections 2018
1. Expertise in technology sales and home service is key to bridging the gap between current technology promises in the smart home and what actually happens — especially as it relates to interoperability.
Custom integrators know more about this topic than security, insurance and manufacturers! It begs the question: How can we become more involved and our voice represented at industry conferences? I hope to see the CEDIA channel represented more next year through attendance and participation at the event.
It’s a time investment for individual businesses, but very much worth the time. We have an opportunity to be a part of the early stages of IoT so we can facilitate easier installs and basic needs of our clients that are being missed – as well as the overall go-to market strategy as whole.
2. The service provider industry will see huge demand for expertise as it will take time for the DIY promise to match the reality in the home. Nuances in voice control, challenges with interoperability … these things will benefit greatly from a custom approach. There are [installer] networks and companies preparing for this on a mass-market scale but it is clear to me that this is not the end-all, be-all answer for all customers.
Good-enough audio, good-enough security, good-enough service? Our sights should be set higher.
I think this will be important for the smart-home industry as a whole, as customers will be disenfranchised with IoT products without a good experience. Mass adoption would suffer as as a result. We are largely not ready to meet the expected demand. We need to work on developing labor to support this demand – from the trade schools to educating more mature professionals.
Scaling technology can be easy. Scaling a labor workforce to support the variety of homes and use cases will be challenging – but the upside will be huge!
3. Aging in place, insurance and other industries are on their way … but they still seem to be in the middle stages of development. How does service labor fit into these models? How can we plug into these opportunities to support and capitalize on the need?
4. The future opportunities of RMR [recurring monthly revenue] was solidified for me at Connections. The end users of this technology will see the value in paying monthly as long as we communicate the benefits well and deliver on them.
5. The technology coming down the pike, particularly sensor-driven solutions – WOW. Game changers. Privacy still needs to be addressed, but hopefully with everyone working together to create industry standards for protecting personal information, we will allow the end user to opt in to the level of sharing they are comfortable with.
There seems to be a continuum of “convenience to creepiness” for people. Where someone sits is a personal preference. I think we need to make sure the user is able to decide as products are developed so we can maximize the smart-home opportunity.
JENNIFER MALLETT is founder and CEO of Level Up Your Home, a national home-technology integration company based in Marlborough, Mass. Before starting the company in 2016, Jennifer spent 15 years managing its national network of home service providers.
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