Preview of CES 2016 Smart Home Panel with Samsung, Lutron, ADT, Icontrol

Sneak preview of Smart Home session at CES 2016, covering home automation challenges and successes in interoperability, security and privacy, sales and marketing, product development and user experience.

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At CES 2016 this week in Las Vegas, thousands of home automation products and services will be demonstrated by start-ups like Displ’ever (ultra-thin digital e-paper display powered by ambient light) and giants like LG Electronics (Smart ThingQ AllSeen-compatible home automation hub with Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee).

How will these products fare? What will happen to the smart home category, including IoT standards, sales channels, user experience, consumer demands, security, privacy, installation and tech support?

Executives from four major smart-home companies – Samsung/Smart Things, Lutron Electronics, ADT and Icontrol — will offer their insights during the one-hour panel discussion, “The Future of Smart Home Innovation,” Friday, Jan. 8, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm (LVCC North Hall, room N253).

As moderator of the session, I spoke with the panelists, who shared some interesting thoughts on the smart-home category and the CES session.

Arthur Orduna, chief innovation officer for ADT, will reveal some big news for the security and home automation giant during the session. He says it concerns the big question of: “How do you go after everybody?”

He explains, “We’re going after a homogeneous segment of North America,” with some 20 percent to 30 percent of households. “How do you go after the other 80 percent?

On another note, Orduna proposed the topic of “user experience” (UX), which to some may seem bland and over-discussed.

But, he argues, “Too many people confuse UX with UI. How do you define UX? When Apple thinks about it, they go all the way through retail to installation to the first 100 days and the continued experience.”

So UX will indeed be an important discussion topic, given the challenges of selling and supporting smart-home devices.

IoT security also will be discussed during the panel, what with all the network vulnerabilities, along with real and imagined hacks to smart-device users.

Panelist Letha McLaren, CMO for Icontrol, says the SHaaS (smart home as a service) provider has a security office and “we do security audits for every release.”

On a deeper level, though, McLaren says that encryption-level standards are being adopted by groups such as Thread, and there are security profiles for ZigBee and Z-Wave, “but a lot of implementation has to be custom.”

She wonders, “Where should security reside? Things are just as vulnerable in the cloud as in the home.”

As part of the discussion on IoT security, the panel will address issues of privacy and data usage.

McLaren notes that “small data” presents a big opportunity in the smart home: “You can assess trends across the household, and use that data to set conditions for the home itself.”

But what else is that data being used for? Panelists … discuss.

The other type of “security” – alarm systems and physical security – will also be addressed during the panel.

Virtually all industry research points to security as the driving force behind the smart home. Professional monitoring – far from crumbling from self-monitored solutions – is gaining ground, thanks to DIY products that allow for pay-as-you-go service plans.

Brian Pope, CMO of Samsung’s SmartThings, will discuss the company’s first integration with professional security monitoring, implemented through the DIY solution Scout Alarm.

And what happens with 911 emergency response services in an era of DIY and MIY (monitor-it-yourself) security solutions? Everything from apps to police-response practices to local policy must adapt to new DIY paradigms.

Not to be ignored in the panel: home automation “standards” and frameworks. While some manufacturers tout membership in every known IoT-focused organization, and some products boast compatibility with every single “standard” and framework (HomeKit, AllSeen, Thread, ZigBee …), are we perhaps too consumed with interoperability?

Lutron Electronics, purveyors of historically proprietary smart-home technology, has only recently embraced third-party interoperability platforms like Apple HomeKit, ZigBee and IFTTT. Panelist Michael Pessina, Lutron president and co-CEO, explains how Lutron's very slow and calculated move to more openness has served the company well.

Pessina says Lutron would never favor openness and interoperability over system reliability and performance. Given consumer confusion in the marketplace and the perils of promised interoperability, should other big CE companies err on the side of closed-and-proud-of-it?


The Future of Smart Home Innovation

Friday, Jan. 8, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm (LVCC North Hall, room N253)

Brian Pope, SmartThings | LethaMcLaren, Icontrol | Michael Pessina, Lutron | Arthur Orduna, ADT


Burning Questions

Here are a list of topic areas culled from the panelists – all of which will be discussed during the CES Smart Home session.

  • The million-dollar question: How do we as an industry get to the 80% of the market that isn’t really connected beyond a “smart” thermostat?
  • The real user experience – Forget about UIs, and think about UX, which determines whether or not consumers will buy a product, install it, use it, and continue to build upon it. What is YOUR pathway … from teaching consumers about your product, getting them to buy it, ensuring they actually take it out of the box and set it up, keeping them from returning it, recommending it to friends and CONTINUE to pay residuals for many years, either from add-on devices or recurring services? What approaches have worked, and which have failed?
  • Sales channels – What are the prospects for brick-and-mortar stores? Is it worth the floor space? Can/will anyone seriously support the category in a retail environment — whether cellphone stores, home improvement stores, big CE (Sears, target, Walmart, Best Buy). Is anyone doing it well?
  • Professional installers – Will they become less important because of all the easy DIY products out there … or more important because of the wide range of connectivity choices? Any potential new business models/channels for pro installation and support? What are the prospects for better serving customers with professional installation and longer-term support?
  • Tech support – This area needs some work as there are so many points of failure in any given ecosystem. Who takes the tech support call? Do we need a return to the smart gateway, where a complete smart-home ecosystem can be exposed for remote diagnostics, from the hub to each end device?
  • IoT network security and privacy – There are big concerns (real or imagined) about hacking the home through so many points of vulnerability. What is this doing to consumer attitudes regarding the smart home and how do we step up security measures? In a related vein: What are the best practices for user privacy? What happens with all that data collected by anyone touching the connected home?
  • Standards, initiatives and interoperability – What are your thoughts on ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth mesh, Wi-Fi/6Lowpan, Thread, Nest Weave, HomeKit, DECT ULE, AllSeen, OIC and the others? And a larger question: Does out-of-the-box interoperability really matter? We have plenty of cross-protocol gateways. In any case, are closed ecosystems more effective and reliable?
  • What are some macro trends that are affecting/will affect the smart-home business in the next one or two years? For example: sharing economy (an Uber-style support/installation model?), new-home construction, aging population, the ever-shrinking chip, government initiatives (e.g., legalization of marijuana, Medicare reimbursements, etc.) …
  • Interesting tech trends or themes? Examples: audio analytics, video analytics, sensors, energy harvesting devices (like Enocean)?

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
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Julie Jacobson:

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

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