Anatomy of a Digitally Connected Home

Anatomy of a Digitally Connected Home


Digital Home Platform web-enabled device app.

Editor’s Note: This article has been excerpted from the author’s white paper, Digital Platform Strategies for the Connected Home and edited slightly for our audience.

When Jarden Corporation wanted to add network-connected intelligence to its Mr. Coffee and Crock-Pot brands, the company partnered with Belkin to add its wireless WeMo technology and control software. The Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker, for example, will allow users to control and monitor cooking times and temperatures via a smartphone, and it will also send reminders.

When the Chamberlain Group wanted its LiftMaster garage door motors to work with app-based smartphone control to monitor and open and close doors from anywhere, it added the appropriate gateway technology and smartphone software, MyQ, to differentiate its line.

The list goes on. Dacor Industries, a high-end manufacturer of kitchen appliances, is introducing a high-end oven that can be controlled by a smart phone locally and remotely.  Samsung and LG have new washer and dryer combinations that can be controlled by smartphones, and NuHeat Dacor Dual Fuel iQ range topintroduced a high-resolution color thermostat for its electronic floor heating systems that can be controlled by a smart phone app.

Even exercise equipment maker NordicTrack offers an indoor treadmill that lets you program almost any route you would like to run and to see your course on the treadmill’s color touchscreen via Google Street view. As you are running your route on the treadmill, the application is smart enough to change the incline up or down in accordance with the “real world” run.

See also: A Day in the Connected Life

 

A Lasting New Paradigm?

More and more exciting home products with network connectivity and app-based control are arriving daily. But some of today’s most successful electronics products are also built to last via cloud-based (Internet) connectivity.

Wireless music system maker Sonos is a prime example. When the company introduced its system in 2004, little did it know it was starting a powerful paradigm shift in home technology.

Rather than provide high-tech hardware that quickly loses its value, Sonos was designed to be enhanced by software over time in order to remain current. This insures that Sonos’ music platform enhances its value each year.

The software-enhanced model was emulated by Nest in 2011 when it introduced its elegantly designed intelligent thermostat. This thermostat was the start of a heating and cooling control platform for the home that would be enhanced with software upgrades over time. In only three years Nest has provided four major software upgrade releases that have added the following new features and functionality:

Nest

 

  • Fully redesigned app interface including landscape and portrait display modes – including beautiful, animated outside weather.
  • Optimized for the 4-inch Retina display on iPhone 5 and iPod touch.
  • Arrows to easily increase and decrease target temperature.
  • Displays energy history.
  • Can schedule the fan to turn on daily, for a few minutes each hour, or on a timer.

 

This fundamental shift in the intelligence and software upgradability of home electronics has set the stage for a new set of consumer expectations—that electronic products should actually improve over time.

As a result of this—as well high-speed Internet, whole-house home networking, high-speed cellular networks and ubiquitous smartphones—electronics today are being designed with built-in communications capabilities for use over wired and wireless networks. They have easy-to-use and simplified controls via elegant app interfaces. And many also provide cloud-based services that contain status information about the product and allows control from anywhere there’s an Internet connection.

 

The Modern Home Digital Ecosystem

The following diagram illustrates the relative importance of these intelligent electronic ecosystems in most U.S. homes. At its core is the requirement that the entire home is networked, both wired and wirelessly connected to a high-speed, always-on broadband Internet connection. These core networking products—modems, routers, switches, wireless access points—are the foundation for the network enhanced entertainment, comfort, and security solutions in the home.

Digital Home Platform diagram

In the inner, primary service ring are the fundamental entertainment, comfort, and security needs required in almost every home: music, TV, heating and cooling, access control, and security. In the outer, secondary service ring are needs that enhance the intelligence and value of the home but typically follow the adoption of the primary service ring products. These secondary service ring products include irrigation control, health care monitoring, pool/hot tub control, energy monitoring, garage door openers, etc.

In this network-driven home ecosystem, each category will be filled with companies competing to become the digital platform standard for a given service need in the home. Companies that foresaw this intelligent home ecosystem model, such as Sonos and Nest, have an inherent advantage in their respective markets. In the TV distribution space we see leadership from companies such as TiVo, Dish and Direct TV. But most of the other platform categories in the home have yet to produce a clear winner.

What about in homebuilding? Will your company be a connected home winner?

 

About the Author

Gordon van Zuiden is the founder and president of cyberManor (http://www.cybermanor.com/), a full service home technology integrator headquartered in California’s Silicon Valley and one of the nation’s first custom electronic integrators to focus on IP based technologies for the home. Mr. van Zuiden has completed his third term with CEDIA’s Board of Directors (CEDIA represents the Custom Electronic Design and Installation trade) and has served for three years as the co-Dean of CEDIA's Electronic Systems Design Track, developed the certified CEDIA ESD course on Digital Home Electronic Solutions and has consulted on the development of COMPTIA’s HTI+ Network Certification program.

You can read the author’s white paper here:

About The Author

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