“Artificial intelligence will have a dramatic impact on the Smart Home industry” – Bill Ablondi, Director Smart Home, Strategy Analytics

Smart Summit London, taking place on the 19th and 20th of September at the Business Design Centre, features Europe’s leading Smart Home Summit.
One of the Smart Home Summit speakers, Bill Ablondi, directs the Strategy Analytics’ Smart Home Strategies (SHS) advisory service focusing on emerging opportunities in home management, monitoring and control systems and services. 
As Director of SHS, his global research and analysis focuses on identifying value propositions attractive to consumers, forecasting their adoption and market value, evaluating business models and partnerships within the smart home ecosystem and monitoring technology developments enabling new solutions.

Bill, who is the Smart Home Summit Chair and will also be discussing ‘addressing pain points in consumer living’ and ‘how insurance companies are driving smart home growth’, completed our speaker Q&A:
Which do you consider to be the most popular Smart Home services/solutions currently?
This depends on which country/region of the world you’re looking at. In Europe energy management-related applications are the most popular, but consumers in Europe also like to monitor what’s going on in their homes when they are away so cameras are popular. In the US, monitored security is driving a large part of the market, but many consumers monitor their homes when away without a professionally managed system. Lighting controls are popular across all regions of the world and smart bulbs are gaining popularity quickly.
Which applications are popular also depends on the consumer segment. We’ve prepared an attitudinal and behavioural segmentation for our clients that shows significant differences in what consumers are willing to pay for across the segments.
What could be done to increase mass market take-up of Smart Home solutions?
One of the major inhibitors of adoption is the lack of awareness of the capabilities and benefits of Smart Home solutions. Amazon Echo/Dot and Google Home that work with Smart Home systems are building awareness which will help spur adoption. Another factor in my view is that most people don’t want to figure out how to install many of the devices or “program” them to work together in unison. That’s why I see affordable installation services as necessary for mass adoption. Companies that are most successful in the market typically offer installation services such as British Gas’ Hive and Eneco’s Toon in Europe and Vivint, ADT and Comcast in the US
How can smart home services save consumers money?
Smart thermostats are one obvious way, but home management services like Panasonic and Allianz offer in Germany are another way. Our research shows that people are willing to pay for solutions that help them manage their homes. This might take the form of a system that alerts homeowners to possible failures of appliances or home systems such as boilers or HVAC systems. Centrica’s Boiler IQ has been well-received in the market. Along these same lines are devices that detect and even prevent water leak damage. Preventing water damage can save a lot of money.
How best to use customer data, to offer a personalised solution?
Keeping track of past usage patterns and preferences can personalize experiences. Google Home can recognize different speakers and we’ll see the other Intelligent Home Speakers gain this ability. Once a user is identified their preferences can be invoked for music, temperature setting and the like. More sophisticated systems will employ artificial intelligence technology to use data collected from motion, temperature, air quality and other sensors to anticipate what actions should be taken based on who is in the home and what the conditions in and around the home are.
How is voice evolving the smart home experience?
Voice is a natural user interface that helps to make interacting with smart home systems more frictionless. We’re already seeing smart home devices and systems integrating with smart speakers such as Echo and Home. This will continue and some companies will build voice input into their devices to enhance usability.
Focusing on the pain points – how to determine exactly what will make a difference to the customer’s life
A couple of thoughts come to mind here. One is designing a user interface that is really easy to use…frictionless. Voice can help, but it’s not the only answer. Developing systems, not just isolated devices, but integrated systems that automatically anticipate what the customer needs in a given situation will create a WOW factor.

Understanding what the pain points are for different consumer segments is key to developing compelling solutions. We’d be happy to explain how we help clients develop this understanding as part of their product development process.
Does the smart home industry need universal open standards?
I believe in open standards because they promote innovation.
Partnerships are key for success but how should partners be chosen and partnership terms be agreed?
This is a question that has different answers for different companies, but in general companies should seek partners that complement their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. Sometimes that means partnering with a firm that also competes with you in some lines of business. For example, service provider offering smart home solutions might partner with Amazon because of their voice technology, but compete with them for video services. The ramifications must be thought through carefully.
As far as “terms” go… everyone needs to win in a successful partnership.
Which do you consider to be the best routes to market for Smart Home products?
The best route to market is employing multiple routes to market: retail, online, installer channels, home builders, etc. The mix of channels chosen depends on the offering, but it’s important for companies to know who their customers are and what the buyer journey looks like for different products and customers. Once they know this, they can build a go-to-market strategy.
Is the workforce ready yet for Smart Home?
Not sure how to answer this, but as I mentioned earlier, affordable technical support and installation services are key to growth of the smart home market. These are not widely available yet so there is a big opportunity for firms that can build these operations.
What impact are security concerns having on the growth of smart home sales and how can security be enhanced?
I don’t think most consumers are balking at buying smart home solutions because of their concerns over security. We don’t see consumers pitching their Wi-Fi routers because they are concerned about someone hacking into their home network and these are just as vulnerable, if not more, as any smart home system. In fact, hacking into the home network is probably the easiest way to hack into a smart home system.  I think security will grow as an issue to be addressed and, based on our research, consumers look to their broadband provider for securing their Wi-Fi network. Networking equipment manufacturers such as Cisco and Ericsson have technology that can be employed by service providers to enhance the security of home networks.
How are insurance companies increasing the value of smart home products?
Some insurance companies offer discounted premiums if consumers install security systems, smoke detectors or water leak detectors. These discounts make the devices more valuable.
What lies ahead for the Smart Home industry?
As I mentioned before, artificial intelligence will have a dramatic impact on the Smart Home industry. We’ll see applications and capabilities that existed only in the realm of science fiction emerge. This will create opportunities for not only smart home service providers, but sensor and device manufacturers because the AI algorithms will need to collect data on what’s happening in the home. Hence the need for sensors and actuators of all types.
The big tech companies, Apple, Amazon and Google have entered the market and we expect to see Microsoft and Facebook build a presence in the market. This changes the competitive dynamics in the smart home industry. Participants must really understand which consumers want what. This is why Strategy Analytics has built a Consumer Insights Practice and User Experience team to help our clients better target consumers with compelling offerings.

About Smart Summit London

Smart Summit is a 2 day conference and exhibition covering the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem and its impact on the digital society.

Now in its 3rd year, the event features Europe's leading Smart Home Summit and a further 5 tracks all designed to compliment each other.

With over 180 visionary speakers, gain a unique insight from industry heavyweights and hear case study examples from major contributors.

Make sure you are present in London on the 19th and 20th September for THE Smart IoT event of 2017.