Smart Home Solutions - Insights from CommScope

by Parks Associates | Dec. 30, 2019

Edith Laird, Director of Product Management, CommScope gave her insights on consumers and smart home devices prior to the Parks Associates’ CONNECTIONS Summit at CES.

Edith will participate on the expert panel Home Networks: Wi-Fi, 5G, and Mesh on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 at 1:15 pmPanelists who will join her on this session include:

  • Rob Conant, CEO, Cirrent
  • Maggie Curran, Vice President Sales, E-Commerce and Business Divisions, Americas, Belkin International
  • Mark Hung, VP Technology and Engineering, Wi-Fi Alliance
  • Oz Yildirim, EVP and GM, AirTies, Americas Business Unit, AirTies

As the number of connected devices in the home increases year-over-year, how can technology providers ease consumer concerns associated with data security and privacy?

First and foremost, to address data security concerns in the home, technology providers need to adopt the latest network security protocols, such as Wi-Fi’s WPA3.  Strengthening methods for encryption and authentication protects consumer’s sensitive data by preventing the most common types of cyber-attacks. 

The proliferation of IoT devices in the home also leaves consumers vulnerable to attack if not secured properly.  Improvements in secure and easy to use device onboarding methods, such as Device Provisioning Protocol - enable users to seamlessly and securely onboard new devices onto their network; making it harder for hackers to gain entry.

Continuous network and device behavior monitoring can be used to further strengthen home networks by immediately alerting service providers and/or consumers of potential security breaches, malicious attacks and abnormal behavior.   These alerts can also beused to automatically quarantine suspicious devices.  These additional OTT security services can be used to generate new recurring revenue streams for service and technology providers.

How will artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and/or 5G technologies impact the smart home, IoT, and connected entertainment landscapes in 2020 and beyond?  What will be the impact for consumers?

There are many exciting technologies for the smart home being developed using AI.  In addition to advances in NLP and voice recognition technology which are growing in adoption, there are new areas of innovation beginning to enter the market.  With advanced AI technologies, such as Wi-Fi based motion sensing, gesture recognition, human and object identification, audio event detection, and home network analytics – a home that learns you and anticipates your behavior and preferences becomes possible, without sacrificing personal data or identity. 

What emerging technologies could tip the smart home scale from early adopter to mass market adoption?

We have seen Wi-Fi mesh networks move from the enterprise to early adopters in the residential space and now mass market into CPE, as the costs are driven down to price points affordable to mainstream consumers, while being made effortless to setup.

Cost, reliability and ease of deployment are key to driving mass market adoption in the connected home domain.

Emerging technologies that could follow suit in my mind include things like broad adoption of IoT based home automation controls, especially as technology vendors are beginning to break down walled gardens, which in the past, have demanded individual overlay networks and fragmented management.  The recent announcement of Connected Home over IT project by Amazon, Apple and Google is testament to the opening up of IoT interoperability standards - enabling unified control and management of mixed-device IoT networks.

We are seeing waves of convergence happening in this space moving towards mass market.   At the protocol level, Wi-Fi is adopting more and more characteristics from cellular as we transition to Wi-Fi 6 and make more efficient use of wireless spectrums.  Wireless routers are integrating more and more functionality as they add IoT radios, speakers, and microphones onboard.  Even mesh devices and range extenders are adding features like voice.

What impact will DIY solutions have on the traditional security landscape?

DIY physical security solutions make it easy and inexpensive for consumers to quickly setup basic home security surveillance.  While these solutions lack professional grade accuracy, monitoring and response in the traditional sense – they are putting downward pricing pressure on the incumbent security vendors.

In effect, DIY solutions are creating a new market of quasi-home-security – which creates its own questions on ethics and real vs perceived safety.

How can companies capitalize on consumer interest in a home insurance-smart home connection?  How will that interest impact business models for both sides?

Insurers are looking to smart homes to help assess risk and limit liability to their policy holders.  In a win-win situation, insurers would be able to access sensor data from homes to monitor usage patterns and asses a risk level to the insured – much like auto insurers use telematics sensors installed in cars to track their use.  Policy holders would be rewarded with premium deductions based on safe behavior.

Going a step further, serious loss of property and life could be mitigated if proactive steps are taken upon detection of catastrophic events – such as smoke detector alarms, water leak sensor events, or even the detection of human presence in a burning or collapsed building.  Offering such devices at discounted prices (brokered by the insurance agency) would accelerate widespread adoption of these kinds of technologies.

What are the best use cases for voice technologies in the smart home?

Retail voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home/Nest have been hugely successful in bringing voice control to the smart home and making it part of everyday life.  Integration of voice and smart speaker functionality is also becoming the norm.  Efforts to integrate voice into mesh wi-fi devices has been less successful so far– as demonstrated with Netgear’s attempt to enter the space with Orbi Voice.  There is a potential for in-room voice-enabled mesh pods to take off, but it is early to tell.  It still remains to be seen exactly to what extent device integration will be successful, and which functionality will remain on discrete devices.

What trends do you see in home building and energy services for the smart home industry?

Home builders are looking to well-designed and pre-deployed Wi-Fi networks as a value add in luxury homes.   With the advent of WFA’s Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design program, home builders can now certify new construction plans to guarantee complete home coverage.  Home builders are also choosing enterprise grade Wi-Fi Access Points to further ensure customer satisfaction and brand attractiveness.

For energy savings, new technologies and protocols are driving down power and battery consumption in devices.  Target Wake Time – a new feature in Wi-Fi 6, enables clients to schedule their wake-up times, enabling them to be in low power states for longer and hence extending battery life considerably.  Silicon manufacturers are exploring cutting edge technologies to drastically reduce power consumption of IoT and sensor devices down to the point where they may never need a wall-plug or battery, but can instead exist on harvested energy from ambient RF signals in the air – pretty cool stuff!

How can quality of life for seniors be impacted by smart home solutions?

An unfortunate fact of society in America today is that many elderly live alone, yet want to continue living in their own homes.  The smart home of the future may enable them to do so, safely, and for longer.

New technology built upon AI such as wireless based motion and fall detection can alert individuals when elderly family members may be in need of help, possibly initiating a quick check up call to make sure everything is ok.  Using data analytics on the motion usage patterns within the home can aid in predicting or diagnosing medical conditions – such as too many trips to the bathroom indicating a potential bladder infection or adverse reaction to surgery.   In home medical monitoring devices and medicine dispensers connected into the home network also help in guiding remote caretakers and physicians in producing better health outcomes for seniors, the disabled, or those needing additional care and oversight.

Voice assistants enable seniors with decreased eyesight, mobility, or tactile manipulation to utilize mobile or voip telephony, the internet and control of the home.  BLE or BT enabled headphones offer assistance to those with hearing loss, counteracting their individual disability down to a specific ear or channel/tone of hearing loss.

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