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Guillaume Tessier, 48, is President of SPS-SEB. This group consists of the digital services company HEOSYS (specialised in operator, web hosting and IT outsourcing services) and Objetdomotique.com,...

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The battle of the smart home


16 Jan, 2017 12:26 pm

GAFA, telecom operators, home automation and industrial stakeholders, energy operators, insurers... the list goes on. All of them are seeking to fill our homes with connected objects to make them safer, more comfortable and more energy efficient environments. But who is winning this battle and what are the services on offer?


Can the smart home succeed where home automation technology has failed?

Home automation - or "domotics" - has never really taken off, due to its restrictive nature: it has always required having cables lying around all over the house and connecting different devices to a dashboard attached to the wall. Today's "smart home" concept simplifies things for users. Whether via tablet or smartphone, individuals can navigate their homes and control their blinds, central heating, lighting and surveillance cameras. Other options enable users to synchronise different systems in line with their habits and personal timetables. 
But getting objects to communicate with each other is not a given. Each stakeholder has developed its own communication protocol, some of which are closed systems like Thomson's. There is also the issue of controlling these connected objects remotely. In France, when it comes to low-bandwidth, connected object-related networks, we are witnessing a war between Sigfox and Lora that also involves Orange and Bouygues Telecom.

Is it the wide range of stakeholders that creates confusion?

Web giants, telecoms operators or more traditional industrial stakeholders such as Legrand and Siemens all want to provide the "hub" to their users, that is to say the adaptor which connects all of these objects. Each of these stakeholders is trying to team up with a maximum of partners, but no clear standard has emerged.

In order to be part of Apple, Google or Amazon's ecosystem, a manufacturer must conform to their rules. For example, although highly reliable, Netatmo's presence sensor is not compatible with Apple's Home Kit platform. And a user isn't going to change their entire water heater just because it isn't compatible with a particular connected thermostat!
Furthermore, working with GAFA raises the issue of data confidentiality. In a connected home, it is people's personal lives that are concerned. Who would want data pertaining to their personal lifestyle to be exposed on the cloud? In France, La Poste, France's national postal service, is seeking to play the role of a trusted third party intermediary with its "Hub Numérique", a mobile phone application which pools different connected services.  

In spite of recognising the advantages of a smart home, consumers are yet to fully take the plunge: How will they install and configure connected objects? When needed, who should they turn to for technical support? It is for these reasons that, in my opinion, the battle is all about this final furlong. Here in France, my own company is setting up a network of professionals who are trained in installing household connected objects.

Why are insurers so interested in home care for the elderly?

Ensuring that elderly people can remain in their homes and receive care there is another of the smart home's challenges. With the aid of robotics and connected objects such as presence sensors for signalling falls, it is believed that the period during which an elderly person could remain in their own home could be extended by two years. This doesn't just have societal repercussions but economic ones too, given that housing an elderly person in a specially adapted residential home costs €3,000 per month, of which half is covered by complementary health insurance. 
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