As smart home device use has steadily risen over the last few years, integrators are in the perfect position to be relied on to deliver a unified app experience.
Smart home platforms can bring order to the complex connected home ecosystem given the rise of consumer awareness of smart home products, capabilities and device adoption. Providing a simplified and unified user experience that enables devices to work together instead of just having a collection of standalone devices is the overall goal for smart home platforms.
Key platforms are security-based platform players like Alarm.com, Comcast Xfinity and Vivint; voice-based platforms which consist of Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri; and additional home control platforms like Samsung SmartThings, Works with Nest, and Apple HomeKit.
Parks Associates research reveals that U.S. broadband households have an average of 13 connected devices in their home ranging from computing to smart home devices to smart appliances to entertainment devices, including home networking solutions.
Smart Speakers Remain Most Common Method of Voice Control
As the average number of connected devices per U.S. broadband household continues to rise, consumers see more value and convenience in smart home platforms that provide interoperability with a variety of products in one place.
Familiarity has been slowly increasing for these devices. Consumers who already own smart home devices are buying more and looking for further integration between them. According to Parks Associates research, 50% of smart home device owners have an application that controls multiple smart products.
This can be through a security system app or another unifying app that controls multiple devices from a single control interface. Additionally, the other 50% of smart home device owners use different apps or are unsure what they have. The growth in consumers with a unified app can be attributed to the rise in interactive security services, smart speaker ownership and home control systems outside of security.
Further, the research firm shows that smart device owners are most likely to use smart speakers with voice assistants to control devices in their home; in the past few years, smart speakers have emerged as the default point of interaction with the smart home.
The industry is headed to a place where the adoption of unified platforms will become standard given new initiatives such as the Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP). CHIP is a new working group within the Zigbee Alliance along with tech giants, such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, that will develop and promote the adoption of a new unified connectivity protocol.
According to its website, it aims “to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers.” It will greatly improve user experience by allowing smart home and voice services to work together that would typically not be compatible with each other.
MDUs Provide Perfect Opportunity for Integrators
There is a great opportunity for smart platforms in the MDU space as players seek to expand beyond single-family homeowners. Parks Associates‘ latest research shows that smart home device ownership for MDU residents surged forward compared to single-family home residents and all US broadband households, rising from 31% in Q4 2019to 41% in Q4 2020.
In August 2020, property and real estate management software company RealPage acquired Stratis IoT, a startup that provides IoT services to the real estate industry with a focus on access and energy management tools. Stratis’s ability to integrate with a wide variety of third-party solutions will help RealPage in its quest to position itself as a leader in the growing rental property automation market.
Rental property automation systems can control multiple devices in a unit or building to create opportunities for property managers to reduce operating costs, improve sustainability, increase rent and enhance residents’ experiences to drive lease conversions. This acquisition will combine both RealPage’s and Stratis IoT’s technology to create a unified smart home platform for the MDU market.
Earlier in January 2021, RealPage acquired managed service provider WhiteSky Communications, who claims to deliver highly reliable managed bulk Internet service quickly at a low cost with speeds up to 1 GB. This acquisition allows RealPage to enter the MDU bulk WiFi market as it expands its offerings to include broadband internet.
In 2019, RealPage also acquired Hipercept, a firm that provided data services and data analytics to the institutional real estate market, and Buildium, a SaaS property management solution. These moves suggest a commitment to becoming an overall leader in the real estate industry in property and real estate management, rental property automation, and broadband Internet.
As the smart home industry looks to extend beyond early adopters and general tech enthusiasts, integration and partnerships will be critical for the smart home to cross into mass-market adoption. Platforms will continue to expand their value as smart home device ownership increases and consumers crave the convenience of a unified platform that can control multiple devices in one interface.
In the race to control the smart home ecosystem, companies that can provide customers with not only smart automation, but also home security and broadband Internet will stand out against competitors.