Aiming to capitalize on the burgeoning Internet of Things market, Dell, Intel and Samsung Tuesday introduced a home automation alliance called the Open Interconnect Consortium that creates an open-source standard for machine-to-machine communication. The standard competes with similar home automation standard groups such as the Qualcomm-led AllSeen Alliance, which counts LG and, as of last week, Microsoft as two of its 51 members.
The Open Interconnect Consortium's goal is to create a seamless wireless platform for everything from thermostats, security cameras and lightbulbs to talk to each other. The consortium said it will be releasing specifications for developers to create streamlined data flow between devices regardless of OS, device type or wireless communication standard later this year.
Home automation system integrators say while too many standards is never a good thing for consumers, it’s a good sign for the home automation industry. “We are always excited to hear when large companies want to get into this market. It raises awareness among consumers and has the potential to drive new business for us,” said Tyler Lantzy, president of SaaviHome, a small home automation systems integrator and Connect4 partner based in Louisville, Colo.
Major companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and now Samsung are pursuing home automation strategies even though the technology has not yet caught on with most consumers, said Lantzy. “These companies are all entering the space based on where they expect the market to go, rather than where it is now,” he said.
Home automation is a subset of the Internet of Things market, which research firm IDC forecasts will be worth $7.1 trillion by 2020. Major players are fiercely battling it out hoping to get a piece of that pie.
Google and Apple, however, are pursuing their home automation strategies alone.
Google in January spent $3.2 billion to buy home automation startup Nest Labs, which makes energy-efficient thermostat and smoke/carbon dioxide alarms. Then in June, the company bolstered its home automation offerings by buying surveillance camera maker Dropcam for $555 million.
Apple debuted HomeKit for iOS 8 at its recent Worldwide Developers Conference. HomeKit products, which can be controlled with iOS 8 Apple devices, range from deadbolt locks to Philips Hue light bulbs to select Haier air conditioners.
Before joining the AllSeen Alliance, Microsoft in June unveiled a deal with Insteon, which allows users to buy Insteon home automation kits in Microsoft retail stores. Those Insteon devices will be able to be controlled through Windows phones, PCs and tablets.
“I don’t see any downside to having a crowded market for standards,” Lantzy said. “Competition drives innovation and it beats the alternative of one company calling all the shots.” Where "the rubber meets the road,” however, is products, according to Lantzy.
“For integrators like us, we don’t see these standards boosting business for a few years. But what we are already seeing is pricing coming down on home automation, making it affordable for a whole new market other than just wealthy gadget lovers,” he said.
The Open Interconnect Consortium members said open-source code will allow developers and device makers to create devices, wearables and sensors that communicate with one another regardless of OS or protocol. Open Interconnect Consortium standards will encompass wireless technologies including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee and NFC (near-field communication).
“We’ll get excited about Open Interconnect Consortium or the AllSeen Alliance when our phone starts ringing with people wanting to combine all these disparate devices into one holistic system,” Lantzy said.
PUBLISHED JULY 8, 2014