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Smart Home Weekly: Home Depot, Samsung, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, Nest/IControl

Mike Wolf Belkin Blossom Bosch Cisco GoControl Home Depot Icontrol Insteon Misfit Nest Nortek Samsung Smart Home Smart Home Show Smart Home Weekly Wearables WeMo

It's the Smart Home Weekly for the week ending/beginning December 14, 2015.

It's been a couple weeks since the last Smart Home Weekly so we've got lots of ground to cover, but the sad news for you smart home addicts is the news flow is beginning to slow, always the case in the run up to CES. Bottom line, companies want to keep their powder dry as they head to Vegas in January.

Industry watchers also start to wind down and move into "best of" list making mode before they take off for the holidays. I'll have a few end of year posts/podcasts myself, (a look back at 2014 and a 2015 outlook), so stay tuned for those. I'll also be at CES and will create a few updates and podcasts based on that. If you're a smart home company and we haven't booked a time, you can pitch me here.

Lastly, a few housekeeping items:

  • Subscribe to get this as newsletter here
  • Listen to audio version of these newsletters on the Smart Home Show
  • The archive version of our smart home 2015 outlook webinar is here

Now let's take a look at the news. 

Nortek Shakes Things Up, Increases Focus on DIY

This news literally just broke minutes ago (I pubbed this post prior to the news and figured it's important enough to update the post), so I don't have a lot of deep insights about it other than it looks like some fairly major changes at Nortek.

For one, the Linear name is going away as a standalone business unit, and will be renamed Nortek Security & Control, LLC. Another big change is Nortek looks to be investing more heavily in the DIY market going forward. The company is expanding its GoControl brand into a fairly broad line of branded DIY smart home products for retail, including lights, switches and thermostats. The products will be available in Q2 2015.

While this is all pretty fresh news (as in minutes old), at first blush I think its fairly major. Nortek/Linear sells more Z-Wave products than anyone, and their 2GIG smart home controller, while largely still targeted at the service provider market, has sold more than 2 million units.  Nortek - and in particular GoControl - could become a major new brand in DIY smart home in 2015. 

Mike O'Neal, Linear's current President, will be President of the new Nortek Security & Control, and Duane Paulson (who was on our webinar a little over a week ago) will also help run the group as the new named group's Senior VP.

More to come, including an interview with the company execs on the Smart Home Show...

Home Depot Expanding Smart Home Efforts

Julie Jacobson scooped this one and it's been pretty hot topic over on Linkedin's Smart Home Group, so I think it's worth mentioning: Home Depot has hired a director to shepherd their smart home efforts.  

Now we've known for some time that Home Depot would be expanding its smart home efforts. My sources indicate the massive home improvement retailer will go from testing the waters with end-caps this quarter with the likes of Wink and Lyric to rolling out smart home aisles in 450 stores in Q1 2015. As the year rolls on, this will expand to 950 stores.  

With Julie's story, we now know who will be leading this effort.

That would be Amanda Parrilli, who from the looks of her Linkedin has spent much of her recent career in financial services (though she had a pre-MBA stint with Home Depot). Parrilli brings some partnership development and channel expertise to the table, which together with her earlier time with Home Depot could mean a strong combination for the home improvement retailer as they look to expand their overall breadth of product and smart home store footprint.  

Honeywell Lyric Thermostat at Home Depot

One thing I expect we'll see in 2015 from Home Depot is expansion of both retail square footage as well as some dedicated in-store expertise. Talking smart home is much different than talking caulking, and so we'll probably see dedicated liaisons in more stores (Jacobson's story hints that they are already heading down this path).

Samsung Reallocating Mobile Resources to Smart Home 

In a sign of shifting times, Samsung is moving some chips from mobile to smart home on the craps table of tech. According to Business Week, the company is reallocating some 500 engineers to smart home development from the mobile side, a pretty sizable reallocation IMO.

Currently much of their smart home effort is centered around Smart Things integration with other Samsung products. I'm certain this allocation of new engineers if for much more than just that, as the company looks to figure out where there is opportunity here.

Judging by the company's past, they will likely be fairly ambitious, trying to play things both ways by positioning Samsung as an industry smart home center of gravity with ambitious platform ambition, while also integrate with as many other smart home ecosystems as possible. 

Apparently Samsung loves smart home

You can already see this playing out: On one hand they're jumping in bed with Nest through its Thread efforts, but then you see as they position Smart Things/Samsung as a ecosystem in and of itself.

Samsung isn't the only one guilty of doing this type of thing (they just tend to do it more than others). Nearly every big company does this to some degree, showing their split personality by wanting to control markets through building (or buying) a platform that becomes a key building block in a given industry, but also making sure they piggyback on others' success through integration.

Of course, there are some bridges that won't be crossed - A Google integration with HomeKit, for example - but generally I think most BigTech will continue into 2015 and possibly beyond with this split personality (until a market shake out, which I think could happen late 2015/early 2016 - which is something I will write about in my 2015 outlook).

As for Samsung's own integration, I expect at CES we'll see the company trying to present a holistic approach to smart home that weave in many of their disparate divisions and products, including how their mobile and wearables will play with the smart home/Smart Things at CES.

Cisco Decides It Likes Consumer, Forms JV With Bosch & ABB For Smart Home Platform

It seems all the big tech companies are getting smart home fever and looking to capitalize.  The most notable in recent weeks has been that of Cisco, who has partnered up with Bosch/ABB in a joint venture to develop a smart home platform. 

This is a bit curious to me in that Cisco made a big hullabaloo a couple years ago about divesting and exiting any and all consumer businesses, but I guess their Internet of Everything fever has them wanting back in. To their credit, this isn't a consumer-facing brand play (i.e. Linksys, Flip), but instead more the software equivalent of their set-top box business. Basically they want to power smart home services and products for others.

All that said, I've never felt Cisco's strength has been software, in part because their legacy business is so hardware centric and, perhaps more importantly, their legacy business model around hardware was essentially something akin to 'you don't get fired for buying Cisco (and that's why we charge so much'). Needless to say, this mentality doesn't translate well to today's world of open source, app & Saas-centric software business models. 

But it's not like Cisco is in this all by themselves, as they've partnered with Bosch and ABB. Bosch is a massive company that has been slowly easing itself into the smart home waters for some time.  ABB, a large $40 billion or so industrial conglomerate, also has some significant reach itself.

In the end, this is a formidable partnership on paper. While these companies may have some catching up to do since many smart home software players have been booking 2015 business for some time, Bosch's existing IP and work here and Cisco's inroads to the service provider market could give them a fast start IF the companies aren't hampered by legacy business models . 

Deutsche Telekom Gains Momentum For Smart Home Plaform QIVCON

Cisco isn't the only big player at the smart home ball. Deutsche Telekom's QIVCON platform has been around for a while, and the company has been gaining momentum.  This past week it was revealed that Huawei and French thermostat maker Netamo have entered DT's smart home initiative. These companies join the likes of Samsung (no surprise), Philips and Miele.

A list of some QIVCON members

QIVCON isn't necessarily a one for one comparison to what Cisco is doing in that it looks to be an effort to essentially take existing connected home software frameworks like OSGi and tie them together for a partner program that the service provider has developed.  While the company has a SDK for QIVCON, it's less focused (in my opinion) on creating a commercial business around the platform itself as a product but instead to serve as a way to drive momentum for DT services. 

I'm going to connect with both Cisco and DT at CES, so I'll have a better view of how the two compare in just a little while.

Speaking Of Platforms: Icontrol and Nest And a Trend

Here's the thing about smart home platforms: everyone in the smart home business seems to have one. And since everyone at the smart home party has a platform, as a result smart home platforms players are doing what's only natural: they're hooking up with each other.

A good example is the recent news of Icontrol and Nest.  One on hand you have the leading player behind the managed service provider  smart home offerings in North America, on the other you have what is arguably the fastest growing DIY smart home product/platform, and now they're working together.  

Of course, both companies have shown efforts prior to this deal to move towards each other's markets; Icontrol acquired DIY security company Black Sumac (the maker of the Piper system) and has created its own partner program to bring in DIY startups to their services platform. Nest has been busy building out its service provider/utility partnership, one of the first visible signs being a partnership with Electric Ireland.

But the bigger picture here is this: these companies have realized that while they all want to be THE central platform, they're not so blinded by their ambition to see that interoperation is absolutely necessary. To that end, big platforms are starting to connect with other big platforms, whether its through direct local hardware integration or cloud-to-cloud.

I expect to see more of this in the coming year. 

Quick Takes

Smart Home And Wearables: Get Ready To Get Tired Of Hearing About It

Misfit, the most successful wearables company that isn't Apple, Samsung or Fitbit, has just raised a big round. And yep, you guessed it, they'll be using some of their new largesse it to enter the smart home.

Last year I did a panel on smart home and wearables integration at CES, and while I may have been a year too early on this trend, 2015 looks like it might actually be the year for this peanut butter and chocolate tech combo. Supporting evidence in the form of companies like 2GIG coming out with Bluetooth enabled smart home controllers and Apple jumping into both wearables and smart home in 2015 only reinforce this belief.

Belkin WeMo WeGrows

Belkin, which is hinting at a big CES 2015, has some late-breaking new entrants into its partner program, welcoming a water purifier and a couple heaters from Holmes.  The company really came out strong in 2014 looking to expand WeMo as a smart home platform for other appliances and point products (the most notable being Crockpot and Mr.Coffee from Jardin), and this just adds to their portfolio. I'm interested to see what else the company announces in January at CES, but I expect more partners in addition to new products for the core WeMo portfolio.

INSTEON Revs Smart Home Hub

INSTEON announced a new version of its smart home hub, adding a bit of range to the wireless and field upgradability. While one of the older of the DIY smart home players in the market, INSTEON had a decent 2014, which included expansion into Best Buy, Home Depot and Microsoft's store. This year also included a deeper partnership with Microsoft for the company, as INSTEON became one of the first smart home companies to create a dedicated Windows Mobile app. 

That's it for now. As I said up top, this is likely the last smart home news wrap up this year as everyone takes off for the holidays and prepares for CES, but I will have some looks back and looks forward so stay tuned in the next week or so!

Check out the Smart Home Show to get the audio version of our weekly wrapups as well as interviews with smart home companies such as Blossom and more.

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