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What Will Happen in Smart Home in 2015

Mike Wolf AllSeen Bluetooth HomeKit OIC Security Smart Home Smart Home Weekly Z-Wave Zigbee

It’s mid-January, and CES is in the books, so it’s about time I get my smart home predictions out for the year, right?

Actually, while most prognosticators work on the prediction posts in December, I think anyone predicting the upcoming year in consumer tech before CES risks seeing their predictions out of date a week into the year.

That’s because many big tech companies (as well as startups) show their hands for the next 12 months at the show. And sometimes, others even make industry-shaking acquisitions in the same week.

So that makes me right on time! :)

As far as approach, I like Fred Wilson's quick prediction post. I’ll model mine on his, only stick to smart home and consumer IoT.

So here’s what I see happening in smart home in 2015:

1) We’ll start to see some ecosystem winners and losers in 2015 in smart home. The early bets were laid going back to the beginnings of the 2000’s (Icontrol) and even before that (INSTEON), and in the last few years we’ve seen a rush into the market with new attempts at create ecosystem-centric platforms (Nest, Wink, SmartThings). Markets naturally migrate towards a few ecosystems (see mobile, computers, TV, etc), and I think that will begin to happen this year.

2) HomeKit will become a checkbox item for most smart home point products, with the possible exception of those with complete allegiance to Google/Nest ecosystem. This said, I wouldn’t rule out even Nest looking to bridge with HomeKit

3) One of the biggest battles in smart home in 2015 will be the human-machine control interface. Voice will be a big focus (Siri, Echo/Amazon, Cortana/Microsoft), as will motion (beacons, Ring, etc). Wearables will be interesting part of this story.

4) The home security vertical has been the first to be significantly disrupted by smart home/consumer IoT. Expect new areas to be impacted (and in many cases it will be change being driven by incumbents). Some interesting market verticals in 2015 are elder and healthcare, insurance, food delivery, home building/construction, etc.

5) I expect one or two big name entrants into smart home in the last five years to throw in the towel, get sold or do significant pullbacks. Consumer technology markets - particularly those trying to build the ecosystem in which others plant their seed and bloom - is a bloody and brutal business, and only deep pockets and full commitment will see a company through. We’re at the stage of the market where some early entrants see the writing on wall and cut their losses. On the flip side, others will enter the market (and possibly buy those looking to offload the efforts/IP).

6) The smart home cloud will be a major battle front in 2015. Most of the existing smart home/consumer IoT platform-as-a-service players (Zonoff, Greenwave, Electric Imp, Ayla) have all recently filled up their funding tanks with new rounds in the last year or so and so I expect major efforts to grow products and into new markets. Bigger horizontal PaaS players are already tailoring ready-made IoT offerings, but you will see a deeper push into the market with tailored PaaS and Saas (white label or branded) offerings by bigger cloud players into consumer IoT and smart home. Some focused efforts could be even more narrow, like “elder care” or “home security” cloud.

7. Home security products, cameras, thermostats, bulbs and locks have been the hot point products in the last couple years. Looking forward, I expect some new point product categories to become more popular among consumers (doorbells, water-control and monitoring devices, pet products, garage openers, outdoor/irrigation) in 2015. This will, of course, mean lots more competition coming from the crowd funded startup front as well existing smart home brands.

8) Network security of IoT and smart home will become a major focus and could create a drag on the market in 2015 and beyond depending on actual and perceived threats. The mass-market press, tech blogs and trade press will focus on this heavily in 2015, which will spur action but also create significant fear, some of its overblown.

9) Smart home and consumer IoT interoperability is becoming a major focus across all layers of the value chain. There is lots of talk about the market convening around a standard or two, and I am seeing progress both on AllSeen and OIC front, but I also expect HomeKit to act as a de facto standard (and possibly Works with Nest).

10) On the physical layer/network interface front, expect Bluetooth to become a checkbox item (if it isn’t already) for all hubs, and look for Z-Wave and Zigbee to continue to push to address shortcomings as Bluetooth, Thread and Wi-Fi threaten to take over in new socket/design decisions being made around new products and platforms.

11) Existing white goods and home systems makers will all be aware of the need for a IoT and smart home strategy by the end of 2015 if they aren’t already. Expect many existing “vanilla” brands to create premium lines with “smart” connectivity this year.

This is only a handful of predictions. Lots more will happen, much of which I haven’t predicted, but hopefully I’ll also get a few right.

Here’s to a good 2015 for everyone.

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