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Proprietary Wireless Technologies in Home Automation

February 7th 2013

Tablet Use

A new study from IMS Research projects that just 10 per cent of the smart home nodes that will be deployed during the period 2010 to 2017 will include proprietary wireless technologies.

Yet annual shipments of these technologies are projected to grow from less than 3 million nodes in 2012 to 6 million in 2017, as some high-end automation suppliers maintain closed systems, and some other smart home start-ups deploy with proprietary systems to keep certification costs down. Despite annual shipments doubling, the proportion of smart home nodes that use proprietary wireless technologies is set to halve in the coming years, to just over 7 percent in 2017.

This is indicative of a move towards open standards for the majority of smart home providers, particularly in the high-growth system segments such as managed home control. Managed home control systems enable consumers to access status alerts and control home devices (such as thermostats or lighting) via online portals or smartphone apps. Regardless of the movement towards open standards in some segments, there is still a market for proprietary solutions in the high-end home automation space.

Lisa Arrowsmith, associate director of connectivity at IHS explains, “The uptake of proprietary solutions will be focused primarily on the more traditional home automation space, where whole-home solutions are fitted by a specialist installation company.” Using proprietary solutions for these systems can enable these companies to maintain a closed system, and can offer freedom to design application-specific profiles. Further growth of proprietary wireless technologies are set to be driven by such companies moving away from wired alternatives, which typically have high installation costs in retrofit households.

Proprietary wireless technologies are also gaining traction with a number of home automation start-ups, as developing devices with proprietary technologies does not require the standardisation and certification costs associated with using open standards. Arrowsmith suggests, however, that '‘In the longer-term, many companies deploying managed home control services want to move away from promoting or supporting the use of devices from specific manufacturers; instead preferring to promote a specific open technology which will allow consumers to add a variety of smart home devices from multiple manufacturers.”

It is clear that open standards will gain more traction as the market develops. Arrowsmith continues: “Open standards will be dominant within the growing market for ‘managed home control' solutions, particularly as service providers such as ISPs or security companies become more entrenched.” These service providers have so far favoured open standards, which can offer both a large range of available, interoperable devices to choose from, and a standard that can be easily adhered to in the system design phase. Companies such as ADT and Verizon have opted for Z-Wave, while Swisscom, Comcast and AT&T are currently favoring ZigBee. Both technologies offer a wide ecosystem of device manufacturers; these solutions, along with others such as EnOcean and DECT ULE, are also projected to show growing traction from companies looking to support ‘managed home’ deployments.

Julien Happich writes for EE Times, from where this article is adapted.


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