Navigant Research Blog

Delay of HomePod Shows Signs of Weakness in Emerging Smart Home Market

— November 21, 2017

Apple has made big news this week—but not in a good way. On Friday, the company stated that it would be delaying the release of HomePod from a non-specific date in December to the even more ambiguous “early 2018.” The delay is a blow to the tech giant, which will miss the relatively high sales volume that comes with the holiday season. The new release date also means Amazon, Google, and Sonos remain largely unchallenged in the connected speaker market and will continue to gain the hearts and minds of consumers with their devices, some of which have been available for years. What may be worse for Apple is that the HomePod will be released at a price of $349, which appears obscenely high against the two rival speakers from Amazon and Google (which are currently in a price-cutting battle and peddling the miniature versions of their signature devices at approximately $34 for Black Friday). Though Apple is focused on offering a high quality speaker with advanced sound technology, this high tech move may not be enough to win consumers over and help the company gain market share in the young connected speaker market.

This type of delay is nothing new for Apple. The company regularly sets ambiguous release dates and delays product shipments, from the original Apple Watch to Apple AirPods to HomeKit-compatible devices. It is also known for entering an already developed market and disrupting it, which occurred with the release of the iPhone. This means the delay of HomePod could be nothing but a small hiccup in holiday sales for Apple and that it could still emerge as a major player in the connected speaker industry.

Time to Get Serious

However, the larger implication of this delay is that Apple is losing out on its spot in the smart home. The smart home is becoming an increasingly competitive space, with large tech incumbents, service providers, utilities, and startups all getting involved and vying for market share. The ability to own the smart home opens up a world of opportunities for companies, including new service-based revenue streams and more personalized engagement with consumers. The connected speaker has become a pivotal part of the smart home’s development by acting as a centralized hub and fostering interaction through voice activation. To lose out on this opportunity could be devastating to Apple, especially since the company already has a trusted device in people’s pockets that is a key tool for controlling the smart home. The smart home market is progressing with or without Apple, and it’s time for the company to get serious about becoming a major player in this market or letting Amazon and Google take the lead.

 

Cities Looking to Automated Vehicles to Solve Congestion and Emissions Challenges

— November 21, 2017

Around the world, major cities have been setting targets to combat the negative effects of local transport on public health, local pollution, noise levels, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Cities are looking increasingly at the potential of automated vehicles (AVs) to help solve these problems through improved traffic flow, the near elimination of collisions, increased productivity, and reduced pollution and GHG emissions.

 Moving toward Full Automation

The concept of automated or self-driving cars has shifted from the realm of science fiction into reality, as showcased by some of the latest developments in cities around the world:

 Key Challenges Remain

Partial automation is becoming commonplace in all road vehicle classes. Full driving automation is starting to be piloted in numerous cities globally with regular commercial deployments expected in the next 2 to 3 years. Before AVs can become ubiquitous in city streets, new infrastructure investments, communication network upgrades, the need for fleets to operate in varied conditions, and concerns about cybersecurity need to be addressed. Cities also need to develop frameworks to integrate and coordinate AV mobility services with existing transit services to optimize the use of road infrastructure and avoid increased congestion. Although the AV was not at fault for the accident, the recent Las Vegas automated shuttle collision shows why vehicle-to-vehicle communications will also be crucial to the success of AVs.

If AVs are managed properly, highly integrated with public transport, and coordinated as part of a multimodal transportation ecosystem, the shift to self-driving vehicles could lead to reduced traffic congestion in cities, lowered demand for parking spaces, and highly beneficial energy and environmental effects. For more information on the potential effects of AVs in cities, see Navigant Research’s recent white paper on Redefining Mobility Services in Cities.

 

Organizations Work to Combat Security and Interoperability Concerns Surrounding IoT

— November 21, 2017

According to Navigant Research’s new IoT for Lighting report, global market revenue for Internet of Things (IoT) lighting is expected to grow from $651.1 million in 2017 to $4.5 billion in 2026. With the growing number of connected devices and plethora of continual new data generation, data security is a top concern. It is seen as a barrier to adoption for IoT lighting and other IoT technologies within the commercial building space. However, despite the challenges surrounding security, there are organizations that are working to improve security and address other key concerns, such as interoperability.

Addressing Security Concerns

A non-profit, the IoT Security Foundation (IoTSF) aims to make it secure to connect the growing number of connected devices so the benefits of IoT can be realized. In September 2017, IoTSF announced a Smart Buildings Working Group. The key function of the group will be to establish comprehensive guidelines to help each supply chain participant specify, procure, install, integrate, operate, and maintain IoT security in buildings. Intelligent building equipment and controls such as lighting, HVAC, fire, building security, and audiovisual will be included.

The Smart Buildings Working Group, though in its infancy, has already received positive feedback and responses to partnership requests from technology firms. Lighting vendors are starting to express interest, as well. The growing list of partners and participants includes Oracle, Honeywell, and global engineering firm Norman Disney & Young.

Fighting Interoperability

Many IoT lighting systems and lighting control systems are proprietary or modified versions of standards, such as ZigBee. Some customers prefer proprietary systems, as this can simplify discussion over a responsible party for any possible system malfunctions. However, for many, this leads to confusion around which systems to purchase and to fear that components or an entire system might become obsolete. Additionally, this limits coordinated controls within a smart building and can limit the idea of holistic operations within a building.

There are groups, such as the IoT Ready Alliance and the DesignLights Consortium (DLC), working to address interoperability for IoT lighting and other IoT devices. The vision of the IoT Ready Alliance is interoperability and future-proofing of lighting products and services. By helping to expand the number of products that are IoT ready, consumers are not required to make the decision right away. This essentially helps in future-proofing lighting in a time where continued technology advancements can make the decision to upgrade to an advanced lighting system difficult.

The DLC is also helping to drive the widespread adoption networked lighting controls through its Networked Lighting Controls Specification program by providing tools and resources for utilities, energy efficiency programs, and the lighting industry.

Marching Forward

While there are organizations to address these barriers to widespread adoption, the fight to combat security and interoperability concerns within the commercial lighting market and the broader IoT space has just begun. Organizations such as IoTSF, DLC, and IoT Ready Alliance, while making progress, cannot combat these issues alone.

Industry players from lighting manufacturers to startups to tech firms will need to provide support and partnerships for these organizations in order to achieve an optimal outcome. Although initial feedback to these organizations and their work is reassuring and a step in the right direction, time will determine the full support and true success of these programs.

 

Digital Assistants Are a Stepping Stone for Artificial Intelligence in the Home

— November 21, 2017

Artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining hype and capturing headlines about its futuristic possibilities. Popular media, like Blade Runner 2049, depicts AI as a technology powering human-like robots with capabilities for taking over the world. In reality, AI is here, and it is already used in everyday lives. Today, AI is enabling ridesharing applications like Lyft and Uber, autopilot in commercial flights, mobile check deposits, online shopping, and more. The technology is making significant progress across a variety of markets and is spreading to the smart home.

The home is abundant with opportunities to automate tasks and create more personal experiences with technology. AI can be used to enhance solutions that help consumers better understand and manage energy consumption and keep homes safer and more secure. Also, it creates more intelligent and intuitive home automation by studying patterns of human behavior to operate the home more efficiently.

The Digital Assistant

One obvious way in which AI is spreading through the home is digital assistants. Digital assistants, or virtual assistants, are the human-like user interface embodying AI software and cloud services. They are fundamentally changing the way users interact with technology by creating an easy-to-use, hands-free, and conversational experience via voice activation. They also represent a platform that converges devices, data, services, computing power, and the internet to better understand and anticipate consumer needs. While the novelty of using digital assistants is driving adoption and market growth (try playing Jeopardy with Alexa), this technology has powerful implications. Many companies recognize this potential, and large tech incumbents like Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft are quickly and heavily investing in AI and digital assistants for the home.

Though digital assistants promise market disruption and a fundamental shift in the use of technology, it is important to stay realistic about AI in the home. Some would argue that traditionally defined AI does not even exist in the home—they would argue it’s all just analytics and algorithms. Others would argue that this is the reality of AI—it isn’t glamorous, it’s about automating tasks and identifying behavioral trends to make our lives more comfortable, convenient, and efficient. How this technology will play out—whether it will be a benevolent and revolutionary technology or whether it will become an existential threat to human existence—remains to be seen. For now, AI is having an impact in the home in the form of digital assistants. Check out Navigant Research’s upcoming Digital Assistants and AI in the Home report for more information.

 

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