The race to control the smart home is heating up. Four tech giants have made strategic moves that portend a lengthy fight – one in which consumers should come out ahead, eventually, and more energy efficient homes should result.
The four big players – Microsoft, Samsung, Apple, and Google – are each taking different approaches and are at different stages of development. Their recent tactical moves include:
- Microsoft is acting as an incubator. The software giant (along with partner American Family Insurance) has set up an accelerator program to encourage tech startups to create smarter homes. In the current round, 10 companies have been chosen, two with a clear focus on energy efficiency. Chai Energy aims to give consumers real-time energy consumption data for the whole house and for individual appliances. Heatworks offers what it calls “the first digital tankless water heater” to conserve energy and reduce water consumption.
- Samsung is making acquisitions. In August, the gadget and appliance maker announced its purchase of SmartThings, a startup offering a hardware-software solution that connects many in-home devices, such as light switches, outlets, locks, and thermostats. Also in August, Samsung bought Quietside, a U.S.-based distributor of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) products, and the South Korean conglomerate says it will release an enhanced lineup of HVAC products that better addresses North American customers’ needs.
- Apple is featuring HomeKit as part of iOS 8. The mobile operating system will include HomeKit, a new software framework, when it is released this fall; the new software will enable users to connect iOS and third-party devices in the home in order to control lights, door locks, and thermostats, among other devices, from mobile devices.
- Google’s Nest Labs is opening its platform. The company’s software is now available to outside developers that can write applications that connect devices to Nest thermostats and smoke detectors. The company also acquired Dropcam, a startup that offers video monitoring equipment for the home.
This competition for smart home supremacy will continue for a number of years. Why? Because home energy management remains a fragmented world, with no single standard or platform. No clear leader has emerged, and interoperability will be an issue. Furthermore, none of these companies want to concede ground to the other if they don’t have to. From an energy-savings standpoint, Google’s Nest Labs has momentum. But don’t count out the others in terms of volume and the ability to drive adoption, particularly Apple and Samsung; both can leverage large installed bases of mobile device users, and Samsung has the advantage of already selling connected appliances. The race has just gotten started.
Tags: Energy Efficiency, Google, Home Energy Management, Smart Homes, Smart Utilities Program
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