Smart-home tech is definitely cool. But so far it hasn’t been much of a business opportunity for tech providers. Fortunately, that could change very soon.
To date, Amazon and Google have been the big beneficiaries. They’ve sold literally millions of their smart-home gadgets, including voice-activated speakers, smart thermostats and security cameras. Apple, Samsung and other big suppliers are getting in on the business, too.
Good for them. But that hasn’t left a lot of business or money for tech providers.
Until now, says Jitesh Ubrani, a researcher at IT analyst firm IDC.
“2018 was all about getting products into consumers’ homes,” Ubrani says. “2019 will be more about tying the various devices together to form a more cohesive experience and, importantly, layering in additional services.”
Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices: integration not included
If Ubrani is right, this could represent a new and potentially lucrative market for tech providers. Amazon and Google may offer connecting smart-home services, but they’re unlikely to send employees into consumers’ homes and home offices. Where they fear to tread, tech providers can go.
Talk to me
Exactly how smart-home devices will connect remains a topic of debate. One theory is that smart assistants — such as Google Home and Amazon’s Echo smart speaker with Alexa — will act as a central point of contact for all other devices in the home.
In this scenario, a consumer who wanted to adjust, say, their smart thermostat would do so by talking to their smart assistant. “Hey, Google, turn the heat down to 68 F.” Or, to see who’s ringing the doorbell, “Alexa, show my front-door camera.”
The numbers certainly support this. Google Home now works with more than 1,500 smart-home devices from over 150 brands, according to Google.
Speaking of numbers, IDC today forecast that smart-home shipments worldwide will this year total 832.7 million units. That would be 27% more than were shipped last year.
Of those shipments, more than 40% will be video entertainment systems, the largest category, IDC predicts. The market watcher expects the other top smart-home categories this year to be smart speakers (17% of all unit shipments), home monitoring/security (also 17%), lighting (7%) and thermostats (2%).
For tech providers, adding smart-home device integration could be one smart move.