What platform will the smart home stand on?

A nice Q&A with Resolution Products!

In a recent article, “2015 to 2020: Connecting Our Homes to the Internet of Things” on TecHome Builder, Casey Meserve provides insight on how smart home gadgets are developing, and her view on the need of a standardized platform to allow for widespread smart home adoption. Do you believe there’s a need for a standardized platform. If so, what should that platform be? Is it security?
Ryan Boder, suretyDIY: There is more than just a standardized platform need for the Internet of Things; a standard platform is inevitable. It will evolve...

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How does Alarm.com, 2GIG and Qolsys fit into this? Will one of them be the standard platform?

I don’t think so. I think the standard platform will be at a lower level than Alarm.com, 2GIG or Qolsys. These are just pieces that will integrate into the standard platform’s ecosystem.

Alarm.com is a cloud based management and integration service. You might think of Alarm.com as you do other cloud based web apps such as Gmail or Facebook for the Internet of Things. It’s an important application and service but it’s not the platform. Alarm.com is currently serving as the glue that ties together several independent and otherwise incompatible technologies such as Z-wave, Lutron Caseta, MyQ Garage, Alarm.com video, security alarm & sensors, etc… but it can’t be the platform because you can’t build on it. You can’t write Alarm.com applications. Alarm.com has a good shot at being the most popular user interface for connected home systems but I think when the defacto standard Internet of Things platform finally becomes clear Alarm.com will just integrate with it and make it easy for you to manage.

Likewise, 2GIG and Qolsys are players in the ecosystem but I don’t think either of them and on a path to become the platform. 2GIG and Qolsys are more like the devices you use to access the web. They’re like your iPhone or Galaxy or iPad. You need them to have a connected home system but they don’t serve the same role that HTTP/HTML/CSS/JavaScript currently play on the World Wide Web. They could certainly try to expand into that but I don’t think it would be in their best interest.

I think we have some pretty good ideas about who the players will be in the Internet of Things but it’s not clear yet what languages and communication protocols they’ll use to talk to each other. The platform won’t be any one company or application. It will be the programming paradigm on which applications can be built that work well with all these players.

I definitely think Alarm.com would do well for themselves if they opened up a developer API like Nest has done to allow independent developers access to Alarm.com managed systems. It’s harder for them being a security focused company though, they assume a lot more risk than Nest does by opening up to outside developers.

I think in some regards we are almost there, you have Z Wave that appears to be positioned strong to be a bulk of this platform. From a security perspective it would be nice to have the sensors all be compatible and then let each manufacturer add their value in the panels and what they can do, then have the panels abide by some basic standards that would allow them to be compatible with various monitoring platforms (like alarm.com). I think you need to balance the Android vs. Apple equation in this, if you close it up too much you may have a very tight ecosystem, but then you wind up with forced options, if you open it too much you get a fractured environment.

A follow up Q&A with Resolution Products and our own Ryan Boder-

Question: Is home automation a trend that will die down? Or, do you think we’ll continue to see it dominate conversations like it did at International CES?
I don’t think home automation usage will ever die down. It will only fade into the background as it becomes an integral part of every home. At one time, cellular phones seemed like a trend or a fad. Today, nobody notes that they have a cellular phone, it’s just the way we all talk to each other. It’s a natural part of our lives. It’s expected. Cellular phones haven’t died down. Their usage is growing faster than ever, they’re just not worth noting anymore.
I think the conversation about home automation will shift over time. Today it’s about what communication and management technologies we’re using. Should I use Z-wave or ZigBee or WIFI or Bluetooth? Should I use Nest, or Alarm.com, or SmartThings, or, dare I say, Helix? We’re still trying to hammer out the plumbing. Over time the infrastructure will be standard, reliable and interoperable. The conversation will shift to the applications. Once we have a solid framework, what can we build on it?
Security is the killer application today and I think it will always be a core application on the Internet of Things, but I also think it’s dominating because it’s simple and mature. It’s easy for a consumer to recognize the benefits of a home security alarm and to have confidence that it will work. Home security alarms have been evolving for almost a century now and we’ve got that nailed down pretty well. They’re still improving, but the concept of an alarm is one that the market understands and trusts.
I think consumers will be just as interested in newer IoT applications such as energy management, home health care, appliance automation, lifestyle management, pet monitoring, and who knows what else. These applications are just as valuable, but they aren’t nearly as mature as home security alarms. They don’t currently work as well and consumers haven’t widely accepted them as necessary to have.
It’s only a matter of time and perception. When we can develop confidence that these newer applications work well and get consumers to really perceive their value, then I think we’ll see widespread adoption. If you have confidence that your energy management system is really going to pay for itself and save you money, then you’ll buy it. If you have confidence that your home health care system really might save your elderly loved one’s life, isn’t that at least as valuable as a burglary alarm that protects your belongings?

I think ADC is better than all of these separate apps. WeMo, Hue, etc don’t intermingle, but ADC I can do most things through one app.

ADC also strengthens the system as more ZWave devices are added.