Connected home growth hindered by inaccessibility, conflicting standards, execs say

BARCELONA, Spain--When it comes to the connected home, the wireless industry is getting mired in discussions about standards and infrastructure instead of spending time making the concept easy for consumers to deploy and understand.  That was the key message from panelists at the FierceWireless executive luncheon on the "Connected Home: A proving ground for the Internet of Things," held here at Mobile World Congress.

SmartThings CEO and founder Alex Hawkinson said that his company struggles with "creating experiences that are simple … How do you retain openness and drill down and make it accessible to consumers?"

That sentiment was echoed by Kevin Peterson, president of AT&T's (NYSE: T)  Digital Life, the company's home automation and security solution that was launched two years ago. "We have to provide a solution in a meaningful, economically viable way," Peterson said, adding that any connected home product must be easy to deploy, otherwise the customer will spend more time "fixing it than using it."

AT&T's efforts around Digital Life have helped create more visibility for the connected home ecosystem, particularly with its efforts to create an application ecosystem for this burgeoning area, noted Alex Brisbourne, CEO of KORE Wireless Group.

But conflicting standards such as the Open Interconnect Consortium (which is supported by companies like Intel, Samsung Electronics, Broadcom), the AllSeen Alliance (which uses an open-source implementation of Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) AllJoyn framework), as well as newcomer Thread (which is supported by Samsung, Nest Labs, ARM Holding and others), are creating confusion in the market and threaten to hinder progress, according to Hawkinson. He also said he believes there is some relief in sight as companies are starting to align with certain standards.

For Deutsche Telekom, the key to maneuvering in this market is to find the right technology for certain use cases and getting manufacturers to invest in that technology. "How do you drive growth?  What is the use case and the technology that will support that use case? We are looking at ways to drive the home gateway initiative," said Jean-Claude Kiessling, head of business development and portfolio management for Deutsche Telekom's open smart home platform, QIVICON.

But security is still an underlying concern for all players in the connected home market, particularly because there is so much data generated from every connected element of the home.  Hawkinson estimate that a "well connected home" generates anywhere from 50 to 1,000 events per day. "That's a lot of stuff. Within that data there's a lot of opportunity but also risks," he said. "We have to be stewards of that."

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