The Digital Home is an age-old industry concept. Since the earliest days of digital technology in the 1990s, trade shows for cable, consumer electronics and other communications and entertainment industries presented mock homes that showed off the wonders of the Digital Age.
Inside these simulated houses, a similar scenario was presented that showed a family blissfully utilizing new personalized media experiences. Typically, a daughter sat in her bedroom listening to her favorite music on a portable player that evolved from a CD Walkman to an MP3 player. The son used a personal computer (with a massive, clunky monitor) to do his homework with the help of a CD-ROM encyclopedia. Mom cooked in the kitchen with a new recipe that she had downloaded and printed out. Dad checked stock prices on a Web-connected TV and then made a call on a videophone. The Digital Home would allow this happy family to monitor their thermostat and lighting from a keypad and circulate media to various rooms via a home network.
Now the concepts surrounding the Connected Home are being renewed and refined. The cable industry, as well as its service provider competitors, are brushing up the home network concepts and making them new again, with the help of recent technology innovations and fresh strategies.
Cable's Connected Home is becoming the Smart Home, one that provides extensive entertainment and communications that move around the home or even beyond the home, as well as security, energy management and other home automation services.
The recent introduction of whole-home gateways, cloud-based IPGs and apps, and smart-home services represents cable's early moves to take advantage of its increasing broadband capabilities. Together, these whole-home services provide a better user experience for cable customers, which in turn can help the industry to retain customers and create new revenue streams. Home automation services also provide a platform for additional offerings, such as SMB services and remote healthcare.
But the home security and automation business poses serious challenges. Cable customers will need to be educated about smart-home services, convinced that cable operators can be their trusted provider and swayed to add significant expense to their cable bundles.
Smart-home services represent an important new way for cable to expand its broadband product lines. But if MSOs do not implement and market them in a smart way, the cable industry is going to wind up looking dumb.
Cable Gears Up for Another Smart-Home Run assesses cable's prospects for smart-home services and the technologies that support whole-home experiences and automation. It includes profiles of nine suppliers, including those that support whole-home networking through hybrid gateways and related products, as well as cable's go-to provider of home automation services, iControl.