CABA has always done a great service to the industy by organizing and hosting these forums and conferences where players in the industry can get together on neutral turf to share their experiences, concerns and expertise. As a great believer in sharing technical expertise, in fact it's what this publication is based on, I am always keen to hear what others are working on and where the industry is going.

CABA Digital Home Forum

Bob Hetherington | HomeToys

I recently had the pleasure of attending the CABA Digital Home Forum in my home town of San Diego. CABA has always done a great service to the industy by organizing and hosting these forums and conferences where players in the industry can get together on neutral turf to share their experiences, concerns and expertise. As a great believer in sharing technical expertise, in fact it's what this publication is based on, I am always keen to hear what others are working on and where the industry is going.

There were several presentations during the day intermingled with some great panel discussions.

Presentation included:

Keynote Speaker

- Dan Rabinovitsj, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Networking Business Unit, Qualcomm Atheros
 
Dan Rabinovitsj shared insights on the evolution of the connected home, discussed the vision for the architecture of the home network and present technologies that will enable the connected home ecosystem to deliver the next generation user experience and value added services. 
 

“The Role of the Home Gateway”

Presenter:

- Todd Antes, Vice President of Product Management, Networking Business Unit Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

What is the role of the home gateway and where will it be located within the home network? This session will explore the relation between the gateway, the home network and the cloud, define the functions served by the home gateway and discuss the opportunity of a smart modem/router that would support such functions.

“Impact of Smart Grid on Connected Homes”, Report Highlights

The Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) recently completed this Landmark Research study on behalf of the Connected Home Council (CHC) to identify critical market and business issues, with the deployment of residential Smart Grid. The research identified market demand and growth areas for new products, compared competing product strategies and communication of competitors. The study also determined product preferences for end-users, helped develop messaging that resonates with target audiences, defined critical success factors to expand product offerings to end-user markets and established a market approach and foundation for strategic decision-making efforts.

Presenters:  
- Konkana Khaund, Industry Manager - North America, Environment & Building Technologies, Frost & Sullivan 
- Farah Saeed, Principal Consultant, Energy and Environment Group, Frost & Sullivan

Moderator:
- Farah Saeed, Principal Consultant, Energy and Environment Group, Frost & Sullivan

Panel Discussion: 
- Jerine Ahmed, Senior Engineer, Design and Engineering Services, Southern California Edison
- Jim Poder, Distinguished Engineer, Comcast Office of the CTO, Comcast Cable
- Chellury (Ram) Sastry, Senior Staff Engineer/Senior Manager, Samsung Telecommunications North America

 

Panel discussions covered a wide array of topics including:

“The Evolution of Smart Devices and Appliances”

What will future smart devices and appliances look like? This panel will discuss how the connected home, point of convergence of consumer electronics and connected objects such as appliances, shapes consumers expectations and what device capabilities will be able to best meet these expectations.

Moderator
- Ron Bernstein, Energy Control Systems Engineering Consultant

Panel Discussion:
- Jonathan Cluts, Director Strategic Prototyping, Microsoft Corporation
- Chellury (Ram) Sastry, Senior Staff Engineer/Senior Manager, Samsung Telecommunications North America
- Michael Stauffer, Senior Director of Business Development, Qualcomm Atheros 

Connecting the Home with 3G/LTE Networks

What is the place for 3G/LTE networks in the Connected Home? This panel will explore how carriers and providers of mission-critical services such as healthcare, security and energy, can leverage the capabilities of the latest broadband cellular networks and technologies to enhance the reach and reliability of their services.

Moderator:
- Sam Lucero, Senior Principal Analyst, M2M & Connected Devices, IHS/IMS Research

Panel Discussion: 
- Dan Ramos, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, Alarm.com
- Jason Ellis, Staff Manager, Business Development, Qualcomm Incorporated
- James Pyers, Senior Director, Business Development, Qualcomm Life

Next Generation Home Apps, Services and User Experience

What are the characteristics of the next-generation connected consumer experience within the home and what are the challenges in making it a reality? From context aware thermostats to social TV, this panel will look at innovative apps and services transforming the way we think about our home and interact with it. 
 
Moderator:  
- Carole Wiedmeyer, Partner, Zanthus Corporation 
 
Panel Discussion
- Andrew Wale, Vice-President, Marketing, Vantage Legrand  
- Roxy Podlogar, Strategic and New Market Development, Tendril Networks Inc. 
- Hugo Swart, Director, Product Management, Qualcomm
 

Data Exchange: Abstracting Devices and Their Capabilities

With the explosion of connected home devices from an increasing number of manufacturers, what will it take for all these objects to understand each other and coordinate? This discussion will focus on protocols and standards that best enable the interoperability between devices and offer a framework to abstract their capabilities. 
 
Moderator:  
- Ken Wacks, Principal, Ken Wacks Associates 
 
Panel Discussion: 
- Al Choperena, CEO, Smartenit, Inc. 
- Steve Samson, Director of Business and Market Development, Crestron Electronics, Inc. 
- Steve Wan, Senior Director, Marketing & Business Development, Qualcomm Incorporated 
 

Unlocking the Value: Business Models and Partnerships

In the fragmented connected home ecosystem, where established players are challenged by new entrants to rethink the way they make money, which business models will prevail? This discussion will focus on the monetization of the connected home from advertising to energy subsidies - and look at partnerships that may unlock new revenue.

Moderator
- Fabrice Hoerner, Technical Marketing Manager, Qualcomm Incorporated

Panel Discussion:
- Barry Rogers, President & CEO, SecurTek Monitoring Solutions
- Ken Fairbanks, Senior Director, Business Development, Duchossois Industries/AMX/The Chamberlain Group, Inc.
- Andre Lalande, Residential Marketing Director, Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.
- Letha McLaren, Vice President, Product Management, iControl Networks, Inc..
- Katherine Chen, Director, Business Development, AT&T 

 

Here are a few of the keywords and observatiions that caught my attention:

Residential Gateways

I was a bit surprised to hear that a lot of the discussion is still focussed on the Residential Gateway. Back at Connections 1999 I was introduced to this concept and since that time there have been many iterations but it seems that we still don't really have a standard gateway configuration and protocol that everyone can agree on and build devices for. Interoperability is still a tripping point for all concerned. I think the feeling is that until somebody just goes out and builds it --- we will remain in a bit of a limbo. I guess Steve Jobs proved that point. He just created his own everything and because it worked well for most --- it bacame a standard of it's own. While I think that may be OK for consumer products --- I hope it's not what happens this time.

Maybe we are just overcomplicating this thing and trying to be too open minded. Seems to me that air traffic control is a good example. If you want to land at an airport anywhere in the world --- you gotta speak english.  Whatever gizmos you have in your airplane is up to you. Whatever gizmos they have in the airport is up to them. Just speak the common (not necessarily better) language and you can land.

Isn't Inernet Protocol (IP) a language that could be used? I do tend to oversimplify things and maybe that's what I am doing here. It dates back to my engineering training in the stone age KISS :-)

That said, the concept of the home gateway is getting a lot of attention and it appears that is will be resolved in the near future. It has to be because there is a lot at stake for many companies developing products and services for the Digital Home and Lifestyle.

The Cloud

There was also lots of talk about the proverbial cloud. The idea is that we could keep the devices smaller and simpler if we could put the decision making for their actions into a big brain in the sky.

So in essence, the occupancy sensor just needs to be a simple device that says ---- hey, somebody moved. That signal goes to the brain in the cloud that says --- aha, sombody moved in Bobs bedroom and he normally doesn't go to bed until 8:00 PM on the weekend. But I see that the TV went off a few minutes ago so odds are that he is tired after a long day of lazing around so I won't raise the alarm. But I will raise the sensitivity level a notch and check back to be sure other strange things don't happen later tonight.

Having most of the computing power in the cloud makes a lot of sense but of course raises lots of issues as well. Privacy and reliability are two big ones. It will be interesting to keep an eye on this direction.

Big Data and Machine Learning

If indeed the big brain is in the cloud and is asked to make decisions on this order of magnitude, of course it will need to learn about our habits, needs and wants. That's Big Data. Churning all that data in order to decide on actionable scenarios relies on Machine Learning. These relatively new fields are exciting and I'm sure there will be big developments in the near future. The corporate and industrial world are in need of solutions as well and of course the military is all over it.

Energy Management

It is unclear to me how this topic will play out in the future. There is lots of desire by developers and utilities to manage the energy in the home but as far as I can tell, the consumer is not really interested yet. Nor does he want to spend one red cent on the experience. That's too bad, but again can we really blame him. While I personally enjoy data as entertainment --- most do not. Energy Management is mostly about gathering data and expecting the consumer to change his habits based on that data. 

Perhaps when the big data and machine learning scenario is realized we will be able to manage and save energy without the consumer having to pay attention to it. Then we will have something to brag about  and sell. As a few panelists pointed out during the discussions - "The Product with the Best User Experience will Win". Steve Jobs again :-)

3G LTE

Ahaa, it took me a bit to figure out why Qualcomm hosted and is taking such an interest in this market. And does it ever make a lot of sense. What they propose is that cellular communication is the best standard to use for information that needs to be communicated reliably and is always on. Many in the room including me did not really get it until it became clear that they are not trying to stream video or any other such bandwidth hogging applications, they merely want to control simple data transfer which could be in the form of on-off commands, blood pressure readings etc. In other words, the actions that make stuff happen at each end of the communication. So, they are saying that they could be the ones that provide the link to every device in the home (and everywhere else for that matter). And apparently the price points for embedding such capability is already close to possible. In effect there would be one wall wart in the home that communicates to the Qualcomm cloud. All the other devices in the home just talk to the communicator via wireless or powerline methods. 

Their example of the technology is something they call 2Net. It applies specifically to mobile health care. The scenario is that you are sent home from the hopital after heart surgery with a 2Net package that consists of a small wall wart that you plug in and a blood pressure cuff that communicates with it and thus back to the hospital where they can monitor your condition.  Plug n' play!

Keep an eye on this concept too. I think it could be really important.

SmartTV Interfaces and the Home of the Future

Of course, the bottom line to all of this is the Home of the Future where we live in a totally connected environment and interact with our home without effort. This is probably still in the future, but it seems that most of the technology and devices are already here. The trick is to make them all work together seemlessly so the consumer can enjoy the benefits without needing a technical background. Several videos were shown to us that embrace this future including this one that shows the Snapdragon SmartTV Processor at work.  

CABA Connected Home Landmark Research Project 2013

Last on the agenda was a presentation on the CABA Connected Home Landmark Research Project 2013

CABA discussed its upcoming connected home landmark research project for 2013. 


The purpose of CABA landmark research study is to provide a unified and inclusive approach for study sponsors - to provide and enhance collaborative participation in market, customer and product research opportunities to a wide and diverse spectrum of CABA members.

The goal of the annual connected home landmark research study is to generate collaborative member involvement in significant and actionable research that has cross-industry relevance.

At the Forum, CABA in conjunction with its members who participate in its Research Program, decided to select to undertake  monetization modelling of connected homes for its next project.

CABA also discussed the fact that it completed a collaborative research study that examined the impact of smart grids on connected homes.

The study found that the concept of a connected home is desirable for consumers due to the perceived benefits of controllability, energy savings and security that homeowners derive from it.  The study however found lack of awareness, confusion regarding what products and services are best suited for consumers, and quantification of the cost benefit analysis are the key issues that have kept the industry from moving forward.

Overall, the study found that only 39 percent of consumers had some level of understanding of the smart grid.  However, only 34 percent of consumers, who have general smart grid awareness, attribute this awareness to their local utility company, and marketing campaigns concerning smart and green home technologies.

The main opportunities that the report identified over the next five year period includes energy efficiency, device and system integration, along with a move towards a universal home platform within home. 

The study found that energy efficiency would continue to dominate the discussions around adopting smart technologies by homeowners into the near future. The ability to quantify energy savings and reduce operation expenses will increase demand for connected home products and services.  The report also found that while pure-play entrants would participate in the market, more sole solutions from utilities could be expected in the long run.

Organizations that participated in the study included: CableLabs, ClimateTalk Alliance, Comcast Communications, Consolidated Edison of New York, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Energent Incorporated, Hydro One Networks Inc., Hydro-Québec, IBM, IEEE, Intel Corporation, Landis+Gyr, Microsoft Corporation, MTS Allstream Inc., Niko Group/fifthplay, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Pella Corporation, Philips Lighting, Qualcomm Incorporated, Samsung Telecommunications America, Sigma Designs, Southern California Edison, Sykes Assistance Services, TELUS, Tridel Corporation, TRLabs and Z-Wave Alliance.

CABA commissioned Frost & Sullivan, an independent market research and consulting firm, to conduct the study.

CABA's report has been released to its funding partners and will be made available for purchase to the rest of the industry after an embargo period, which ends March 2013. Also, every CABA member can access the study's executive summary through the CABA Research Library. If you are a member of one the participating companies you are entitled to the full report.

Companies enquiring for details and pricing about the report, or who are interested in participating in CABA's upcoming connected home landmark research project for 2013 can contact George Grimes, CABA's Business Development Manager at grimes@caba.org or 613.686.1814 x226.

Conclusion

That's the gist of what I got out of this conference. Some of it promising, other parts still confusing but in general a very infomative day as usual in this industry. I must say that I think the bottom line is that after 15 or 16 years of reporting on Home Technoloy, I still find that the people involved and the technologies they develop are fascinating and no matter what, they are on the cutting edge of human evolution. Bravo!

Here is a video of the opening session for you to watch and learn:


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