The Next Frontier for the Smart Home is Parked in the Garage

by Dr. Alan Messer

Connected smart home devices are pervasive: According to IDC, the number of smart home devices will more than double from 100 million in 2018 to 230 million by 2022. Correspondingly, more than 35 million connected vehicles were activated in 2018 and that number is expected to grow to 76.3 million net-adds by 2023. Big stats aside, we’re less than five years away from a world in which half a billion homes and cars will be connected, smart and, in many ways, integrated.

Thanks to the rapid pace of innovation in the smart home sector – in terms of new devices and the increasing interactions between those devices – consumers have quickly realized just how connected their lives inside the home can be. In parallel, the increasing awareness, availability and affordability of connected car solutions have been fueling adoption and changing consumer expectations. The days of new car ads highlighting 5-star safety ratings, side curtain airbags and best-in-class fuel efficiency are behind us, having been replaced with Apple CarPlay compatibility, in-car Wi-Fi Hotspots and companion apps that save the day when you left your car unlocked in the parking lot.

But this uber-connectivity isn’t destined to be constrained within four walls or four doors. As these technologies become more commonplace, the idea of a fully connected life becomes not only more accessible, but also more approachable, and the need for a seamless interplay between devices, the data they generate and the environments in which we use them is clear. This is all incredibly exciting, but the end game is much more tangible than you might expect – newfound safety, security and convenience for home and car owners alike. Technology changes, but peace of mind remains at the core of what we desire for ourselves, our families and our most valuable assets.

This is the future of IoT and it’s happening now.

The Three Phases of Consumer IoT Experiences: Connected, Smart and Seamless

To understand where we are on the road to the intersection of connected cars and smart homes, we need to step back and examine the three major phases of these complementary IoT technologies.

Phase One: Connected

The first phase was all about connectivity. Think of first-generation home automation (or domotics, for those industry veterans out there) as arriving in the late 70s and early 80s via an extensive network of wires, hubs and control panels. This was followed by Bluetooth-enabled devices in the 1990s and Wi-Fi connectivity in the 2000s. While certainly “cool” to demo to friends and family, the underlying value was low and the use cases were limited, and offered little “smarts” to speak of.

Home automation’s younger sibling, the connected car, was born in the 1990s with the advent of early telematics solutions like OnStar and LoJack. These first-gen solutions leveraged expensive hardware, in combination with 2G/3G networks, to tap into an emerging data set that explored new ways to recover stolen vehicles and dispatch emergency responders, primarily as an enhancement to standalone GPS. Typically offered in luxury vehicles, or as very costly add-ons, the first phase of the connected car validated early consumer interest but tossed a wrench into a very traditional automotive manufacturing business model.

Phase Two: Smart

This phase is all about ‘smarts’ (not to be confused with intelligence), which is the current state of most smart home technologies today. Enabled by the pervasive (and fast) 4G LTE networks and the mass adoption of smartphones, the smart phase has unlocked a new era of highly useful command and control capabilities, best exemplified by the likes of smart speakers (Amazon Echo), smart thermostats (Nest) and smart doorbells (Ring), each of which can be controlled by the user. Notably, this phase has moved the user interface from panels on our walls to the phones in our hands – and in some cases, our voices – drastically increasing the importance of intuitive user experience design.

In addition to command and control features, this phase has unveiled new possibilities in the form of notifications and smart alerts (often threshold-based triggers), unlocking the ability to deliver the peace of mind that comes with knowing what you need to know, when you need to know it. Think about how a smart smoke alarm can now notify you and your family of a fire, even if no-one is home. Or, how you can see who’s ringing your doorbell from your office 20 miles away and decide whether or not to let them inside.  

With connected cars, the smart phase ushered in features that many of us have come to know and love, such as turn-by-turn navigation, in-car music streaming and voice assistants to cut down on the increasing number of distractions, as well as advanced command and control capabilities like remotely locking, unlocking or starting your vehicle from a smartphone app. Smart third party services like usage-based insurance have also seen success in leveraging connected car data, albeit within their own industry silos.

The smart phase has empowered connected car owners with the ability to derive meaningful value from the underlying data. Solutions like T-Mobile SyncUP DRIVE, for example, surface helpful in-app notifications that help with family safety and ride coordination (e.g. trip start and stop, geofences), make it easier to take better care for our vehicles (e.g. check engine light codes, vehicle recalls, low fuel and battery alerts), help us protect our vehicles when we’re not with them (e.g. vehicle disturbance alerts) and can even save the day when things go wrong (e.g. in-app roadside assistance).

Phase Three: Seamless

The follow-on to smart is seamless, and the smart home is well on its way to becoming truly seamless by integrating with the extended (and rapidly growing) ecosystem of smart, connected devices from outside of the home. After all, how useful and convenient are all of these smart devices if you need to manage separate apps to get the information you need? Smart assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri have arguably led the charge towards seamlessness through the development of robust partner and developer ecosystems, but the progress hasn’t expanded much beyond the devices in our home.

Vivint, with its recent launch of Car Guard, is the first player to bridge the gap between the smart home and smart car, driving their customers towards a truly connected life by protecting the two most valuable assets: our homes and our cars. This innovative solution delivers a seamless user experience that expands the security umbrella from the home only, to the home and the car. Picture this: it’s 3am and your car is being broken into. The insight derived from the connected car device is that a disturbance has been detected. This insight immediately triggers the lights in your driveway and starts a video recording on your surveillance system. New levels of convenience are also achieved, as simply leaving or arriving home can now trigger the appropriate security or comfort settings inside the home.

Connecting the Dots (and the Data) Between Our Homes and Our Cars

After decades of progression through the three phases of smart connectivity, the smart home and connected car industries have now entered an era of seamless integration – and the resulting possibilities are almost endless. Innovative brands will unlock new revenue streams and consumers will benefit from previously unimaginable experiences, as we collectively speed along the path towards a truly connected lifestyle.

While a momentous inflection point is upon us, this is surely just the tip of the iceberg, as truly seamless integrations will boost the possibilities for the combined value of the underlying data (1 + 1 > 2) by leveraging machine-learning and AI in a cross-domain fashion, unlocking a fourth and final phase: Intelligent.

Dr. Alan Messer is the CTO of Mojio.

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