What’s this “Connected Home” and “Internet of Things” all about?

Technology has transformed our world. Field trades companies aren’t exempt from the impact and you only have to look at electrical and gas installations from 30 years ago to see this. The latest change coming down the track goes under the name of Connected Homes and Internet of Things (IoT) so this article takes a look at what these terms mean.

When new technology hits a market it creates tremendous number of new opportunities. The arrival of mobiles made billionaires of people like Charles Dunstone from Carphone Warehouse and John Caudwell of Phones4U.

But timing is everything. Ten years after the first mobile was launched in the UK, penetration was 7%. Ten more years on and this had risen to 100% as more people had two mobiles than had none.

Most of us don’t have the opportunity to be billionaires but we may make a decent crust if we get our timing right. The latest opportunity for installers is the “connected home” or “Internet of Things.”

More power, less cost

The reduced cost of computing devices has driven the electronic revolution over the last few years, whether that’s the arrival of the iPhone or smart thermostats. It’s this same trend.

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The cost of Bluetooth or WiFi connected devices is now so low that it is now economic to connect just about anything electrical to the internet. The reason that this is called the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is based on the idea that “things” (actually, anything) can now be connected this way.

What is impacted?

Most of us are probably familiar with products such as Hive, promoted by British or NEST, a Google owned venture doing something similar. These products allow a smartphone, tablet or PC to control the water and central heating system through a “smart” connected thermostat.

But there is much, much more potential and all of the following exist, even if they aren’t yet widespread:

· Doorbells, see and speak to people on your smartphone from anywhere!

· Security Systems can arm itself and lock the doors when your smartphone leaves the home. CCTV videos are now in the cloud and accessible from anywhere.

· Gas, water and electricity meters - automatically send readings to your supplier, and alarm (and say cut off the water) if it detects that a leak is happening.

· Lighting – can be automated

The scope for connectivity is huge, this is only scratching the surface.

Who are the leaders?

A huge amount of money is being poured into the “Internet of Things” (IoT) led by the technology behemoths from the west coast of America. For that read Apple, Google and Amazon.

The Amazon Echo (not yet available in UK) was released in the USA in 2015 and has already become a best seller. This sits in your home and listens all of the time. It responds to voice commands such as “Play me A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay” or “Turn up the heating in the kitchen”.

Google recently announced Google Home that will compete with Echo and Apple are also in this market with their HomeKit approved appliances.

The challenge for incumbents like Honeywell is that these new guys are essentially software experts, and it’s software that will dominate this new world. Kodak was put out of business by the digital camera and the smartphone despite the fact that they invented the technology.

Make your mind up

Every new technology wave creates new business opportunities. Becoming expert in one or more of the new capabilities has many attractive features, including the fact that the early adopters are likely to be richer and less price conscious. The problem is getting the timing right and not committing everything unless there is firm evidence that demand is picking up. However my advice is, the time is now!

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Emma Dyer