Deutsche Telekom's Jon Carter Believes the Connected Home is Nigh
Jon Carter, Deutsche Telekom’s UK Head of Business Development, Connected Home, comes from a background filled with innovation. In 2001, while at mobile phone company, Orange he led an R&D initiative to build a demonstrable vision of a future home. The successful project was ahead of its time with connected bath taps, curtains and door locks as well as a voice-activated control system. Fourteen years on, Carter is working to bring that once radical concept to full and widespread fruition, starting with a call for a more open ecosystem of products that work seamlessly together.
You recently spoke at the IoT (Internet of Things) Conference, where you zeroed in on leveraging the connected home to drive growth opportunities within the technology integration sector. Where are we, as a business sector, with delivering on the promise of complete home automation and control today?
Today, the market is still embryonic—both in the US and Europe—although in the States, it’s probably slightly more advanced. That said, for the most part, we believe that there is still too much focus on gadgets, not broader and more compelling value propositions that will capture the imagination of the real mass market.
As an industry, we have probably fallen short of making sure that we meet consumers’ needs. One of the key things that Deutsche Telekom is doing is ensuring that we work with our customers—the utilities, retailers, other telcos, insurers, etc.—to create consumer propositions which truly answer customers’ needs. Yet, there is still a disconnect between where we are as an industry and where consumers are currently.
As an industry, we are still very excited about the possibilities of what could be realised. To achieve success, we need to ground everything in the reality of what customers really want or need, as they won’t suddenly have more money to spend on their home. We need to ensure there is a clear value that they can buy into; this market won’t be built through impulse purchase. Our focus is creating single, simple compelling propositions that persuade them to adopt connected home products and services. One of the areas of real value and need that we see in the US is around home security and peace of mind. Understandably, consumers want to care for their home and care for their loved ones. Our job is to work with our partners to determine how to make these concerns real.
What steps do we as an industry have to take to advance the connected home concept beyond closed systems and device compatibility conflicts?
The industry needs to wake up to the fact that we can create even greater value from the connected home if we work together. Building mutually exclusive ecosystems, gated communities, as we describe them—or closed architectures—will not help any of us. All it will do is result in even greater consumer confusion, weak-use cases, and not drive the real growth, which is what we all want to see.
At Deutsche Telekom, we have created QIVICON, which is a brand that comes with a strong customer promise that it is open and works with multiple different third-party products and services. In fact, we are adding new devices to the list we support every week. We believe that this is the approach that we need to see realised to move this market forward—and it is the approach that we are promoting to all of our customers.
Speaking directly to custom integrators working in the residential space, what is our role in taking the connected home from vaguely workable concept to robust reality?
I think it is that they now have a much larger market opportunity, whereas before the market was limited to high net worth individuals. Now we’re talking about a significantly greater market, with the ability to install systems much more quickly. The margins might change, but it will present significantly more opportunity. And inevitably, those higher net worth individuals want even more enhanced solutions, which will present new opportunities, as the range of connected devices grows every day.
We’re also working together towards standards that have broader appeal. In the past, we have focused deployments around KNX, but now we see the industry moving towards adoption of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee, and Z-Wave. This will create new opportunities for custom installers as you can start to integrate into a broader range of devices, not just consumer electronics, but wearables and beyond.
On a platform level, we also believe it is important to support an open standards-based approach. We have built an architecture that conforms to the Open Service Gateway initiative (OSGi), which has been deployed by a number of major players around the world, such as AT&T in the States. With OSGi, we are also supporting the EclipseSmartHome open source software community, which will enable us to tap into a growing developer community—something that we see as a critical success factor in the connected home market.
What can we do to expand our knowledge and skill base so that we can speak directly to interested end-users about these technologies? What is our unique value proposition?
It’s a common consumer trait that we all want to be different and have something unique in our own home, so there is always going to be a need to take what is mass market and make it bespoke. There is going to be an ever-greater need for custom integrators to support consumers in further enhancing solutions, being taken to market by retailers and telcos, to add additional value. This is one of the reasons why we are integrating our platform into EclipseSmartHome, as a means to enable third parties to create bespoke applications and services. You can support customers to go to that next level. We have all heard of IFTTT (If That Then This) type scenarios—the opportunity is to support customers and take them to the next level.
What is Deutsche Telekom doing to speed up acceptance and recognition of the Connected Home?
First off, communication is critical. We at Deutsche Telekom are currently running a multi-million Euro advertising campaign in Germany to communicate the benefits of the connected home. We are then actively engaged in talking to the industry. Deutsche Telekom believes that we can all benefit if we democratise the connected home, and move it away from high-end to the mass market. Communicating the benefits to mass market is vital, but ensuring we are talking the industry is equally important, as far as we’re concerned. Our QIVICON platform is open and integrates with multiple manufacturers, and we want as many people as possible to benefit from the capabilities that we have built.
If we continue to operate in silos, we’ll create value in our own little domain, but if we start to interconnect across all the different types of devices and backend platforms, we can create a far broader and richer ecosystem that captures much greater value for all players.
Llanor Alleyne has reported on the custom integration market for more than 10 years and is the Editor of HiddenWires.