10.02.14

Best Practice: The Future of Home Control - Hidden Trends at ISE 2014

Peter-Aylett

By Peter Aylett, Archimedia Middle East. Another year and ISE again confirms itself as the most significant global AV and systems inte...

Peter AylettBy Peter Aylett, Archimedia Middle East. Another year and ISE again confirms itself as the most significant global AV and systems integration show. Again we all go to see new product, build new relationships, re-kindle old ones and hang out with mates in one of the world's great cities. I did, however, struggle to find anything that truly excited me. [caption id="attachment_4172" align="aligncenter" width="600"]ISE is a great place to see new product, meet old friends and forge new relationships. ISE is a great place to see new product, meet old friends and forge new relationships. [/caption] 4K was all around, especially in transport/matrix switching, with plenty of manufacturers plastering their stands with big '4K' or 'UHD' logos to emphasise their compatibility. The big flatscreen manufacturers were all showing their 4K wares, with LG exhibiting their impressive-looking 21:9 aspect ratio 105" screen with a resolution beyond 4K (necessary for the 21:9 aspect ratio) of 5120 x 2160. All in all though, the show was less about the new and more about consolidation of existing technologies and discussions about the future. This was apparent in a trend that I have discussed here many times, namely interoperability. This will be the new paradigm that replaces our current world of systems integration... eventually. The problem is that most significant industry players, such as Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft and now Cisco, seem to be doing everything they can to drag their own proprietary and fundamentally un-interoperable ecosystems into this new world. Kick-Starting the Market for Building Automation - Really? The ISE opening keynote this year was delivered by Dr Dirk Schlesinger, the Global Lead for Manufacturing at Cisco Consulting. Titled 'Kick-Starting the Market for Building Automation', Dr Schlesinger outlined Cisco's plans for a new standard platform for data exchange across multiple devices and subsystems in the home. [caption id="attachment_4171" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Cisco's Dirk Schlesinger presenting the keynote at ISE 2014. Cisco's Dirk Schlesinger presenting the keynote at ISE 2014.[/caption] Although the word 'interoperability' was frequently used during the presentation, I am not convinced that this initiative will gain much traction in the short term beyond Cisco's current set of partners consisting of LG, ABB and Bosch. The platform will use 'Customer premise equipment' (some kind of hardware-based Internet gateway) to manage connections and security. This concept of a centralised gateway is hardly interoperability but more of a plug-n-play control platform. It is fascinating, however, that Cisco has chosen to launch this into the residential rather than commercial market. The reason given for this is that the residential market is currently more accepting of new methods of control and is more innovative. The real reason is probably that commercial clients are not willing to embrace something so new where a manufacturer is willing to beta-test their new concept on end users. [caption id="attachment_4170" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Schematic of the proposed smart home initiative proposed jointly by Cisco, LG, ABB and Bosch. Schematic of the proposed smart home initiative proposed jointly by Cisco, LG, ABB and Bosch. [/caption] Interoperability Versus Systems Integration We are way too accepting in the residential world of poorly-developed products and ecosystems, which leads me on to what my prediction is for the future of control - the use of best of breed subsystems controlled by a suite of mobile device-based apps. This will be supplemented by simple pushbutton remotes for AV zones and on-wall keypads for lighting and window dressing control. This architecture is driven by today's Digital Natives (people who have intuitively grown up with digital technology versus a Digital Immigrant who is someone who has had to learn) being completely at ease with switching between apps to control different subsystems. As opposed to the Cisco platform, communications between these different subsystems will be facilitated by APIs (Application Programming Interface) without the need for a separate 'home gateway' type box. I am looking forward to this new paradigm. It elegantly gets us back to my prime directive that in a home, every subsystem should be able to stand up on its own if the central control system is switched off. This is an essential part of every system our company installs, and means that even if there is a problem with the control system, the user will still be able to use their subsystems using either an app, or native subsystem user interfaces that we install discretely throughout the building. Certain life subsystems such as lighting, access control, HVAC and security must be as robust as possible. It is unarguable that adding a custom programmed control system as a core layer to these subsystems will make them less reliable than utilising them as stand alone systems. Given a fixed customer budget, it will be more profitable for us to de-emphasise the control element of our systems and rely on wall-mounted interfaces for lighting control, button remotes for AV systems and mobile device apps for a rich subsystem user interface. The reason for this is that if we sell high performance over control, we make way more profit from speakers and amps. These products are high-margin, easy to install, rarely go wrong and are easy to maintain. I know what I'd rather sell. Conclusion The next two years are going to see massive changes in the way we view control. Cisco wants in, they see the potential. But whatever the future brings, it will be interoperability rather than systems integration that will win the day. Figure out how this will affect your business, and ensure that you have a strategy to thrive in this brave new world. Peter Aylett is a world-renowned speaker and lecturer in residential technology, and the Technical Director at Archimedia, a multinational high-end residential integrator in The Middle East. He is also currently Chair of CEDIA’s International Technology Council Applied Content Action Team, and a regular contributor to HiddenWires. www.hometechassoc.com