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Home Automation Wars Heat Up

Mari Silbey

The platform wars are heating up, and not just in the pay-TV space.

Icontrol Networks Inc. , which has become the smart home platform of choice for the US cable industry, announced it has officially forged a partnership with EcoFactor for cloud-based energy management services.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) launched its own Xfinity EcoSaver solution powered by iControl and EcoFactor at the Cable Show in June, and an iControl spokesperson confirmed that the new partnership offers the same capability options to additional service providers. (See Comcast Turns Homes Into Hotspots.)

Cable and telecom companies are hot on smart home services as a way to generate further revenue on top of their broadband networks. According to ABI Research, the global home automation market is set to grow 45 percent annually through 2017 in terms of systems shipped. And with EcoFactor, iControl adds energy usage data to its technology platform, along with predictive algorithms for optimizing energy management.

The service provider market is not without competition in the smart home wars, however. Office supplies retailer Staples has mounted an aggressive push into the connected home space with this week's introduction of Staples Connect. The new offering is powered by the Zonoff platform and features a universal hub, a mobile app, and a range of devices from companies such as Lutron, Philips, Yale, and Honeywell. With Staples Connect, consumers can control lighting, window shades, door locks, temperature, and more.

In an interview with Light Reading in July, Zonoff CEO Mike Harris compared retail home automation and security services to over-the-top video offerings. Neither requires a monthly subscription. Referring to cable providers, Harris said: "I think that's a great channel, but I think it's just one of several great channels… There's also some backlash around my cable bill getting even more expensive… I think there are some reasons why other channels make sense as well." (See Betting on Smart Homes.)

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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User Rank: Blogger
9/26/2013 | 5:59:05 PM
Re: A tougher market than anyone thought?
Yeah, it hasn't exactly been ripe for the picking yet, has it? I wonder if the cable cos are about to make the same mistakes or whether they know more about the market than the telcos.   
User Rank: Blogger
9/26/2013 | 5:28:00 PM
A tougher market than anyone thought?
Some new competition and changing dynamics makes this still seem like a very interesting market. However, home security in particular was supposed to be one of the great new revenue opportunities well within the wheelhouse of traditional telecom service providers, and it looks like that opportunity has fizzled to some degree, or at least may be much tougher to realize than they thought.
User Rank: Blogger
9/25/2013 | 10:56:03 PM
Re: What is it good for?
Good question, Jim. I'm not really sure. What's happening with smart grids? Why do they keep getting pushed back? 
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/25/2013 | 11:04:17 AM
Re: What is it good for?
A year ago, these types of services were heavily linked to smart grid deployments, but now given smart grid deployments appear to be pushed back, looks like we are in Smart Home 1.0 vs 2.0 mode. Is the value proposition still as strong?
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/25/2013 | 10:48:23 AM
What is it good for?
Aren't there enough warzones on the planet? Do we need to have new battlegrounds in the parlor? I thought that's what marriage is for.
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