Is DT's Qivicon in a Quagmire?

Deutsche Telekom's Qivicon-branded smart home platform does not yet appear to have found a telco partner besides Telekom Deutschland, the German operator's domestic division, despite assurances it would have announced a significant communications service provider relationship by the end of 2015.

Light Reading has also learned that Holger Knöpke -- who, as vice president of Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)'s connected home business, was ultimately responsible for Qivicon -- is no longer involved with the platform.

"We currently cannot comment on an additional operator deal," said a spokesperson for Deutsche Telekom when asked for a progress report.

Thomas Rockmann, who previously worked in consumer product portfolio strategy for Telekom Deutschland, succeeded Knöpke as acting head of Qivicon late last year, according to the spokesperson, when Knöpke "was asked to take on new tasks within Deutsche Telekom Group."

Light Reading has been unable to confirm what Knöpke's new role entails. Both he and Rockmann are currently identified as "vice president connected home" for Deutsche Telekom on their LinkedIn pages.

Deutsche Telekom would not comment on whether the leadership change was in any way triggered by a lack of progress at the connected home business.

Nevertheless, various developments suggest that not all is well with the Qivicon project.

Launched in 2013, Qivicon is best described as an open-standards initiative aimed at spurring the development of a smart home ecosystem. Products developed by technology partners can be used in conjunction with a home hub incorporating ZigBee, Z-Wave and HomeMatic communications technologies.

Telekom Deutschland is offering its customers a range of smart home packages based on the Qivicon technology, but Deutsche Telekom has been trying to recruit other telecom service providers, as well as web services players, as Qivicon partners.

At last year's Mobile World Congress in March, Jean Kiessling, Deutsche Telekom's head of international business development for the connected home, told Light Reading that a company in the Netherlands (not T-Mobile) would begin providing Qivicon-based services by June and that an offering would become available in the UK before the end of the year. (See DT to Bring Smart Home Into Netherlands, UK.)

"A major telco in Europe will launch on Qivicon," said Knöpke, when asked about partnerships outside Germany in September. "There will be an announcement very soon and definitely this year."

So far, however, there have been no announcements about such deals in the Netherlands and the UK or with a major European telco.

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In the meantime, the UK's Telefónica UK Ltd. , trading under the O2 brand, has this week revealed that it will begin offering smart home services based on AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Digital Life platform this summer.

Although O2 owner Telefónica had engaged with AT&T about trialing Digital Life as far back as September 2014, this looks like something of a blow to Qivicon.

Deutsche Telekom's spokesperson declined to comment on O2's selection of Digital Life, but in September Knöpke had been rather dismissive of US-based competition, arguing that European companies were looking for partner providers "in their time zone."

"The requirements at a broad level are the same in terms of monitoring, efficiency and security, but if you look below, it's sometimes different with regulations about data security and privacy," he said at the time. "You need to comply with all those requirements on a European level."

O2 says it considered using alternatives to Digital Life, without disclosing their identities, but decided the AT&T technology had a number of advantages. "It is a proven product with an established device ecosystem, and the roadmap continues to evolve," says an O2 spokesperson. "AT&T has worked with O2 to develop additional functionality to ensure Digital Life has what we need to be successful in the European market."

Indeed, the deal with O2 has already given AT&T some ammunition it can use against those arguing the case for European platform partners. "O2's interest after our trial with Telefónica shows that Digital Life's platform is a great fit for European markets such as the UK," said Kevin Peterson, the president of AT&T Digital Life, in a statement.

Regardless of developments within the UK market, Qivicon desperately needs to broaden its ecosystem of technology partners if it is to flourish in the long term, but the last time Deutsche Telekom announced details of new partners was in September, when it claimed to have around 40 in total. That list includes major players such as Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Royal Philips Electronics N.V. (NYSE: PHG; Amsterdam: PHI) and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC).

Even so, Kiessling has conceded that Qivicon will struggle to compete as a smart home "ecosystem" against technology giants such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), which are pursuing their own initiatives in this market.

In September, Knöpke said there would be room for only three to five smart home platforms globally in the next five to seven years.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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inkstainedwretch 1/7/2016 | 8:25:16 PM
Re: Few platforms Agreed.
MordyK 1/7/2016 | 8:23:42 PM
Re: Few platforms I'm not sure they want that burden. They along with Apple have the same issue with Android in dealing with E-911. All they need to do is enable that and a standard interface with Intrado solves that issue.

Think about it. With Wi-Fi and BT built in they can already use their mapping to provide accurate location from the device even better than just the landline. So as long as the PSC is equipped to handle positioning information they're good.

I know that is a bit over-simplified, but you get my point.
inkstainedwretch 1/7/2016 | 8:16:49 PM
Re: Few platforms And even considering the value of the data generated, neither Google nor Apple (nor any other device manufacturer) needs to manage the smarthome network. They need only access to the apps that control the items in those networks.

I can see access to that information being the big battle. How hard is Google going to fight to be the company that makes sure that when your Nest smoke alarm detects a possible fire it connects to the appropriate fire department? I'd be surprised if Google would fight for that at all -- unless the alternative was not getting the data (either promptly, or at all). --Brian Santo
MordyK 1/7/2016 | 7:50:04 PM
Re: Few platforms Brian, smartphone management is a service but not frm the customer's perspective. If it were up to a customer they'd go into a store and buy a cell phone just like they buy a home phone. The different frequencies and the subsidy/financing model is the only thing attaching a customer to the carrier's retail outlet.

Apple is in the business of selling devices and retaining a central position in their customer's tech ecosystem. so be it themselves or through partners I am willing to guarantee that they'll be in the smarthome business. there's also the thing that if Google' does it Apple has to have an answer.

FOr Google it's about data and really big data. The home provides an abundence of data as a targeting element, as a service element and as a defensive element. For if Apple goeth there so follows Google.

There's also the question of how Apple and Google keep growing and don't become the bygone's of the tech era. And so if a man's home is his castle, Google and Apple will be bringing out products as a moat to defend their place in the castle.

WHy do you think Google spend 2.3 billion on Nest if they didnt wanto play in the home?

The consumer guys are about the PAN (personal area network) while theestablished goes play well in the WAN.
inkstainedwretch 1/7/2016 | 7:29:08 PM
Re: Few platforms Smarthome management is a service. like providing video or broadband. ICBW,* but I am skeptical either Apple or Google will want to become a service provider. iTunes is less a service than it is a brokerage for music publishers. Google gives away products, but not without a purpose, and there's no purpose here that I can see. Google does offer a service, Google Fiber, but Google has demonstrated little interest in doing anything with it beyond encouraging erstwhile competitors to roll out gigabit-sustaining infrastructure of their own.  -- Brian Santo

*I could be wrong
MordyK 1/7/2016 | 7:05:29 PM
Re: Few platforms Well I assume that if Apple comes out it will be an attractive product for their demographic, and even if there's apaying element it'll be seen as valuable to that demo. While Google is likely to be free but be about the data.

Just as it was in the olden days of the walled garden, I just don't see carrier's gaining consumer mindshare and driving this segment as much as they'd like to.

Like I said I think they're well positioned to play a role in the greater IoT like smart cities and remote sensors, which along with partners have the expertise and the organization to pay a very big role.
inkstainedwretch 1/7/2016 | 6:35:24 PM
Re: Few platforms There is a scenario in which service providers profit in the smarthome market. Connectivity is necessary, but somebody has to provide management. The question that cannot be answered yet is who will provide acceptable management services at a reasonable cost? If consumers have to pay Google or Apple for yet another subscription at some cost X, it may be possible for service providers to add smarthome management into their bundles for some attractively smaller fraction of X. It may come down to who is in the best position to bill and provision smarthome services. 
MordyK 1/7/2016 | 5:24:57 PM
Re: Few platforms So does watching a movie on Nettflix, but Verizon and AT&T don't own Netflix they just play the role of the delivery man.

Let me put this to you in teh form of 2 questions:

1. How often do you log into or interact with your carrier's online portal, and how often do you perform tose actions with your Google or iCloud service?

2. Aside for your cellphone (which until recently was tied to your account financially), how many applicances do you have tied to your carrier, and how many are linked via your user name at the web portals?

Carrier's tend to be really good at complex product, but for consumer products they tend to make them over complex.

The consumer expets very little from the smarthome that requires more than a simple gateway. The only real third party services that consumer's expect from a smarthome are energy efficiency and sercurity in certain markets. These are more likely to come from theur respective existing enery and security relationships that simply connect their hub to their service providers gateway, although it may be powered by a a third party like a telco.
Mitch Wagner 1/7/2016 | 5:09:58 PM
Re: Few platforms Why wouldn't carriers play a big role in the smart home? The smart home's gotta connect.
MordyK 1/7/2016 | 4:54:22 PM
Re: Few platforms My belief is that carriers won't play any significant role in the smart home, but that this will be mainstreamed by the consumer companies like Apple and Google's Nest along with their partners. Furthermore, until the ecosystem ditches the non-standard RF protocols and goes for an easy to use plug-and-play Bluetooth and Wi-FI, the Smarthome will continue to be a nitch home.

In the greater IoT however, I believe that the carrier's will loom large.
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