Unifying IoT and multimedia to enable futuristic smart home services

Despite being in its infancy, the global smart home market is growing fast. In 2017, over 4 million smart home devices were shipped worldwide, and this number is expected to balloon to over 55 million by 2020, transforming it into a billion-pound market.

When we talk about smart home technology, we are focusing on devices and appliances that are central to the home – from CCTV cameras through to, heating control, intruder detection and washing machines. Devices are typically controlled remotely via a smartphone or tablet using a dedicated app. However, the adoption of devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home that have really helped increase the awareness of smart home technologies among consumers. By 2016, both of these devices had become commonplace and can be seen as catalysts for the merging of the digital and physical worlds within the home. Tech-savvy millennials have emerged as early adopters and have taken a particular shine to voice controlled smart speakers. Recent research from Walker Sands found that 37% of millennials “always” or “often” shop online via voice-controlled devices and 43% had made a purchase using voice in the past year.

While it’s incredibly exciting to see consumers starting to embrace smart home technologies, there’s a central piece of the puzzle missing in its ecosystem, and it is high time it is addressed. Despite media and entertainment services being an integral part of our daily lives, they have typically not been integrated with IoT technologies. Smart TVs and set-top boxes are separated from the smart home, and while some vendors and TV operators are now offering voice control it is within a controlled – and typically closed – environment. These virtual walls between smart home and media and entertainment add complexity for consumers, typically having to use multiple applications or devices for relatively simple tasks such as changing lighting while starting a movie. Unsurprisingly, it’s causing frustration for smart consumers and flies in the face of IoT being the epitome of ease. Ultimately, this may even slow adoption. Smart homes are meant to provide a more efficient and convenient way of life, but this is only possible if IoT and multimedia services are unified and controlled via a single application.  

By breaking down the silos between IoT and multimedia services, consumers can enjoy additional convenience within the home. This is what will truly drive mass acceptance, instead of being limited to the few early adopters that venture beyond asking their smart speaker to play a radio station or set a timer. Currently a consumer with a smart doorbell can receive alerts on their smartphone, record a short video clip if motion is sensed, and play a short, personalised voice message when unavailable.

This functionality is good, but it requires a specific app, which typically only works on a smartphone. If IoT and multimedia become truly integrated, then they can enhance these existing services. For example, when the smart doorbell is activated, live footage from the front door can appear on any TV screen in the home. When consumers are watching a film or TV programme or using the TV at a social gathering to play music or indulge in karaoke an integrated system can pause the media content when the doorbell rings, stream live footage from the front door and even enable unlocking of the door via a smart lock. This integration removes the need for users to be constantly checking their smartphones for notifications from multiple apps.

Closer integration of voice control and multimedia will help make voice control, and ultimately smart homes, more intuitive. For example, in the middle of a film or TV programme consumers can say that they are going to make a snack and have a rule (either explicitly created or even learned via AI) which automatically pauses the on the main TV screen and shifts the viewing experience to connected device or second TV in the kitchen automatically.

This is how we see the future, smart yet simple for consumers, and it’s why we created ACCESS Twine™ for Smart Home. It is designed to enable consumers to access and control all of their multimedia and IoT devices via a single app. Control of the smart home can even extend beyond the property and empower consumers to manage devices and services remotely, leading to improvements in security, energy efficiency and much more. ACCESS Twine™ for Smart Home enables remote management, home automation services and management of connected devices. Our solution enables consumers to create rulesets to securely manage and automate their smart homes. For example, lights turning on when you get home and playing relaxing music, ensuring the coffee machine only turns on during weekday mornings before going to work with the upbeat rock radio station motivating commuters for their day ahead are all ways to simplify, yet enhance, our daily lives.

On the other hand, security must be a consideration; hence surveillance camera settings, alarm systems and household heating settings should only be managed by the home principal to ensure that kids “playing” with the smart home system do not unintentionally make modifications.

Today, consumers are starting to embrace IoT, and more specifically smart home technologies but still get frustrated by the complexity – and sometimes sheer confusion – of getting the best from them. In order to fulfil the potential of smart homes and accelerate adoption we need to simplify things. One major improvement is to converge the silos for IoT and multimedia, enabling consumers to start seeing and enjoying the real benefits of smart home services.