iDevices, Chamberlain, and Schlage are all introducing new products that work on Apple's HomeKit technology, allowing household devices to be controlled from iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. This is just the tip of the Internet of Things iceberg, but using respected brands on a familiar platform is one way to ease in to the connected home world.
Plenty of young companies are jumping into the world of connected products, but when decades-old manufacturers turn their attention toward next-generation concepts, you know that the high-tech home is more than just a passing fad. Commonly known as the Internet of Things, connected devices are getting more traction in the world of residential building products, and companies are talking about it.
One of those young companies, iDevices, joined 95-year-old lock company Schlage and 60-year-old garage door company Chamberlain at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for a panel discussion on where connected products are taking the industry and consumer habits. All three companies are launching new products that work with HomeKit, a platform supported by Apple and announced at the iPhone maker's Worldwide Developers Conference in the summer of 2014. You can learn more about the new products in the slideshow (above/at left). Here's how representatives from iDevices responded to questions from panel moderator Brian Bendrosian, senior director of embedded wireless at Broadcom.
Q: Why is the Internet of Things (IoT) important?
Chris Allen, founder and CEO of iDevices: We went from educating our user base on what these products are and how they work to consulting with them on how to make sense of the data they can get from the products. There are a lot of benefits for users on having their devices connected, but even more important is understanding how consumers are using the devices so we can make the second generation of products even more useful.
Cory Sorice, vice president of marketing for connected products and ecommerce, Chamberlain: Up until recently, our products have been expected to last about 15 years, and so every 15 years or so we interact with our customers when they're in the market for a new garage door operator. With connected devices, our customers are sending and receiving information about when they're coming and going and how they're securing their home, and that lets us interact with them every day instead of every decade.
Q: Is the IoT market the most disruptive technology since smartphones?
Robert Martens, director of connectivity platforms, Schlage: It's absolutely the most disruptive , and it offers ways for old companies to stay relevant throughout their history and garner new markets. The challenge is turning an idea into a viable product - do you want a lockmaker making your lock, or do you want a software developer making your lock? Answering questions like that is why you'll see a lot of interesting companies pairing up going forward.
Q: How will you address interoperability between devices when there are so many different connections and protocols in the market?
CA: Initially, iDevices didn't step into home automation because it was a congested, fragmented marketplace. But when Apple said they wanted to bring some organization to the chaos with HomeKit, that's when we decided to invest. Home automation of the past had a poor user experience at best. We didn't want consumers to become disenfranchised with our brand, but with a company like Apple putting a framework around we know that won't happen.
CS: One of the things we're trying to do is focus on the consumer, who's no longer of the mindset that they'll push a button and get one thing done. What we've finally started to see and one of the reasons we're here today is the market is changing dramatically. Consumers want to know that the phone in their pocket is going to work with devices on their shelves at home. As a leader in our category, we want to make it an experience people trust.
CA: The reality is that the consumer wants to buy a brand that they trust and that they know will be there for them in the future. A lot of start-ups start up and disappear. We consider ourselves a start-up even though we're five years old. With 95 years in business for Schlage and 60 for Chamberlain, they're bringing trustworthy brand names to the market and that's going to be critical. Home automation is still a niche market. If you look at the number of smart thermostats, door locks, and other devices, it's a relatively small part of IoT in the scheme of things. The evolution of larger companies adopting and putting their brand behind it will be key.
RM: In our experience at Schlage, the people we think of as home automation enthusiasts are a subgroup. Most people are looking for a specific function or capability. When you solve a problem they're having, like what to do with your house keys when you go for a run, the consumer goes looking for more products that do those things. IoT is going to move people slowly from a particular function or feature they want to a wider ranging system throughout their home and their lifestyle. We've seen that happen and we think the industry is ready.