Mid-Year Updates: Exploring AI, Emerging technology and Looking Ahead for 2018
By: Mitchell Klein, Executive Director
It's hard to believe we are already looking at the middle of 2018; it seems like just a few weeks ago we were all gathered in Las Vegas at CES, looking at the newest tech and gadgets and discussing what this year had in store. CES 2018 was the biggest show Z-Wave has had to date, and the focus on smart home in general along with the buzz in the Sands Smart Home Marketplace was living proof that connected living was here to stay. With the market picking up steam, we are beginning to look to the future - where will connectivity and intelligence take us?
The first half of 2018 has been filled with discussions over artificial intelligence and machine learning and their role in giving our devices a deeper level of functionality. The truth is, what we've been describing as the smart home for the past decade or more hasn't been truly "smart" - just connected. But the key to this distinction lies in our ability to further develop AI to understand context and behavior by evaluating data and making decisions. The experts in artificial intelligence, however, are less enthusiastic about AI's immediate ability to give us a hands-free, seamless experience where robots live with humans side by side to automate, decide and take action because it "knows" what we need.
In a recent Business Insider article
, the reporter argues that the pace of innovation has slowed in Silicon Valley and around the world. Tech that's been previewed at CES for several years now - augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robotics - none of it is ready for the mainstream, and that might be a good thing for now. It might be a good time for those of us entrenched in the home automation and IoT spaces to look at what we need to do to improve the end user experiences and to convince the naysayers and the skeptics why connected living is worth investing in.
And what are the important use cases for this technology that we haven't dug into enough? At our spring summit last month, I heard several members talking about fascinating partnerships with energy providers or elder care facilities to use sensors and controllers to tackle real world problems. There are many examples of projects; and while the rise of smart speakers and voice assistants has gotten a lot of folks interested in smart home as a concept, we can't ignore the practical and potentially significant impact connected devices can have when applied in specific ways.
So what does the rest of 2018 hold? We'll certainly continue to discuss the initiatives of tech giants and how they continue to drive the market forward - but let's also look to the areas with significant opportunity for growth and ways we can use the practical implementations of smart home tech to enhance the lives of many.
September 6 - September 8, 2018, San Diego, CA
June 27 - June 28, 2018, RAI, Amsterdam
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September 24 - September 26, 2018, Philadelphia, PA
October 16 - October 19, 2018 Tokyo, Japan
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Control4 Certified Showrooms Attract Smart Home Hopefuls
Smart home adoption is trending upward, and so is the demand for smart home experts. This is, in part, due to the millennial generation who, according to a report from Home Advisor, "say they'll hire a pro for every project." While most home improvement experiences are try-before-you-buy, with paint chips, tile samples, carpeting, and large appliances, the home technology demo experience is limited to product walls or online ordering.
To present current and future homeowners with a way to connect with a smart home expert and to test out home automation features, Control4 announced its Certified Showroom program. When the program debuted in May, over 140 locations opened worldwide across five countries and over 25 markets, and more have continued to spring up. The Certified Showrooms are dealer-lead experiences that provide homeowners, designers, architects, builders, and others interested in the smart home the ability to experience features before adding them to their home and projects.
Control4 Certified Showrooms demonstrate key smart home features, including: family room entertainment, multi-room audio and video, smart lighting, safety and security, comfort, voice control, and intelligent home networking. The debut grand opening event of the showrooms was on May 31, #C4Yourself Day, where local Certified Showrooms were attended worldwide by homeowners, designers, builders, and architects. Smart home starter kits were raffled off to attendees, and many dealers started conversations for designing new customers' smart homes based on features they tried out at the showroom.
The Control4 product ecosystem currently includes a Z-Wave certified dongle, a smart home bridge device that is designed to connected to Control4's EA Series controllers for whole-home entertainment and automation as well as a select number of Z-Wave-compatible devices including sensors and outlet modules.
Learn more about becoming a Control4 dealer and find a Control4 Certified Showroom near you in the Control4 Dealer Locator
Cool for the Summer: Why Summer is the Season of Smart Home
By: Kendall Burke, Caster Communications
Summer is almost here and with longer days, warmer temperatures and lots of time spent outdoors, this season is the perfect time to communicate to consumers how they can benefit from installing Z-Wave devices in their homes. In your next outreach to customers, consider communicating these warm weather smart home perks:
Whether consumers are getting ready to summer at their vacation home, or preparing to open it up to renters, Z-Wave smart home technology helps to make sure it is all set for summer fun. Smart home products make vacation homes more secure, easier to maintain and the opportunity to be managed remotely. Z-Wave devices including smart locks and smart sensors can let homeowners know if a door has been left ajar, or if a window is left open on their way home from the beach house.
Summer break from school can be a source of stress for many parents forced to leave their children home alone during the workday. Z-Wave products like a smart home security system gives parents the power to keep a watchful eye over their kids while they're out of the house. Z-Wave smart locks can also send parents alerts when their kids come and go, giving them peace of mind.
Maintaining a backyard garden or lawn can be time consuming and labor intensive. With a Z-Wave smart plug, consumers can transform a basic electrical device into a smart Z-Wave device making it easy to turn something on and off remotely via their smart phone app. Consumers can even create a programmable irrigation system using a Z-Wave motor control device and a motorized water valve making yardwork mindless and hassle free.
Summer is the time for pool parties and barbeques with family and friends. By integrating Z-Wave devices throughout their backyard, consumers can make their outdoor space worry-free. Z-Wave products like smart sensors, smart lighting and smart plugs can amplify an outdoor get-together and make hosting guests a breeze.
Everyone loves diving in to a fulfilling DIY home project. Encourage consumers to get started on their own weekend project with DIY smart home products. Select your most "beginner-level" devices such as smart sensors, smart locks or smart switches and give consumers a step by step guide on how to install them on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Hotter days don't always have to mean higher utility bills. Explain to your customers how a Z-Wave smart thermostat can help save them money and energy. If a window is left open or the AC is left on when no one is home, smart thermostats can be adjusted remotely via a smart phone mobile app saving consumers money and energy.
Summer is a season of unpredictable and sometimes dangerous weather. Strong storms can cause damage to homes including floods or electrical fires. Try explaining how Z-Wave smart home technology can help prevent costly disasters and get a head start on families' emergency plans. Communicate to consumers that planning ahead by installing devices such as smart alarms, smart water sensors or smart lighting can help lessen the harm to their home or avoid it altogether.
For additional summer smart home tips and ideas to share with your customers, visit www.z-wave.com
What's Changed in 2018: A Mid-Year Update and How to Pivot For the Rest of the Year
By: Alexandra Gil, Caster Communications
Can you believe its already June? It seems like just yesterday that we were writing about CES. For many, mid-year is a time for reflection - what has worked thus far and what hasn't? Where do you want to see your company grow and expand? What has changed in the industry that will impact strategy moving forward? For marketing decision makers and those in charge of strategic marketing plans, there have been plenty of changes worth taking note of so far in 2018. We highlight a few of these, below.
Google Assistant on the rise
Since their huge presence at CES in January, Google Assistant has continued to pick up traction, beating out Amazon in first-quarter smart speaker shipments
this year - Google shipped 3.2 million Google Home and Home mini products compared to Amazon's 2.8 million. Amazon is still leading the smart speaker market space in terms of products shipped, but Google's market share has jumped from 19 to 36 percent since 2017. Z-Wave is compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, meaning that manufacturers now have the opportunity to choose both when creating new products. If you already have products that work with the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, be sure to leverage this across all of your marketing efforts, whether it be calling out compatibility on your website and product listings, at tradeshows, or on social media. The consumer brand name recognition associated with both Google and Amazon is a big opportunity to get in front of a larger audience, as well as the growing popularity of smart speakers and devices that support voice control.
Amazon announcing smart security packages & why it matters
Despite Google beating them out in smart speakers shipped, Amazon certainly hasn't taken a backseat to the smart home. In April, they launched an online portal for home security products and services, backed up by support through trained Amazon employees and no monthly contract. The array of smart security packages include
products like entryway sensors, sirens, and a video doorbell, with five different pricing tiers to choose from ranging from $240 to $840. Amazon hasn't publicly announced the market availability and it isn't yet clear if they plan on making it available nationwide, but the news is important for everyone involved in the smart home industry - from manufacturers to integrators. Ensuring that you're focused on the consumer and homeowner needs first is important for staying ahead. Listen to your customers and what their frustrations are with smart home. Is it that they have too many devices or not enough? Do they not understand how to make it all work together? Spending the extra time to educate them ensures that they will come back to you for their future smart home needs. Whether you do this in-person as an integrator or via blogs, newsletters, social or other external communication as a manufacturer - customer education is key to differentiating your business as retail giants like Amazon expand their footprint.
Big changes to Facebook & Facebook Ads
Facebook has had an extremely eventful first half of 2018. Between privacy concerns and legal proceedings, they have had to make a handful of changes to the way users interact with Facebook. This includes adjustments to the privacy setting page and greater control over what users share in their news feed and who sees their posts. Another big change in 2018 was Facebook's announcement
that their algorithms would favor "meaningful interactions" from friends and family over content from brands, forcing advertisers and brands to rethink their approach to content-sharing. So what do all these changes mean for companies that rely on Facebook for communicating to customers and potential customers? The opportunity is still there, but companies must now move to more thoughtful posts that directly speak to a customer's needs. It's no longer enough to blast out self-promotional messages, hoping consumers will take interest. Thoughtful content that appears native to their feed with an educational focus is key to getting your message in front of a wider audience on Facebook.
Introducing Our New Member Video Series
It's never been a better time to be a Z-Wave Alliance member - did you know that membership has grown over 60% since 2015? The Alliance membership is currently made up of over 700 manufacturers, integrators, and service providers all supporting Z-Wave and we're constantly growing. With so many exciting product developments, installations and initiatives being worked on and announced, we wanted to find a way to get to know and showcase members doing great work with Z-Wave. We're excited to announce our new member video series: 15 to 20-minute Q+A videos with Alliance Executive Director, Mitchell Klein tracking the work that our diverse membership is contributing to the smart home and other IoT verticals.
We'll explore topics pertinent to your company like security or energy, as well as general smart home/IoT trends, and also ask questions about your company's legacy and history. Videos will be published a few times a month and will be posted directly to the Alliance website, as well as promoted through our various social media channels. This is a great opportunity to educate the industry about your company and gain exposure through the lens of Z-Wave Alliance.
If you're interested in participating, please fill out this Google Form.
We look forward to hearing from you and kicking off this member initiative!
How Customer Experiences & Expectations Have Changed in the Smart Home
By: Marco Piscopia, Technical Director - Electronic Engineer,
Nowadays, people want things that just work together, easily. The advent of smartphone technology introduced people to a new era. Even people who were still technophobic living a tech-free or minimal tech life, slowly had to adapt to a new world with the growing popularity of new smartphones. For us in the Mediterranean region of Europe, we're seeing that more people are coming around to smart home but are often confused by the technology and complexity of devices. We've also noticed that many consumers are also comparing their experiences from using smartphones where they will just go run out and buy the newest version when they have problems or issues like slight delays or lags, to that with devices in their smart home. But of course, we know that solution is not always the best way to approach the smart home.
As integrators, we need to remember that, for them, the only way to turn on a light previously was to push a button on the wall (or sometimes fire to a candle!) and the concept of products working was directly related to the principle of cause and effect - almost instantly. So, there is still some understanding needed on how this technology works, but many users are not interested, they just expect their products to work.
In some cases, these people have dealt only with standard systems based on bus communication and have in turn learned complex procedures even if it's just to program and enter an alarm; This is no longer acceptable. Everybody reading here knows the potentials of wireless technology, but these are not clear to most everyday homeowners and consumers. Waiting for real self-adaptive systems that may be supported by AI, the only options left is for homeowners to do things on their own (as DIYers) or offer services that Do It For Customer (as DIFCers) helping them with every issue, even small.
During the early age of this new smart home era, the knowledge of certain technologies was largely limited to scientists, engineers and techies; but step-by-step the awareness and the mindshare on the technologies have started to grow. Last year was the first concrete evidence of this new trend for us: the request for products become more frequent and the widespread interest seems to have finally picked up. To ensure things are working and easy to manage, there needs to be an emphasis on improving the customer care and satisfaction with qualified technicians. DIFCers need to be both skilled technicians to integrate solutions and also marketing people to promote new ways of doing things. This doesn't mean that there is a specific brand to promote but just a shift in the way of thinking and a new style of system. Especially in existing buildings where customers have their own smart systems that may be all working as standalone subsystems. The integrator should make sure that these systems are communicating together correctly using technology like Z-Wave, adding in necessary components to enhance the system and ease the use for customers.
This approach could give greater value to both the work of the integrators and products they use. Never forget that in many scenarios products will not work without a proper integration. It is necessary to have a strong synergy between products and integrators, and between manufacturers and field technicians. Only in this way the complexity behind a system will be "black boxed" and customer will have a positive interaction.
Moreover, AI that is able to manage all of the devices in a home and easily interact with the user will become more commonplace, as many times customers are hesitant to ask for help from a customer service support team that may not understand or be trained on how to correctly troubleshoot the issue. Setting a temperature parameter on a HVAC system, for example, in some cases could be something requiring the studying of a wide manual (if everything goes ok) or calling an expert. Having a personal assistant to help us in doing these things would be better than ever: "JARVIS, set temperature of the living room at 22°C" not only in the movies but also in our house.