The connected home is potentially the next big technology revolution. It could dramatically change many aspects of our daily lives. It is a networked home to which multiple services are delivered over superfast broadband. These connected services range from entertainment to education, home automation and security to healthcare, interacting with government and controlling our energy use.
But the connected home is not simply an aggregation of disparate services to the home. For people to enjoy this range of next generation services it needs to be developed as a fully integrated platform.
We predict that with the right actions by a variety of stakeholders the connected home market could be worth £3 billion a year within the next eight years.
However, there are big issues to be resolved before it becomes a reality. The connected home will have to be a single environment where all these services can be delivered but where consumers keep control of the network, their devices and data.
This report sets out a number of recommendations to make the connected home a reality.
The home is no long a place where we all simply sit back and accept entertainment, TV, radio, music, movies, in a passive mode. People increasingly expect to participate in the entertainment and information they have access to.
The UK is already seeing a major roll-out of smart meters for utilities which will send readings direct to the supplier. But this is just a first step. The meters will enable householders to receive pricing information, monitor their consumption and control appliances.
These are services which have the potential to dramatically improve the lives of the 25% of the population who suffer from long term conditions or require support to live in their homes. These services could also deliver £1 billion of savings annually to the health budget. However, there is a need to ensure that healthcare professionals understand the potential on offer and are enthusiastic about these services.
To be a truly connected home a property will need a broadband connection of at least 6Mbps. Homes with multiple TVs, or PCs will need proportionately more bandwidth. Healthcare services may require low bandwidth but will demand high levels of reliability and availability.
However, there are two major challenges. Creating home networks which the consumer is comfortable with using and connecting the 30% of homes which currently do not have an internet connection.
The home network is central to the connected home to ensure easy interoperability of services and devices. Currently consumers face a mass of different technologies which makes the design and configuration of a home network beyond the scope of most people.
Of the UK's 26.2 million homes just over half have a wireless router providing a basic Wi-Fi network. A further 20% have a wired Internet connection but 30% have no connection at all. Creating a home network is a complex project and the cost of retrofitting a concealed wiring solution into existing homes can be prohibitive. For new build properties however a network could be built in during construction adding just 0.2-0.4% to the price of the property. House builders will need to understand the impact this will have at the design stage of properties and the technical issues which will need to be tackled. However, they should also understand the value a network will add to a property.
Funding the retrofitting of a network into existing homes could be done through a remortgaging deal or as part of a mortgage when a property changes hands.
In the future house prices may be influenced by the quality of the technology and services built into a house, eg, security and telehealth solutions.
If the connected home market is to develop consumers will expect a clear proposition of what it is, how it will benefit them, how it will fit into their lifestyles and how they will use it.
Similarly they will expect a set of standards plus information to help guide them through the buying and set up process of networks, devices and services. Many people will expect the providers to offer a level of expertise to install networks and connect devices as well as educate the consumer on how to fully exploit all aspects of the connected home.
Connected homes will generate increasing amounts of data. There will need to be a discussion between consumers and service providers about a framework which must be developed for the aggregation and use of this data.
To turn the connected home from an idea into a reality will require a framework which everyone involved can work within, but which keeps the consumer at the heart of the whole experience.
Intellect's proposals aim to bring all the various players together to achieve cross industry co-operation on data and network standards and reduce the burden on the consumer. Security issues must also be tackled to provide a high level of trust and confidence among consumers.
Installation and support companies will require a level of professionalism which is recognised by the industry and consumers. This may involve a 'stamp' of professionalism issued by an industry group.
The framework will encourage all parts of the industry to view the connected home as a single market entity.