March 2004
  
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Building the Connected Home

Ian Johnson
The Connected Home 2004

Key Trends in the Industry - and a preview of the Connected Home event, 21/22nd April, London 

When we look at the various facets of the connected home - a multitude of issues spring to mind, and indeed a wide variety of technologies. With technologies developing at a rapid rate, just how practically are they partnering with the construction industry, what type of strategies are being adopted by the market, how will the connected home and the connected work place integrate themselves, and just what types of services are going to drive the market forward? These and many more questions were covered at the Connected Home event in September 2003, with a myriad more issues scheduled for the anticipated Connected Home event this 21 and 22nd April in London.

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After what was perceived to be a relatively slow start for the industry - things are finally making progress. The Connected Home Conference - September 2003 - focused on partnerships to really push the industry forward. The technologies are in place and the service aggregators are ready - the challenge is communicating this to the marketplace.

How will the connected home and connected workplace work together? 
The Conference stressed that by using an ecosystem strategy to develop the home technology market - as an end-to-end service experience for the customer - it would make it simpler for them to build an ecosystem themselves.

Many speakers were thinking holistically about the broadband ecosystem in the home, and they viewed broadband as feeding that ecosystem, at the heart of the connected home - bringing things alive. The networked home must feed consumers desire to work, play, and relax and even to be able to monitor all things going on in the home. Broadband was seen as important in setting this market alive, and the integration of broadband in the home and in the workplace is one of the key facilitators to bringing these two areas together.

Broadband internet is the key to effective home working. With an always on internet connection and a wired home the user can operate a VPN (Virtual Private Network) over the internet which allows a home worker to be connected to their office network just as if they were in the office. Because ADSL allows use of the telephone at the same time as broadband internet a home worker can talk through a presentation with a colleague in the office whilst even printing it off for them at their end at the same time.

One such company promoting the integration of home and the workplace, and exhibiting at the last connected home event was Opus Technologies. Matthew Bramble, Technical Director, Opus Technologies commented that, "Opus is launching a structured wiring solution called Octopus Home Cabling which will meet the needs of the home worker and distribute telephone and data access (amongst other things) to plug-in Access Points which are built in all around a home. This means that any room to be used as a home office by simply plugging a laptop and phone into an Octopus Access Point."

What services will be delivered? 
Entertainment, home care, remote control and security services are all becoming more important for the consumer, and the focus on these services was well received. Also, important other markets emerged in home care and control. This was highlighted by the West Lothian Council case study. This showed us the opportunity to embrace the potential of the technology in the way of changing lives of citizens, and helping to tackle social inclusion.

To make services available for the mass market, many were convinced something has to change in the market - and this was likely the role of the home service aggregator. Many cable, Telco and utility companies are looking to develop this new home service aggregator role in the market. This involves combining portfolios of services and delivering this in an easy way to the end customer for higher quality of service.

CatNet Systems Many see entertainment in the connected home as the main driver. It was commented that people are willing to pay to enjoy themselves and that generating excitement and enjoyment in these services, with easy to handle technologies would be key.

Forming partnerships with the construction industry?
The April event this year will receive yet more focus on service deployment and provisioning in the industry, but importantly will also include a focus on the construction industry. Four of the leading UK property developers will be speaking at the event, and offering their views on the different types of connected home project they have been undertaking.

ConvergeX, the digital homes solution company, is one such organisation partnering their home control middleware software with leading UK property developer Linden Homes. Jostein Svendsen, Managing Director of ConvergeX commented that, "2004 is the year where Digital Homes will take center stage as many major companies are moving into the market place and positioning themselves to drive the market forward. But even if the larger players will supply the devices, the innovation and applications will found in the smaller companies. This is where Europe can play a main role - delivering leading edge applications to enable the digital home revolution.

This focus on the building industry was something emphasised by Bramble from Opus Technologies, he described that, "Its now widely accepted that modern entertainment technology genuinely attracts new home buyers and adds to a home's perceived value. We recognised early-on that home builders were the key to getting this exciting technology into the home and have consequently strived to design products ideal for new build. We have made it a priority to partner with new-home builders world-wide and have enjoyed particular success where we have focused on creating customised solutions; solutions which are not only product but a fully realised support package which includes marketing, project management and installation services."

Svendsen from ConvergeX echoes this sentiment, " We look at the market and are tying up with players in a number of ways. We are initially targeting property developers and authorized re-sellers and will later license the software to be installed in various home devices. Even though we are starting deployment in the mid to upper end of the market - we will ultimately achieve mass market adoption by being available on millions of devices being sold to the home."

Looking towards the April Connected Home event 
The broadband home is here today, and the connected home is coming. Everything is available today, we have connectable devices and service aggregators - the question asked was how do we move forward to this integration environment? The technology is already here, the big challenge is how we market it to the right people? How do we communicate to the marketplace?

One thing is for sure;

"The connected home of the future is not about having massive amount of technology on display. The good solutions are the invisible ones, the ones that always there to help you and make your life easier, but you don't have to think about them." Svendsen, ConvergeX

Consumers are getting used to the concept of the home network. "The networked home really has a future, but as far as the mass market is concerned I think we really have to find out what that is" summarised Andrew Mullen, General Manager Communications and new technologies, LG Electronics UK. Convergence is really re-defining the industry today as connected devices are emerging and as Mask Ossel, VP and General Manager, EMEA, Echelon outlined, "many companies underestimate the speed of change."

As we plan for the next connected home, April 21/22nd 2004, we are considering the comments throughout out the two days, and are looking to help the industry understand the issues that it faces, and helping drive this market forward. We look forward to seeing you at The Connected Home 2004.

More information on the Connected Home event - can be found at - www.the-connected-home.co.uk or by contacting Ian Johnson, Director, Junction Ltd ian@junction-group.com 


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