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September 21, 2017
Who Owns the Smart Home?
Liz Brohan

At this year’s CEDIA show, I couldn’t help but notice all of the smart home, networking, and device companies that surrounded me in every direction I looked. Like a kid in a candy store, I wanted everything I saw, especially that new Mark Levinson turntable, which immediately made me regret tossing out my old audio gear years ago.

Going through an airstream outfitted by Amazon and Intel was particularly awe-inspiring. Mood lighting, morning coffee, TVs rising from behind couches — what’s not to love?

Reality hit me once I realized how much trouble it’d be to install some of these gadgets. The thought of linking my stereo, thermostat, washer, doorbell, and cable service all together made my head spin. My house has some key Wi-Fi dead spots, so it would cost me just to address those. Or, I could wire the house. I can already imagine the look on my wife’s face when I say, “Honey, I’m going to poke holes in the walls. Don’t worry, it’s only Cat-5.” On second thought, wiring my house would cost more than upgrading my Wi-Fi.

The question for most consumers who aren’t handy and have an older home is, “who you gonna call?” Which service provider “owns” the smart home?

HVAC technicians?

They’ve probably been in your home at some point either to service a furnace or replace one. But, the look of fear when I asked my salesperson about a smart thermostat — “Oh no, those are hard to put in” — will inevitably transfer over to a lot of people. So, because of their fear, and the inability of the furnace manufacturer to build or license a thermostat that’s even remotely smart, I now have one that has all the functionality and appeal of the old Coleco football game. And by the way, if I’m dropping $10K on a furnace, a couple of hundred on a smart thermostat with a rebate should be a no-brainer. But, if Joe the furnace guy is afraid of a thermostat, he’s not coming near anything else and neither are many of his older customers.

The cable company? (which also happens to be the Internet provider)

Perhaps. But solar or storage batteries aren’t always affordable to the average homeowner, so it will take a while for that idea to develop as prices come down. Also, it’s safe to say that no energy app is going to get teenagers to close the door when they come over to watch videos and eat food with the AC on (although that would be a killer app idea).

The energy company?

Monitoring competitive conversations can also identify threats and opportunities, such as whether a company’s brand ought to create a content-focused campaign to “own” a particular conversation. Plus, you can use social listening to analyze the success of certain promotions.  A new hashtag or campaign can be monitored to see the changes in conversation that are direct results of that initiative.

That leaves the AV installer.

You know, the kind you meet at CEDIA. As of now, that’s the most qualified person to bring my home into the future, except for the fact that I have two kids in college and one waiting in the wings. So, I will not be employing these guys —  even though I do like Amazon’s ‘dots in the ceiling’ idea. That 100-inch, flat-screen TV will have to wait, and I won’t be getting that Mark Levinson turntable anytime soon.

So, while a number of companies — most notably Google, Amazon, and Intel — are hedging their bets and working with everyone, the question remains for retrofits — who owns the smart home? Once we solve that, we will see faster adoption.