The Connected Home – App Ecosystem Panel at Connections

One of the great things that happens as a technology advances is seeing the great new uses it can get put to. On yesterday’s panel at Connections Connected Home Event in Las Vegas this week (collocated with CITA2013) there were some great opinions from the panelists on how the App Economy is evolving especially for the connected home. Panel details are here – with Panelists from Accedo, Apsalar, Adobe, Pandora and ourselves.

Getting content and services onto connected home devices, tapping into home infrastructure and creating a uniform experience is clearly. The panel covered a wide range of topics from integration with CE devices to business models and distribution.

Our take away from the panel was how key the interplay between device, app and API will be to create this uniform experience. While Apps are typically the element that gains the most attention for in-home scenarios, it’s really the combination of three things which will make the home environment genuinely smart:

  • Apps – whether on a device with a screen or not: create a localized piece of functionality that the user experiences – as well as putting the relevant brand name front and center for the user.

  • The increasing number of devices: are a carrier for these apps into the home – with Smart TVs in particular rapidly accelerating in adoption but many in-home gadgets such as Fridges and Kitchen appliance become first Wifi enabled and then becoming hackable.

  • APIs: lastly APIs provide the underlying data and transaction layer that power these apps in doing their work. They also form the glue that enables a seamless user experience across multiple devices.

In many cases, the in-home experience already spans a multitude of devices from different manufacturers and for different family members – making for a rich but complex environment.

Many of 3scale customers have the potential use their APIs to power in home, personal and devices (from entertainment such as Musixmatch, through infrastructure management such as Johnson Controls and relevant life data such as Yummly and Nutritionix). As the home environment becomes more hackable, it will be natural for custom apps or data from these services to show up in the locations just where they are necessary – the kitchen home screen for nutrition information or a special projection to aid our singing in the shower.

During the panel we showed a graphic which is illustrative of the new opportunities opening up:

ConnectedHome_byAPI

It’s also great to see hardware and software become merged with new technology such as the Philips Hue – which is now scriptable and can be connected to events in other cloud services via IFTTT. This means external events (emails arriving, sports scores, the weather and whatever else the user determines) – can be used to change the lighting in a room. While it’s still early in terms of people doing this, a lot of creative possibilities open up. It is also interesting to note that the architecture of the system necessarily means lights are controlled from a server by API – rather than purely locally in the home. While this may create issues (robustness / security), ultimately it also creates opportunities – the ability to keep extending the capability of the system even after bulbs are sold and the ability to keep connecting the app to more and more external sources.

Depending on a company’s focus on the market, there are different interesting trends in the space:

  • Becoming a “platform” will be an imperative for most Companies wanting to get traction in the digital home: While there will be some large hardware / device players, it seems likely that there will be significant device fragmentation – leaving many companies the challenge of how to get onto these many devices in order to serve and connect the multiple and varied places their customers need them to be.

  • Hardware and Device vendors should look to build their App/Partner ecosystems – and be hackable: many vendors for large devices such as Televisions already ship with significant ecosystems of Apps. It seems likely smaller and smaller devices will be connected and also that architectures will become more generic. While proprietary ecosystems have won the day to date, there is now increasing value in more generic platform capabilities – Ardunio, Raspberry Pi and the advent of in-home devices like Android Powered Ovens since they immediately make it easier for developers to create apps.

  • Scripting Platforms reaching hardware will be a game changer: the IFTTT example shows how neatly hardware and software can play together and no doubt we’ll see similar hardware integrations from other integrators (IFTTT itself also lready has other devices available). It seems likely this trend will continue and consumers are likely to catch on quickly if the interfaces are right – changing physical space is so much more intuitive that moving bits.

Together these trends seem likely to make the modern home both more and more hackable and also more connected to the world of data and systems outside of it.

Thanks to Connections / CITA and everybody on the panel for a great discussion!