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Google suffers Nest security camera outage

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

A failed server update recently caused a 17-hour outage for Nest cameras, Nest Hello doorbells, and Nest Hub Max displays across the world. This meant that users were not able to record video or see live streams during the incident. This is not the first time Nest has experienced such a problem. Less than a year ago a major outage at Google left many Nest users unable to access their smart thermostats, smart locks, doorbells, and other devices for a few hours. The problem is that the frequency of these incidents has increased over the past few years, a situation that is not only damaging Google’s brand image, but also weakening the users’ perception and trust of smart home devices. Google should take immediate action to prevent and minimize the future recurrence of these outages by making improvements to its systems while compensating users for the lack of service.

Google Assistant and Sonos speaker gain further integration

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

Sonos speakers integrated Google Assistant functionality in 2019 and in February 2020 added further capabilities meaning users are now able to set a Sonos speaker as the default option for playback from Google Assistant. This means that requests for music, or answers to a request will be automatically played on the Sonos speaker. Each Google Assistant device can be paired with a different default Sonos speaker making using the devices in different rooms of a smart home a bit easier.

The continued integration is good news for both Sonos and Google. Google is in a feature war with Amazon’s Alexa and integration with third-party speakers (and other devices) is a key way for Google to be able to leverage its massive smartphone advantage. For Sonos, giving existing users a consistent roll out of new features and software updates rewards their customers and should help build loyalty. More compatibility also makes the speakers easy to fit in to different smart home setups and the flexibility to work with both Alexa and Google Assistant is a selling point.

Apple files patent for a self-configuring smart home system

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

One of the current major pain points for smart homes is setting up the network of devices and adding new devices to an existing network due to a mishmash of different protocols, connector types, and vendor integrations (or lack thereof). Apple has recently filed a patent for a system that would automate this process. The system would not just identify new devices and connect them to your home network, but also use 3D-mapping technology to place the new device in a specific room in your home and assign it to any relevant groups as a result.

This patent shows a very Apple-esque approach to smart home – building an experience that just works for consumers without the need for much fiddling about in settings menus. Apple has yet to make a significant splash in smart home; its HomePod smart speaker is priced at the extreme premium end of the market which has so far limited its impact. Given Apple’s strength in smartphones, its existing digital assistant user base with Siri and its notorious customer loyalty, Omdia feels a bigger play from Apple into smart home over the next two years is inevitable and this patent should give competitors and potential partners an idea of what to expect.

Microsoft removes Cortana’s support of music, smart home skills and other third-party applications

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

Microsoft’s focus on Cortana has shifted significantly over the past year. The company has now announced that the AI assistant will mainly focus on search and productivity features that work well with Microsoft’s software suite, shifting attention from other consumer-facing functionality areas such as music control, smart home device management, and support of third-party applications. By scaling back in terms of functionality, Microsoft is turning Cortana more into an enterprise tool, specialized in search and productivity, rather than a true consumer AI assistant capable of serving multiple use cases such as Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.

Cortana’s withdrawal from the smart home space, including its support for music and other third-party applications won’t have a significant market impact as the company has not been able to build a robust partner ecosystem nor interoperability with many third-party solutions. However, Microsoft’s reinforced emphasis on search and productivity will enable the company to distance itself from the competition, prompting users to rely more on Cortana for these features while using other AI assistants for other type of tasks. All rivals in this space must improve their productivity app propositions with enhanced functionality and integration with popular productivity tools such as emails and calendars if they want to secure higher levels of user engagement in this area.

Liberty Global rolls out smart home services from Plume

Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services

Liberty Global has become the latest large broadband service provider to opt for Plume’s smart Wi-Fi solution. As well as AI-enabled adaptive Wi-Fi and mesh capability via Plume’s distinctive pods, Plume brings a ready-made cloud services platform which leverages OpenSync – a now fully open sourced framework. This means that for every home that receives a new Plume-enabled home gateway, and Liberty Global intends to roll the platform out across its entire footprint, they are instantly connected to this platform over which Liberty Global can enable new services and features, such as Plume’s AI Security application, whenever they so wish to do so. The open nature of OpenSync should mean continued new service innovation with Plume Motion already slated for Europe in 2020. As of launch, Liberty Global customers will get access to Wi-Fi guest access control, advanced parental controls, and broadband monitoring features, all of which will be integrated into Liberty Global’s Connect App.

Plume regards itself not as a Wi-Fi vendor, but as a smart home services company, viewing adaptive Wi-Fi as just the start; not the final product. And, as more broadband service providers wake up to the fact that by investing in the home gateway, they can not just only enhance the broadband QoE but open up new service and revenue opportunities, it is this ethos perhaps that makes the company standout from the crowd.

Further reading

Smart Home Case Study: Amazon, CES006-000126 (March 2020)

Service Provider Smart Wi-Fi Tracker and Benchmark: 2020, CES006-000124 (February 2020)

Digital Consumer Insights 2019: Communications Apps and Services, CES001-000073 (February 2020)

Author

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

[email protected]

Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services

[email protected]

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Tech

[email protected]

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