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Apple introduces new HomeKit features

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

With the upcoming release of iOS 14, Apple wants to make progress in the smart home space by introducing innovative HomeKit features meant to enhance the user experience. The update includes a brushed-up version of the Home app with new features such as “Suggested Automations” when users add new HomeKit-compatible smart home devices and “Adaptive Lighting” to automatically adjust the color temperature of smart lights. Moreover, iOS 14 will bring additional support for home security cameras, focusing on key features such as device integration, activity zone customization, and facial recognition.

In recent years, Apple has been particularly slow to innovate in the smart home market, with a limited product portfolio and extremely selective in terms of its partnership strategy, leaving the company far behind top rivals such as Amazon and Google. Omdia believes the overall contribution of the iOS 14 release will be minimal considering the competition is already offering similar functionality for the smart home. Therefore, the expected enhancements represent only a small incremental change to a strategy that needs a more substantial and meaningful shake-up to be successful.

 

Google brings Google Assistant Voice Match to more devices

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home Services

User identification has rapidly turned into a key enabler of custom digital experiences at home as it allows AI assistants to offer higher levels of personalization and support. Google has been at the forefront in this area for a while with popular features such as Voice Match and Face Match recognition in smart speakers and displays. Now, Google has decided to make Voice Match available in more compatible devices, either proprietary or from third parties, to expand the functionality of its product portfolio and the reach of its partner ecosystem at home. The company has also recently enhanced the voice profile setup process to offer more advanced on-device functionality when there is no internet access, and has developed the assistant’s sensitivity to the wake phrase “Hey Google” to improve invocation. Omdia believes the combination of all these enhancements will allow Google to continue to distance itself from the competition, offering a more tailored and secure smart home user experience. It also shows the company’s determination to support its partner ecosystem and secure feature parity among devices from different manufacturers.

 

Google improves group video calling functionality on smart displays

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home Services

Unlike the user identification category, Google has been playing catch-up against the competition when it comes to communications features for its smart home strategy. For example, only people using Google Duo can receive calls as Google-supported calling (using Google Nest speakers and displays) and mobile calling don’t support incoming calls. However, Google has decided to add group video calls for smart displays via Google Duo and Google Meet, hosting up to 32 and 100 people in a call, respectively. The introduction of this service comes in a time where videoconferencing has gained renewed interest as a cost-effective tool to keep in touch with family and friends while social distancing persists due to COVID-19.

This initiative will certainly heat up the race for the smart home as most rivals still focus on one-on-one calling. However, the main service limitation is that group video calling only works exclusively with Google’s calling platforms—Google Duo and Google Meet. Google are not offering any other integration with third-party calling apps such as Zoom and Skype that are also very popular among users. Google’s persistent lack of integration with third-party productivity and communication tools has been detrimental to the user experience and will discourage potential customers not keen on just using Google’s platforms for everything.

 

Signify expands Philips Hue product portfolio

Blake Kozak, Senior Principal Analyst, Smart Home & Appliances

Smart lighting is one of the most popular smart home device categories. Omdia estimated there were about 100 million smart light bulbs and switches/plugs sold globally in 2019. One differentiator for Philips Hue has been its emphasis on luminaires, not just lamps (light bulbs). The latest Centris product combines spotlights with a flat overhead light source that offers users a fully customizable experience. Despite the customization features, indoor luminaires, especially across North America, is hyper-personalized—meaning consumers may enter a lighting store with thousands of options and still leave empty-handed. Consequently, the retail channel for these types of luminaires will remain limited in scale compared with light bulbs or switches/plugs.

Nevertheless, the builder channel is expected to see a big increase in 2021 and 2022. As Signify have shown they are willing to be more open by offering Bluetooth capabilities, the luminaires and other lighting products from Philips Hue could find opportunity in this nascent channel. Moreover, there has been a clear trend to removing bridges from platforms, which has been especially prevalent for door lock manufactures that have traditionally relied on low-power wireless options but have recently moved to Wi-Fi. Although the bridge can bring added security, better user experience, and enhanced integrations, the smart home industry is moving away from dedicated bridges.

Overall, the latest announcements from Philips Hue are centered on customization and effectiveness. Many of the Philips Hue bulbs in the past maxed out at about 800 lumens, with the latest E26 and Hue Bloom nearly doubling this initial capability. Philips Hue, like other lighting brands, are unique from other parts of the smart home market that are starting to require monthly fees. Osram will discontinue its Lightify platform citing outdated technology and compatibility issues that are ongoing. Without a recurring revenue stream, this will be likely be the inevitable path of many brands with unstainable business models. Philips thus far been insulated from these pressures due to the consistent innovation and portfolio expansion, but continued success and profitability will require an increase in repeat customers and a transition that includes luminaires, not just lamps.

 

Deutsche Telekom launches entry-level smart speaker

Michael Philpott, Research Director, Service Provider – Consumer

Deutsche Telekom has launched its new Smart Speaker Mini, similar in format and style to the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Nest Mini. The Smart Speaker Mini costs EUR50, or EUR1.95 per month, and has all the basic features one has come to expect from a smart speaker. Like Deutsche Telekom’s main speaker, the Telekom Smart Speaker, the Mini comes integrated with Deutsche Telekom’s Magenta voice assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, allowing the user to switch between the two assistants at will to access different features.

Omdia’s Digital Consumer Insights data shows that smart speakers are rapidly spreading to different rooms of the home, and it’s important that service providers and vendors offer a range of device formats and price points to support this proliferation. The advantage for tech giants such as Amazon and Google is that they have they have the brand and reach to also feature in other third-party devices such as TVs and third-party speakers. Telecoms operators have a much steeper hill to climb to convince CE vendors to incorporate their own assistant, especially at scale. Focusing on key devices located in key living spaces, such as the kitchen and living room therefore should be a service provider’s top priority.

 

Further reading

Building the Post-COVID-19 Smart Home, CES006-000138 (June 2020)

Consumer TMT Revenue Opportunity Model 2019–24, CES006-000137 (June 2020)

Marketing Smart Wi-Fi: The Key to Broadband Differentiation, CES006-000140 (June 2020)

 

Author

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home Services

Blake Kozak, Senior Principal Analyst, Smart Home & Appliances

Michael Philpott, Research Director, Service Provider – Consumer

[email protected]

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