Niches Within Niches for 2012 and Beyond
Check out these additional areas of opportunity in 2012.
Wounded Warrior— Metro Custom Installations of Staten Island, N.Y., was tasked with creating an environment that would provide a local wounded veteran who is a quadriplegic with a home that gives him the independence he deserves. With a Crestron system, Metro Custom Installations was able to provide whole house AV, lighting and HVAC control via an Apple iPad. The system also lowers his cabinetry and oven, giving the client accessibility to his home amenities. This project was very unique given that the veteran had to be able to use the system with his prosthetic hand.
Potential Partnerships: Home Builders, Realtors, and Moms — Home builders, realtors, and moms can be solid partners this year and into the future. First, the home builders. CEA in its 9th Annual State of the Builder Technology Market Study reports that home builders see broadband connectivity and connected homes as a selling point. The percentage of builders installing broadband connections, at 77 percent, is the highest in the history of the study, showing Internet access is a prerequisite for any new home.
“The home technology sector has always been closely tied to the housing market,” says Chris Ely, CEA’s manager of industry analysis. “As the housing market recovers, we see a greater number of builders embracing technology as a means to differentiate their offerings and grow margins.”
Builders Use Home Systems to Differentiate Themselves
27% Home technology greatly or somewhat increased revenue in 2011
18% Home technology greatly or somewhat increased revenue in 2008
43% Multi-room audio saw the biggest percentage increase
24% Multi-room audio in 2009
Source: CEA and the National Association of Home Builders Research Center
Then there are the realtors. Interest in installed home technologies among realtors and their house-hunting clients is high, according to another survey by CEA. Almost two-thirds of realtors report that their clients are excited to see technologies in homes, and more than half of realtors themselves share that enthusiasm.
“There is a strong relationship between home technologies and the real estate market,” says Rhonda Daniel, manager of research at CEA. “While the market needs to recover before home technologies play a more important role in home sales, [the home systems industry] can help prepare realtors to discuss these types of systems with their clients. The ideal goal for the consumer electronics industry is to have knowledgeable realtors who are excited and open to promoting technology as selling features of homes.”
A Realtor Role in Encouraging Home Systems
Most realtors recognize the attraction of a variety of home systems.
71% Handled a home with monitored security
64% Handled a home with home theater pre-wired
16% Handled a home with an energy management system
12% Handled a home with a home automation management system
Source: Consumer Electronics Association
And then there are the moms. A majority of women say wireless devices and the connected home make the family feel closer when apart; keep the family informed about each other's activities and locations; and help coordinate schedules. The growing influence of women decision makers and the growing importance of wireless technologies specific to home security and home automation more generally point to new ways of marketing products and services in 2012 and into the future.
A survey commissioned by CTIA-The Wireless Association and using Qualtrics, revealed surprising responses from U.S. women about how they are using wireless technology, choosing their devices, replacing traditional communication tools with mobile and how wireless technology is allowing families to spend more time together and to be better connected. The results show a pronounced shift to mobile from such communication modes as landlines and desktop computers, and a substantial number of women favoring wireless technology for a wide array of family activities and interactions.
HDBaseT Alliance— A cross-industry alliance formed to promote and standardize HDBaseT technology for whole home distribution of uncompressed high definition multimedia content, it demonstrated a home theater, a whole home network, and an HDBaseT surveillance camera at CES 2012.
Home Ecosystems— Home ecosystems was a buzz phrase heard at CES 2012 almost as often as “Where’s Apple?” During a panel there, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt aimed some of his comments at the “smart” home in an effort to move Android beyond devices to a connected ecosystem for everyday living. Such connected home “ecosystems” bring together appliances such as Sub-Zero automated appliances, LG TVs, and refrigerators, some powered by Control4 of Salt Lake City and which pioneered itself an apps store for home automation.
Alternative Energy— Vivint’s Hwang says that another step for his firm beyond home energy management and controls is solar panel systems. Best Buy’s Magnolia Design Centers already sell and install solar PV panel systems. There are now solar-powered motorized shades. Then there is the potential of merging thermal storage with load shifting, according to Adam VanOort of DataNab, Burnsville, Minn. He sees one solution is to store cooling energy for use at a later time. Using thermal storage, homes could create cooling energy at night or in the morning when temperatures are low and power is cheap, and store that cooling energy for use during the hotter peak demand periods.
Senior Help— There are a growing number of home integration-enabled products including scales, medical devices, pill dispensers, wander alerts, and other healthcare services. For instance, GrandCare Systems of West Bend, Wisc., which showed at CES 2012, has technology via a dedicated Internet connection that communicates with wireless sensors throughout the residence.
Near Field Communications (NFC)— Somewhat similar to Bluetooth, these chips share data over very short distances and come inside some smartphones. Home locks are now being equipped with NFCs so the homeowner can wave his or her smartphone near the door lock to open the door and disarm the security system. There will be many more NFC applications to come.