Internet Of Things Summit: Sensors, Switches Rule In The Smart Home Of The Future

The Internet of Things involves a lot of sensors.

These sensors are being built into many more things and ultimately may even be implanted in people.

That was one of the many ideas included in a presentation of what’s next for smart homes at the annual Internet of Things Summit in Boston yesterday.

The two-day event aggregates a host of companies creating many of the components, underpinning and gadgetry of the coming connected world.

Peter Taylor, VP of Products at Belkin International, had some interesting insights on connected homes based on the company’s years of experience monitoring how consumers deal with connected products.

Belkin is best known for its WeMo switch launched in 2012, which when plugged into any outlet can be controlled via mobile app. For example, a lamp or coffee maker plugged into the WeMo switch then can be turned on or off through the app. Those smart plugs provide Belkin with some 20 million data points per day.

Over time, Belkin expanded its product line to include many home automation devices, including light switches, cameras, air purifiers, lightbulbs, coffeemakers and many other connected things.

Even though the company sells a lot of physical things, the consumer value is in the services they provide, according to Taylor.

“All our products are controlled by one app,” Taylor said.

The company actually gave away products to consumers to learn more about market barriers.

The company found that for smart home products, 4% inaccuracy was unacceptable and consumers would turn off a product.

Taylor sees a future with more power to brands with connected objects living within a world of software everywhere, with people controlling things with various services and experiences emerging.

There also are issues within a smart home since each home can be quite diverse. Taylor identified a few:

  • Who has access, such as through Amazon Alexa-controlled switches?
  •  What do they have access to? (A 5-year-old may not have access to control a stove, for example)
  • How do you police it?
  • How do you control each room with each family member?

When marketing the products in Costco, Belkin packaged the devices as a ‘home monitoring bundle,’ which Taylor says was one of the most successful marketing campaigns.

He noted that early overall industry missteps included pitching products as easy to install and use, which many consumers found was not the case.

Sensors also may go beyond being baked into products.

“The future may include implanted sensors,” said Taylor. “You’ll know exactly who is in the house and their moods. Then sensors in the home don’t have to be so accurate.”

“It’s incredibly early in our space,” said Taylor. “We need to start treating the customer in a more sophisticated way. The products are ready.”