What happened to my cloud connected home?
About three years ago I wrote a blog post about my connected home, envisioning that we soon would have all our devices in the cloud. But to date, we are still pretty much in the same world as then. We have competing standards resulting in siloed solutions, with little or no cross-standard solutions.
I am still running a Raspberry Pi at home with Homebridge to get my 433Mhz devices and Ikea Trådfri lamps to easily talk with my HomeKit devices. I have a hub for my 433Mhz devices: the Telldus Net. Another hub for Trådfri. A third hub is our AppleTV for the HomeKit devices. In my summer house I have another Telldus Net hub, another AppleTV and the Philips Hue hub. At least I got rid of the few Z-Wave devices (and hub) that I had. It is a mess, I agree, and my hopes three years ago was to find that one ring to rule them all. But it didn’t happen. The question is why?
One thing I believe that is holding cross-functional development back is the way different connected home players act. They have never had any interest to create a secure and easy-to-use global standard. Working for Ericsson, standardization is at the core of our business. Technology cannot scale unless we have appropriate standards for the communication. Look at 3GPP, where we recently got the standard for non-standalone and standalone 5G New Radio ready. The momentum of development is huge in 5G, and a lot will happen in the next few years.
The trend within the connected home business is still pointing in the other direction though, where everyone wants to create their own solutions.
Because of the lack of standards, it is difficult to pair an Ikea lamp to the Philips Hue, even if they use the same protocol, because they interpret that protocol differently. It is also impossible to get my Ikea lamps to work without problem in the Philips Hue app, not to mention the other way around. The Ikea remote controls stop working every now and then, and all these apps and hubs have their own way of setting scenes and rules. Good thing I’m a geek to survive this, because I know most people won’t.
But even if my elusive one ring never surfaces, I still have my hopes for a cloud solution where everything is safe, secure and fast. And the secret to it is, again, 5G.
With 5G it will be possible for all vendors to directly have built-in connectivity in their devices. This connectivity, as it uses 5G, is standardized and will be able to talk to other devices. Your dishwasher will monitor the water quality, so you know your tap water is safe. Your car will tell the garage to be ready for arrival, and the vacuum cleaner will start only when you are not at home. We, and many others, envisioned this many years ago. Our own hypothetical iteration was called the Social Web of Things.
You can do many of these things today. But not without an effort.
I still think there is hope that the fragmented world of connected homes will get together and work though. Later this year there is a conference in London called Connected World Summit. The main theme used to be connected homes and connected cities. For this year, they have added 5G, blockchain and AI to the topics.
So, will 5G be the one ring to rule them all? I sincerely hope so. Because if the industry for connected homes still has not managed to create a powerful, secure, easy-to-use solution for my home, I know 5G will. With, or without, them being a part of it.
Find out more information about Ericsson’s critical work in standardization to enable truly global innovation that impacts everyday life.