Earlier this month, I traveled to Berlin to attend the annual IFA tradeshow, which I attended last year as a member of the PacketVideo (PV) executive team. This year’s conference was even more exciting since I was attending this time as the CEO of Lynx Technology, following the acquisition of PV’s North American and European operations in March.
I went to IFA to meet with a variety of long-standing and more recent customers along with some new prospects. With 250,000 attendees and 1,600 consumer electronics (CE) and home appliances exhibitors from around the world, IFA is a great opportunity to see the latest technical advancements and new product and service offerings. It was also exciting to see applications beyond the connected home intended for the evolving smart home market.
At Lynx Technology, our focus is on media connectivity that is essential to effectively link all the digital devices utilized in the connected home and becoming a growing part of the smart home. We are proud of the impressive and growing list of global CE manufacturers and leading service providers that have relied on our industry-leading Twonky platform since its launch in 2004.
I wanted to share some of my observations from the IFA conference pertaining to the connected home and the smart home, along with some potential issues that could arise.
The Connected Home
There remains today, and there will always be, considerable consumer interest in accessing premium media content using a variety of digital devices and services. The challenge remains how to protect content and ensure security, including for any new media devices being introduced that can expand the ways consumers can access their media. Our extensive DLNA expertise includes all of the most common media use cases. This ensures our ability to provide the required security and protection measures when it comes to premium content on many types of devices, with different standards in use around the world.
Looking ahead at the connected home, there are a growing range of companies that will continue to enter the market. All are sharing media – videos, photos, music – in the home, but the devices and services used may vary. In every instance, Lynx Technology will endeavor to make sure everything works the way it is supposed to, either with our proven Twonky platform or through the work our Professional Services engineering team provides to those customers wanting us to ensure their technology has the proper media connectivity capabilities.
The Smart Home
While the smart home was a big participant at IFA last year, this year it was even more prominent and was given more floor space. It felt ubiquitous, with major global CE and home appliance manufacturers on hand along with many smaller players that are entering the market every year.
As shown in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies (see graph) released last month, there are many entries pertaining to IOT and “smart” and the majority are still in the initial ‘innovation trigger’ phase. So there is a long way to go and a lot of traction that needs to be made when it comes to IOT and smart home offerings.
As expected, global titans like Samsung (a valued Lynx Technology customer) had a major presence with an extensive collection of smart home offerings, provided primarily by their acquisition of SmartThings. But there were also plenty of smaller companies on hand to showcase their products and services designed for the smart home.
Of course, there was a variety of devices on display, vying to become the central hub for the smart home. Plenty more offerings were showcased merely to provide some specific service and added convenience (e.g., smart washer/dryer, wireless light bulbs and cameras). Some offerings were run by voice-activated commands (e.g, “I’m home”), setting in motion an impressive series of actions (e.g., turning on lights, turning up the thermostat, disarming the alarm system).
Another new factor for smart home products and services this year is the adoption of the IPv6 protocol. IPv6 is the internet’s answer to IOT because it provides more internet addresses than are available through IPv4. In anticipation, our newest release of Twonky, version 8.2, adds IPv6 support.
The list of smart home products and services on display was quite extensive, but all are hoping to gain the attention of tech savvy consumers looking for the latest gadgets and cutting-edge technology designed to make their home lives better and more efficient.
As is the case today with a myriad of devices that can be found in the connected home, the smart home of tomorrow will not be limited to one manufacturer. Thus, every brand whether big or small must ensure their products and services work well with a variety of other manufacturers’ products and services. And all must work well with the different global standards that might be in use by consumers across the globe. Sound familiar? It sounds exactly like the world we at Lynx Technology live in to provide seamless media connectivity across devices.
While time will tell which products and services are considered “must have” by consumers, every product and service that will be part of the smart home will need to talk with all the other digital devices, just as it does for media today.
With the smart home, the CE industry – hardware and software – is moving into a home appliance world. And those consumer expectations are vastly different.
When a computer, tablet or smart phone stops working, probably 9 out of 10 consumers today know how to restart them to get them working again. If a smart stove or a smart refrigerator stops working, will a consumer know how to reboot those systems? And while consumers aren’t too surprised when their computer locks up now and then, will they take the same tolerant view about a major appliance, or their home security system, going temporarily on the fritz now and then? Who wants to ‘control-alt-delete’ a light bulb?
And beyond meeting consumers’ expectation of things “just working” as intended, it is clear to me as I reflect on IFA that the CE industry is changing rapidly as the smart home gains more attention and is striving to build traction among consumers. As established players and new entrants scramble to find the magic formula to win the consumer, it has created some chaos in the industry. Not a bad chaos, but manufacturers having to work together to gain consensus on platforms and standards. It sort of reminds me of the issues faced with VHS versus Betamax several decades ago.
For Lynx Technology, though, that chaos is where we shine. We work as a universal translator with Twonky for media, we help bridge the gap between services to make it less chaotic for the consumer and to link all these various technologies together so everything works as intended for consumers.
The future – connected home, smart home – is very exciting. We are still in the early stages of it, and the next five to ten years will be interesting to see where this market goes and how we all work together to make the smart home a definitive reality.