Getting Smart about Home Management Services


If your New Year’s resolution was to decide on a home management package to help you monitor and control your most prized asset, you can still switch back to hitting the gym to get in shape and give it some more thought.

Why? Because just when you thought cablecos and telcos had taken up much of the space for these services, two unlikely players – Google and Samsung – entered the burgeoning market, raising questions to ponder while you’re racking up cardio time alongside fellow “resolutioners.”

Google announced plans to buy smart (and learning) thermostat maker Nest for $3.2 billion, raising interest and some privacy concerns, among many. And TV set and smartphone giant Samsung laid out a hazy plan to do the same using a platform of sorts that would initially only work with its other products.

Catching Up

Preceding these developments, those with launched home management offerings that go far beyond home security monitoring read like a who’s who of service providers – including Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and AT&T.

The services allow consumers to remotely monitor and control video cameras, sensors, thermostats, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, locks, light switches and more from an app on their smartphones and wireless computing devices using a broadband connection.

Where once remote video monitoring via camera for security purposes comprised the top shelf of the home control packages – and consumers used them to keep any eye on their pets – Google’s purchase of learning thermostat maker Nest raises a core question.

Consumers need to know if home control offerings will stay in their current phase for the foreseeable future or advance to include capabilities like appliance control and usher in the much-discussed smart home era. This knowledge would go a long way to determining whether consumers act now or wait on software-driven, higher IQ offerings that seem a tad futuristic.

While alluring, the concept of everything from video cameras, to door locks to major appliances being controlled remotely by a consumer from a single interface needs to move much farther toward deliverability, given the state of automation and infrastructure in today’s residences – new, older or historic.

-Who knows home control? Service providers know Internet access, TV, set-top boxes, gateways and more generic consumer electronics devices. Alarm companies know remote break-in monitoring. Google knows plenty, but how much about home control? TV makers such as Samsung also know smartphones. Third parties can build you much beyond a dumb home system but is it affordable and easy to operate?

-Foundation first. Wireless wins. Unless you treasure having your residence opened up and then sealed to hide a spaghetti web of wires that connects individual device, wireless is the quick, easy and flexible alternative.

That still leaves selecting a networking scheme that offers broad broadband coverage throughout the abode to allow flexibility in the location of installed devices. You can’t redesign homes to fit a networking plan to you need a networking plan that fits the living and working space.

It’s common today for wireless range extenders unit sales to far exceed wireless router volume as consumers are looking to expand their current wireless network to more rooms, more devices and for greater throughout.

-Device decisions. Consumers need next decide which elements of the home they wish to control and select the corresponding device, or have a service provider/third party select for you. Pre-set packages of device types and quantities with corresponding prices may need to be adjusted on a case-by-case basis.

-Purchase & Pricing. Providers appear to be looking for you to provide and install the devices for a flat fee and pay a monthly service fee. There are base packages designed to give user reference points or frameworks from which to build.

-Skills. There is neither a shortage of tech-savvy consumers, nor a shortage of tech-savvy small to large integrators willing to handle home control undertakings. The key here is to possess expertise in home automation and handling utilities as well. Finding providers with breadth-and-depth experience could prove challenging.

-Payoff. How do you put a price on home control promising to deliver piece of mind as to the health, well-being and optimal management of your most expensive possession? Purported bennies includes discounts on a part of your home insurance premium, reduced heating and electricity expenses, and gas/time saved not having to open the garage and doors for others in person. Cost avoidance (damage to property, replacing stolen possessions and time lost to damage control) should also be considered.

Add in the entertainment value of remotely monitoring the behavior of pets and…you’ve got a deal.

-Not so fast. Like any lucrative market driven by technology and innovation, advances (home healthcare) and competition are a given. The entry of household names Google and Samsung pique the interest of those who are hearing the multimedia marketing campaigns for home control services available now.

An informed consumer can choose his or her own timing. Help potential customers get educated about smart(er) homes.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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