How do you get linked home devices to play nice? Solving smart home problems
LAS VEGAS — Booths showcasing connected home devices spanned several hundred square feet at the Las Vegas Convention Center at the Consumer Electronics Show. But the fact remains that not all of these devices can play nicely together.
Proprietary software, different frequencies and different software can make settling on an affordable solution as easy as it is to untie a knot while wearing gloves.
For example, there’s a Bluetooth-enabled door lock that can turn on the lights and warm up the house as soon as your iPhone gets within range.
But unless your light switches are made by a particular company, home automation could leave you in the dark.
“In the case of the smart home, there is no one winner,” says Ron Goldberg, content director for the Z Wave Alliance.
Z Wave is a system that lets locks from Kwickset speak to thermostats from Honeywell, and allows your mobile device to control light switches from Leviton, for example. That connectivity, however, can only work when they’re all a happy family.
Goldberg says the fragmentation in connected home devices is like the battle between VHS and Beta, or Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, but just colossally bigger.
When there are different platforms in your home that can’t speak to each other, the benefits of home automation are nixed.
With some 1,000 Z Wave approved products now available, Goldberg says the alliance’s ecosystem is growing well.
Another alliance, ZigBee, appears to have fewer vendors in its own ecosystem, but it’s still a separate platform that requires consumers to stick to one — or the other.
One Toronto-based company wants to change that.
MMB Networks, which makes other devices for the ZigBee alliance, is working on a hub that will let consumers enjoy the benefits of home automation, without locking into an ecosystem.
“We want to support everything out there,” says Daniel Lee, account manager at the Toronto-based company.
He says that the device, about the size of a wallet, will have ZigBee support, but they’re also hoping to add Z Wave alliance compatibility as well.
With it, there’s the potential for one app to control all of your home systems, rather than a separate app for each separate component of your house made by different companies.
Soon, perhaps, consumers will be able to have the choice of even more connected home platforms.
Lee says MMB wants to partner with an OEM for a 2014 launch of the gateway, expected to sell for $30 per unit.