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The Converged Home

Many years ago, I supplied Laser Discs to the South African market, it was during this time I was also a distributor for some American home theatre products. At the time only the wealthy could afford home theatre systems (R150k ++), whereas today for a little over R1,000 anyone can buy a 5.1 surround system.

Similarly, home automation (including multi room audio/video distribution) to date has been in the realms of the well heeled using brands such as Crestron and Leviton, but smart phones and apps are beginning to change this (iRule, Roomie etc).

As you are no doubt aware Google (nest) Apple (Homekit) and Samsung (Smart Home) amongst many others are already trying to position in this space. And many older technologies (zwave, x10) are trying to keep current in the face of newer low cost tech.

Control4 is a good example of a challenger in this space. Consumer aspiration for these systems is untapped right now.

Over the past few years, a number of off-the-shelf, do-it-yourself smart hubs and subscription-based services from ISPs have begun to tantalize homeowners with the promise of complete home control. The truth of it, though, is that these DIY kits or subscription services rarely deliver on the promise they sell, at least not without the help of a number of add-on devices.

Lacking in my mind from the offerings I can see today is integration for the control of analogue interface appliances that exist in most homes still.

Many entry and medium sized home being constructed in South Africa today have the owners specifying structured cabling to future proof themselves. There are some fragmented attempts, as seen by Radiant Lighting and Clipsal to bring automation to a lower price point.

There is an opportunity to provide a system with supporting ecosystem around it. With more and more high density and gated communities being built I believe there is also a gap in the market to provide the underlying system to the communities. The fiber infrastructure being laid as the proclamation is done. The system then become the de facto communications and entertainment provisioning  - home owners associations can then banish thing like external dishes/antennae and any service provider would need to traverse the existing network not being allowed to trench etc. The carousel can then be put locally within the community to  provide quicker gratification. Embedding a more sticky solution long term is accomplished by providing the actual infrastructure.

Herein is where I think there is an opportunity to really create….. The Connected Home. A device that truly delivers convergence, Linear Video distribution, OTT Video, Offline Content, Home Security, Home Automation – but the significant different would be the ability to control legacy devices though the use of IP to IR & IP to Serial controllers, perhaps even the inclusion of VOIP services.

I envisage the central appliance being a central unit in the home, to which expansion cards can be added to bring additional functionality to the user – similar to the concept of the tower PC which you added more functionality to through PCI cards.

Here is what an evolving ecosystem could look like with the add ons to the basic device.



But a key difference is the incorporation of a subscription component to keep certain services enabled. Here is an example of what the stepped offering could have looked like had Altech spent a bit more time thinking about their NODE box as a central point within the home as opposed to a VOD box with home automation poorly tacked on.

[Grant Marais]

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