A Different Kind of Smart Sensor

Today, we will talk a bit about a unique product that can help save lives and property without hurting consumers' wallets.

According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), electrical fires cause over 1,300 injuries, 420 deaths, and $1.4 billion in residential property damage each year. The report also attributed 38% of home fire deaths to homes without smoke alarms and identified early detection and reporting of the fire as key to minimizing loss of life and property.

1,300 injuries, 420 deaths, and $1.4 billion in residential property damage each year. 38% of home fire deaths are due to homes without smoke alarms!

Traditional smoke alarms generate a warning inside the property via a loud siren alert, but they provide no indication to the outside world, meaning they are not connected to the internet. As you can see from the Parks Associates report diagram below, the second highest smart home value proposition is for receiving alerts when smoke, fire or carbon monoxide is detected.

Today, there are a few smart smoke alarms available on the market which can provide alerts to the outside world when smoke, fire or carbon monoxide is detected. Even though these solutions provide the desired connectivity, there are still barriers to entry:

  • Unit Cost  - Most smart smoke detectors requiring an internet connected hub/gateway device to communicate with the outside world range between $50 and $100, and that's without professional installation costs, if any.
  • Setup Cost - Smart smoke alarms that meet NFPA regulations need to be professionally installed.
  • Compatibility - Many houses have multiple smoke alarms to cover the whole home. When upgrading to a smart smoke alarm solution, you would need to replace each one of your existing smoke alarms with a new smart version.

The Parks Associates report said consumers who purchased a smart smoke alarm in the past 12 months own an average of 1.6 smart smoke alarms, so many of these households are buying multiple detectors at once. The report also said nearly 50% of U.S broadband households find a connected device that alerts them to smoke and fire highly appealing. As you can see, consumers want to purchase this type of solution but it can be rather cost prohibitive, in terms of installation cost and purchasing multiple smart smoke alarms, to do so.

Ecolink, a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal Electronics Inc, has developed and patented a unique product called the Fire Fighter to address limitations mentioned above. Focused primarily on innovative new sensing and monitoring products for home safety and security, Ecolink provides tier one brands with solutions ranging from leak detection and freeze damage prevention, to more security oriented products such as our best in class motion detectors with built-in pet detection capabilities.

Fire Fighter intelligently listens for the sound of your existing smoke and/or carbon monoxide alarm and if the alarm is valid, Fire Fighter will send a notification to the internet connected hub, panel or the gateway which in turn can notify the user via a text message or a push notification on their mobile device, or if integrated with QuickSet enabled entertainment systems, it could show a notification on TVs across the home or MDU (Multiple Dwelling Unit). We’ve taken old legacy technology already installed in the home and made it smart and relevant again.

We’ve taken old legacy technology already installed in a building and made it smart and relevant again.

The Fire Fighter is very easy to install and, unlike traditional smoke alarms that meet NFPA regulations, does not require any special wiring or professional installation. You can retrofit your existing smoke alarm system and simply mount the Fire Fighter approximately six inches away from one of the smoke alarms and then add it to your current smart home hub's network. It also achieves an incredible 5 year battery life which is longer than most standard smart home devices can achieve. Also, in most modern buildings, smoke alarms are required to be interconnected which means one Fire Fighter can service the entire home by being next to at least one of them.

Fire Fighter is an easy to install solution that makes any existing smoke/carbon monoxide alarms smart.

By offering zigbee, Z-Wave and proprietary RF versions of the Fire Fighter, we've made it compatible with popular hubs and gateways currently on the market such as Smartthings and Vera hubs as well as Tyco/DSC and Interlogix security panels. In the end, the Fire Fighter is a great cost effective way for consumers to add a potentially life saving feature to their smart home without needing any professional installation.

Repost: Discussing Privacy and Security Concerns at CONNECTIONS

You can read the original post here: Connected Products: Discussing Privacy and Security Concerns with UEI

Given the continual increase in the number of connected products, how can providers ease consumer concerns associated with data security and privacy?

This has been an ongoing debate within the segments we address. The only long term true solution includes a few parameters:

  • On user data: Data captured should be clearly explained, and repeated for consumer to understand, however, more important is how the data is to be used. Consumer consent should not be on the data, rather on the combination of what data is shared and how it is to be used.
  • Data ownership is a rather gray when it applies to device data – who owns this data. There needs to be differentiation between device diagnostic data and consumer data. The device diagnostic data does carry substantial value in what it can enable. The ownership of this data is unclear at the moment, device manufacturer, service provider/ecosystem owner, or consumer. The most beneficial scenario is when data is owned by device manufacturer, regardless of ecosystem, which allows a well-defined relationship started at the time of purchase.
  • Last but not least, privacy should be built into the architecture, smarter edge devices enabled cloud-less implementations which are effectively private. Expanding on what is possible offline/at edge vs what requires a back-end is going to be very interesting.

How will artificial intelligence (AI) impact the smart home, IoT, and connected entertainment landscapes in 2018 and beyond?

In many positive ways, but with some areas to be aware of / plan for:

  • Our data is biased, our implementation of AI cannot intensify this issue. As the workforce will need to evolve/be trained to adapt to new tools and technologies, we need to implement processes that address/prevent undesirable biases. This is essential in entertainment targeting which affects culture, and security/home care implementations which can have serious issues.
  • That said, AI is going to finally make connected devices smart. We still live in a time where connected devices have simply added to our overload of data, with proper implementation of AI they can finally act as assistants.
  • However, one major obstacle remains in the smart home domain. AI systems are only as smart or complete as the amount of data they have access to. The walled garden approach of ecosystem creators has caused data fragmentation issues, and without proper connection of these data silos, no AI will be able to be properly trained to address the end vision of the smart home. (Unless we believe a home will be dominated by a single brand, which is not the case today.)

Will the rise of DIY solutions significantly impact the traditional security landscape?

Although seemingly counter intuitive, we believe this may actually help. All boats will rise with this tide, and the lower barrier of entry is going to help in sell-through of additional monitoring/professional services.

The Rise of Voice Assistants in Home Control and Challenges Brands Face

It is hard to read an industry article or report these days that does not mention the rapid growth of voice control and voice based technologies leveraging artificial intelligence. Parks Associates in a recent report named voice as a prime differentiator in the user experience for the smart home.  As the number of devices consumers interact with in the home has increased, so has the complexity in user experience and voice as a natural easy-to-use interface is helping to alleviate complexities in the user experience of today’s smart home.

Given the potential and strong consumer desire, it’s no surprise that brands are now making voice a component of their strategy. Recognizing the strength and limitations of today’s voice assistants is essential for brands to identify a strategy to incorporate voice control. The limitations can be categorized as the following:

  • Traditional brand loyalty at risk
  • Failure to reach intended usage
  • Lack of compatibility with current installed base

Traditional Brand Loyalty at Risk

Despite the fact that several companies have introduced voice-controlled personal assistants, the market remains largely dominant by two major players: Amazon and Google. A report released by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, LLC (CIRP) in August, indicates that within the US installed base of devices, Amazon Echo and Google Home make up 94%. Another report by Canalys published in August, analyzes the global market of smart speakers and estimates that Google and Amazon accounted for 57% of the global market.

With smart speakers having a global market growth of 187% in Q2 2018, it is only natural for product manufacturers to be eager to integrate with these solutions to gain a competitive advantage by adding voice capabilities to their products. Voice technology enables brands to connect with consumers in a personal way while addressing complex tasks through a natural interface.  At the same time, these existing platforms pose serious risks to brands, and despite the compelling new experiences that they enable, incumbent brands will need to find ways to deal with the loss of control over the consumer interaction and the brand experience provided.

 Lack of control over the conversation with the consumer, as well as the pivot of brand loyalty to the platform used for voice control  all contribute to the difficulties for brands to compete.

Lack of control over the conversation with the consumer, as well as the pivot of brand loyalty to the platform used for voice control – ‘Hey Alexa’ or ‘Hey Google’ – all contribute to the difficulties for brands to compete.

One solution could be that , consumers would use multiple virtual voice assistants for varying needs and the home becomes an ecosystem of different assistants rather than a single platform. Brands that realize this early on and start offering their own virtual assistant for the niche experience they provide, will have a competitive edge.

Failure to Reach Intended Usage

As voice control has become essential, a growing number of brands are experimenting with introduction of their own apps on these platforms - referred to as “skills” for Amazon Alexa, “actions” for Google Assistant - to utilize the reach of already dominant platforms. These in theory enable brands to engage with consumers through an existing virtual voice assistant and enable interesting use-cases for the connected home.

According to CIRP, the current U.S. installed base of smart speakers has hit 50 million. Despite the large number of installed base, consumers engage with them for very limited use-cases. Parks associates lists primary activities using these virtual voice assistants as requesting information, finding direction, playing music, making calls and such; with control of the devices being the least popular use-case.

To some extent, consumers not fully utilizing these capable platforms can be contributed to the hurdle in discovering and setting up the added capabilities, skills or actions. The number of these skills is exploding and discovery remains a big barrier for consumers. Once discovered, setting up the platform to utilize the skills is also a cumbersome, multi-level process that average consumers will not go through.

The idea of growing the installed base and reducing the friction on adding additional capabilities to existing voice platforms has the potential to increase the engagement; and though it is showing improvement and promise, there’s still a long way to go. Adopting QuickSet's device discovery engine capabilities into smart speaker solutions, can help with the friction of discovery and utilization of relevant skills. Imagine a smart speaker platform that's capable of identifying a specific brand within the home and then prompting the user to install the corresponding skill. This can drastically improve consumers' utilization of brands' skills.

Lack of Compatibility with Current Installed Base

As discussed in more length in a recent blog ,  Interoperability: The  cornerstone Of Connected Home , interoperability is a major factor in the connected home. When it comes to compatibility with the devices within the home, today’s available platforms only address a small subset of devices and remain focused on cloud service integration to achieve limited control capabilities.

Ultimately today’s voice activated AI capabilities fall short in providing features needed for interacting with what consumers already have in the home and do not address the prioritized list of what they are spending majority of their time at home doing. With adults spending nearly six hours a day consuming video across platforms, one would think compatibility with the existing entertainment devices within the home would be one of the first use-cases these platforms should address.

Today's solutions lack compatibility with mainstream devices

QuickSet, leveraging its device fingerprinting technique and tapping into its constantly growing knowledge graph of devices, enables compatibility with new as well as existing devices within the home. This technology is a natural addition to the next generation of AI driven voice assistants to address this limitation.