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Big Tech Smart Home Players Prep for Holiday Buying Season

Neil Strother
Oct 13, 2020

Guidehouse Insights

Three smart home tech heavyweights have unveiled their latest products or showcased updates ahead of the holiday buying season. Amazon, Apple, and Google are market movers. Following their product announcements helps tease out smart home strategies.

Amazon Launches Buzzy Drone

Amazon, for example, launched or updated an array of devices. ne was a head turner: an indoor flying camera/drone from subsidiary Ring. It is a unique proposition, though presumably not what many consumers want buzzing through their homes—not yet at least.

From an energy and sustainability perspective, Amazon also took pains to keep its efforts in this regard top of mind, emphasizing the company’s commitment to The Climate Pledge. For instance, all new devices are being built using 100% recycled die cast aluminum and 100% recycled fabric. In addition, new devices come with a low power mode to reduce energy consumption, and previous versions will also get low power mode functionality in coming weeks via over-the-air updates. Amazon is also releasing an energy dashboard, giving users a high level view of how much power Echo- or Alexa-enabled devices are drawing. With this information, Alexa can offer advice for turning off the lights or adjusting a thermostat at bedtime.

Apple Expands on HomeKit

Apple, which is normally more reticent about its smart home products and software, has announced it is open-sourcing its HomeKit platform as part its push to support a forthcoming standard. Apple did not go into much detail, though it confirmed it is working with rivals, such as Amazon and Google, and a host of other vendors on the new standard. The new standard is called Connected Home over IP (CHIP) and is covered in other Guidehouse Insights blogs. Apple also said it will make setting up new accessories for HomeKit easier. It plans to use a simple tap or scan scheme and will move away from numeric codes.

In a much quieter move, Apple has filed a patent that hints at advanced biometric capabilities for its Master Smart Home Project. According to an AppleInsider post, Apple envisions a HomeKit floorplan that could detect, analyze, and authenticate users and objects moving through an environment. The environment would allow for deeper customization per user. The biometric data could, for instance, be used to authenticate an individual in a room, and then trigger a customized set of actions such as dimming lights, playing music, or automatically adjusting a thermostat.

Google Blends Smart Home and Mobile Offerings 

For the smart home, the company has rebranded its flagship smart speaker as Nest Audio—previously, the speaker was called Google Home. The new device places a premium on the company’s software skills, particularly AI, with less emphasis on hardware.

Missing was an update of the Nest thermostat; however, the company appears to be working on a new version of its thermostat that could feature a 60 GHz radar transmitter, according to published reports. The transmitter would enable gesture controls similar to what is available in the Pixel 4 device, which is also based on Google’s Project Soli technology. Some think the company’s Nest ensemble is overdue for new hardware. It’s lagging behind compared to what Amazon and Apple have revealed.

These are interesting times for the growing smart home market. Competition is heating up. In addition to CHIP, another standard is waiting to fully emerge: the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Home Energy Management System (SHEMS). SHEMS should be updated sometime in 2021. Smart home market stakeholders have plenty to digest as the end of the year approaches.