Home Automation Finally Reaching the "Market in the Middle"
Jun 29, 2006
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It may come as little surprise to some industry watchers: of all the household products and systems that might benefit from automation and control, home entertainment will likely serve as the "path of least resistance" for vendors, according to a new study from Oyster Bay, New York, U.S.-based ABI Research, "Home Automation and Control."

ABI says home automation has existed in two forms for 30 years:

  • Commercial systems offering control of lighting, climate, appliances, security, and more have been available from companies such as AMX and Crestron. They are sophisticated and expensive.
  • At the other end of the scale, X-10, an inexpensive powerline-based technology, has been embraced by hobbyists and tinkerers, but ABI says has been shown to be too limited and complicated for mass adoption.

    The Market in the Middle
    The large market in the middle has remained untapped, but that may be about to change. With the relatively recent introduction of interoperable new technologies such as Z-Wave, ZigBee, and INSTEON, new vendors like Intermatic, Monster Cable and Universal Electronics entered the market and target mainstream households. Home theater systems are increasingly making their way into middle-class homes, and consumers clearly want to integrate their multimedia into residential life.

    Home automation can control heating, cooling and ventilation; safety, security and access systems; pools and spas; appliances; and irrigation. However, ABI projects that vendors will find automation systems that support home entertainment (control of lighting and curtains, for example) gain the earliest mass market acceptance.

    "Most people in the mainstream market just don't know about home automation technology, what it can do for them, or how it's implemented," said ABI Senior Analyst Sam Lucero. "Customer education is a key challenge for vendors."

    High-Touch Retail to Educate Consumers
    For that reason, ABI believes that high-touch retail will be best model for informing customers and deploying automation systems in their homes.

    "Certain subsystems may be amenable to off-the-shelf sales, but more complex systems require a consultative sales model, which can be provided by stores such as Magnolia and M-Design," Lucero said.

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