Samsung recently announced two partnerships for piloting its smart and connected home solutions in Singapore. The company has tied up with property developer Capital Land to implement and test smart home ideas at the latter’s serviced apartments. Earlier this year, Samsung also announced  a partnership with Qingjian Realty, to integrate smart living technology into some of the new developments. Smart homes are perhaps now seen as a differentiator in the saturated property market.

With Singapore’s vision to be the world’s first smart nation, how will these developments fit into the bigger picture?  Where is the opportunity and what will the industry landscape look like for smart and connected homes?

First Generation – Perceived benefits of smart homes like improved comfort, rich entertainment experience, reduced energy consumption and better physical security, will be some of the early drivers for the market. Several multinational building technology companies like Schneider, Honeywell, Siemens etc. offer automation solutions that help realize many of these benefits. Singapore home grown companies like Smart House Technology and eVida  offer smart controls through mobile phones for lighting, appliances, security, aircon etc. Others like HAP and L3Homeation are more of DIY stores, for home automation.  These enterprises are offering what can be best described as the first generation smart home solutions.

Second Generation – In the U.S, Amazon has made a series of moves that could potentially be disruptive for the global industry. Amazon’s home automation store offers a ready made platform for smart home device start ups to sell their products online. Amazon’s Echo and Dash will indeed be taking our homes into a new level of connectivity and convenience.  Echo is a connected speaker that will eventually develop as a control layer to integrate all other smart home systems.  Dash button is a thumb sized wifi enabled device that lets home owners instantly reorder anything, from coffee to washing liquid. It is perceivable that future home appliances will have a purchase button directly linked to dash. Dash Replenishment Service (DRS) collects and analyzes consumption data to make purchase decisions.

Samsung looks to install its own version of such solutions in the Singapore trials. This entirely commerce oriented connectivity can perhaps be termed as the second generation smart home solutions. Privacy concerns aside, it is quite likely that companies like Amazon will move on to expand these offerings, and directly link home appliances to the market place. When machines talk and make (purchase) decisions, humans may be reduced to paying spectators!

Third Generation – What is more relevant to Singapore’s smart nation vision and where Singapore can contribute to the global industry landscape, is when the smart homes start connecting to the city and national infrastructure. Providing seamless interface on quality of life issues like transport, weather, water, power and health & wellness will determine the ultimate success of smart home and smart city concepts.  These third generation smart home systems will be much more challenging to conceive and implement. Business and technical issues include high capital expenditure, interoperability, ROI justification, uncertainty over partnerships and need for new business models. With its strong governance framework, cyber security readiness, regulatory oversight and more importantly a national vision, Singapore offers a perfect living lab to develop some of these third generation smart home concepts.  This will also provide a perfect breeding ground for development of an ecosystem of companies, to begin with, few local system integrators who will see the big picture and approach smart homes top down i.e. from nation to home.

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