SAN JOSE – AT&T and Qualcomm separately rolled out broad ecosystem of home and building automation products. AT&T’s Digital Life and Qualcomm’s M2MSearch are among the first shots in a coming battle between ecosystems for the Internet of Things.
About 15 years ago I wrote a story about how Microsoft was quietly considering the underpinnings for its support for home networks in Windows. At that time, their thinking was beyond the bleeding edge of what anyone was actually making or buying.
Fast forward to 2012. At the CTIA show in New Orleans this week an AT&T executive rolled out Digital Life, a broad set of services the phone giant hopes will become its next billion dollar business. It will start modestly enough with trials in Atlanta and Dallas this summer.
Digital Life is based on Xanboo, a software platform that integrates a set of Wi-Fi, Insteon, Zigbee and ZWave systems into a single service that supports security systems from Honeywell and others. AT&T will customize Xanboo, offering a version of the DIY service that is “professionally monitored and installed.”
The Xanboo service alone supports at least 30 different devices. They range from Wi-Fi baby cams to bed wetting moisture sensors, night vision cameras, gateways, alarms and motion, temperature and water sensors. AT&T will link them all to its IP network.
The carrier has “built the first two all-digital monitoring centers in the industry,” it claims. Ultimately, it aims to sell the service through its “2,300 company-owned retail stores, online presence and dedicated call centers.”
In short, home networking is going mainstream.
Qualcomm sees this too and is jumping on the bandwagon. Today it created the M2MSearch Web site that essentially shows in once place the various offerings based on its cellular and (newly acquired from Atheros) Wi-Fi module and systems offerings. Interestingly, the site lists more than a dozen suppliers of Qualcomm-based cellular modules but only two Wi-Fi card makers so far.
Qualcomm’s asperations extend far beyond the home. Products on its site also address “automotive, industrial automation, retail and enterprise” markets—then broader Internet of Things. No doubt, AT&T will someday expand into this turf with its service offerings.
Like AT&T, Qualcomm realizes home networking is a polyglot country. It already supports HomePlug powerline networking through its acquisition of Intellon, as well as its smorgasbord of cellular and Wi-Fi chip sets suitable for M2M apps.
In the old days--five or ten years ago--we used to write about the physical layer wars of Wi-Fi versus powerline versus coax, or even one flavor over powerline versus another. Those days are over.
This week marks the beginning of a battle of ecosystems in home networking. AT&T and Qualcomm have fired the first shots. Before the smoke clears, combatants will include many other major carriers, systems providers and chip set designers.
If you are still fighting some PHY battle, put down your swords. Find a way to hop on Internet Protocol or some other interoperability mechanism and link up with other technologies and partners, fast. There’s a big battle brewing.
To @chanj, I entirely agree...I wasn't implying that Apple should be getting into home automation business and integrated everything, that would be insane...I was just trying to make the point that that since there are several, if not hundreds, of companies supplying various pieces of the home automation puzzle that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to make it work smoothly...it is so much easier to make it happen in a car or in a computer alone (although even my PC crashes or hangs up quite regularly)...Kris
Why should consumers bother with Xanboo, Insteon, Zigbee and ZWave systems when they already have WiFi and Internet capabilities? Shouldn't vendors simply make devices that connect as IP devices to the legacy networks we already use? Do we really want to be buying appliances and risking another VHS / Betamax debacle?
In order to have home automation to be a achievable project, various standards have to be properly built. Gadgets have to be developed accordingly and there shall have various vendors be the suppliers. People may want a LG refrigerators, a Samsung washer and dryers, a Sony TV, Honeywell themostat. A family member may want an Apple iPhone while another may want a Nokia Lumia or Android. Last but not least, the confidence that these gadgets work. It takes time and effort to make it real. I don't believe Apple alone can make it happen. No company has ever been almighty. That's why teamwork is so important. That's how a society is built.
thank you @PJames for your perspective...I am pretty sure people will want to control their thermostats thru their smartphones etc so the issues will come up...I believe I am reasonably educated user of electronics but I already have issues hooking up everything I have at home to work...my laser printer doesn't work with the computer I bought (HP no longer supports that driver), all my remotes are messed up, I have some IP address conflicts with my wireless devices, etc...I already work as a local IT support guy for my family, free of charge without any desire to do so and I really don't want to learn on how to do embedded system design when my refrigerator starts heating up and my thermostat decides to freeze me in the winter ;-)...Kris
That is probably an overly pessimistic view. A properly designed embedded controller in an appliance, even if adding networking and sophisticated configuration options, need not be buggy. A majority of consumer dissatisfaction with devices that crash is based upon platforms which are routinely extended with software, apps and even malware, from a multiplicity of sources, where interactions are never tested. If we end up with thermostats that are downloading Java scripts and refrigerators onto which we are loading apps, then we will undoubtedly be adding headache to our lives.
I am somewhat skeptical whether people will use these systems and start automating their home environment. Unless all gadgets are designed by Apple this heterogeneous integration of devices from different vendors will not work well and you will have to re-boot your system at least once a day...Kris