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“Smart Home” will be key connected components of “Smart Cities”. Data ownership and easy tools to control those data will  be even more key.

            by MANISH SHARMA  –  9  

Connected inside: A glimpse into India’s future smart homes

In just five years, your home will anticipate your every need and it will be a different lifestyle: connected, comfortable, and convenient.

It’s 4 A.M. You are starting to feel a little cold, curling around your blanket and voila, your AC senses it and turns off without you lifting a finger. Your doorbell has been tuned to recognise the face of your regular guests, while your refrigerator has pre-ordered milk for your breakfast, before you realised it’s over. You walk into your room and the brightness is adjusted automatically basis your liking; you control what goes on in the house even when you are in another country and many more such experiences. Welcome to the future, a new alliance of humans and machines—inside your home. And this is a reality, not fantasy. In the next five years, this will be a common phenomenon across homes.

An ideal, smart home concept is shaping faster than reality. According to Zinnov’s ‘India – Emerging Hotbed of IoT Opportunities’ report, the country’s IoT market is set to soar to $15 billion by 2021. The report further states that by the end of 2019, India had 200 million-250 million connected devices, which will grow tenfold to touch 2 billion devices by 2021. Looking at the immense opportunity and the rising consumer awareness for value-based products, it is imperative for companies to continue innovating and evolving in this space to enhance the experience of their consumers.

With many devices and appliances getting connected, let’s take a step back to understand how all these technological advancements have been conspiring to create something bigger, smarter, and novel. With the growth of the urban middle class and the rise in their disposable income, people started to aggregate and install various appliances that were meant to ease lives, allowing them the luxury of time. Eventually, as it became tough to manage these many devices, a need was felt for a smarter ecosystem that would manage them with ease. Riding on the back of increased penetration of smart devices and access to affordable Internet across the country, the concept of connected living came into being, making an easy, comfortable, and secure life a reality.

Cut to today: Technology has become an integral part while designing our dream house taking into account the vital lifestyle aspects of it. And, in this pursuit of safety, comfort and convenience, both consumers and companies are working closely to integrate technology to make lives simpler. Today, consumers are opting for smart, connected, and energy-efficient home appliances that not only add value to their lifestyle but, also offer a reduced total cost of ownership. It is an exciting time we live in, where devices can function basis voice command, understand you better through artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), and operate seamlessly through IoT. In simple words, today consumers have an option to multitask, make their homes smart where devices/appliances talk to each other, and are intelligent enough to pre-empt their next move as they learn more about one’s habits and daily routine.

India’s smart home market is poised to grow and, has made significant advancements in the past few years. The Government of India’s Digital India initiative has been welcoming businesses to capitalise on this lucrative opportunity. In fact, this year’s Union Budget is also a testament of how the government is looking at boosting the income of people and enhancing purchasing power in the backdrop of emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, and ML.

However, we must also ponder the flip side of this story. While security, data privacy, cyber threats, and high installation costs continue to be a challenge, restraining the growth of the market, several factors are driving the increased awareness of the technology in the country. On the back of a growing IoT market, cost reduction measures enabled by home automation systems, expanding product portfolios, facilities of home monitoring from remote locations—the willingness to adopt a connected ecosystem is on the rise.

Focussed on being convenient and efficient, connected home innovation is here to stay. I firmly believe that with most people starting small and adding a few appliances to their existing home, smart homes will soon become an integral part of the lifestyle and that’s when more consumers will adopt home automation. While the solutions that currently exist in the market seem to be focussed on gathering data and simple control of appliances, the future holds unlimited possibilities with ML and NLP (natural language processing) leading to a powerful AI, thereby empowering every consumer. As I said earlier, in just five years, your home will anticipate your every need and it will be a different lifestyle: connected, comfortable, and convenient.

Views are personal. The author is president and CEO, India & South Asia, Panasonic India.

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