When people talk about the “Digital Home”, they’re still mainly talking about TV and multimedia content.
Or so I gathered at this week’s Broadband & TV Connect Asia event in Hong Kong this week.
Of course, you’d expect a show with “broadband” and “TV” in the title to focus on video aspect of broadband. But even during a track titled “The Digital Home”, most of the discussion focused on various opportunities for delivering new kinds of sexy video content services via home gateways, like VOD, PVR, digital locker services and multi-screen access.
That said, PCCW CTO Paul Berriman did spend time in his keynote speech and subsequent panel appearances talking about his company’s experience with digital home services (branded “Smart Living”), which includes home automation for lights, curtains, thermostats, webcams and AV appliances.
Also, Duncan Bees, CTO of Home Gateway Initiative (HGI) outlined the work the group is doing on various home network services like comfort and automation, ambient assisted living (i.e. remote healthcare monitoring for senior citizens), and home energy management.
And Dedi Suherman, CEO of Telkomsel Timor Leste, talked about the challenges of putting together home networks for any purpose, such as device compatibility and remote management.
Suherman also mentioned that wireless operators who offer home networking services face an additional challenge: asymmetrical data connectivity. “That becomes an issue when you want to access your home network from outside the home, for example, or if you need to send health information from the home.”
Berriman talked up home networks as a business opportunity for telcos who can spare customers the complexity of setting up home networks themselves – and then use that as a platform for other smart-home services like e-education and healthcare.
One key challenge is actually getting customers to see the need for a home network in the first place – at least beyond the obvious media-related benefits of being able to watch TV in any room on any device and time-shifting programs to fit your schedule.
The answer for PCCW, Berriman said, involves three things:
(1) Very selective target marketing “for the people who can actually afford it, because installing all this isn’t cheap”.
(2) Flagship stores actually demonstrating smart-home services. “We have actual bedrooms and living rooms in there demonstrating how you can control your blinds and air-conditioning, and showing what can be done.”
(3) Something like PCCW’s “Eye2” device to serve as the central UI for the home network. “Everything’s preconfigured on it and we can set it up the way you want it, which makes it really easy to use.”
(See also: this post on Binatone’s smart home phone, also showcased at Broadband & TV Connect.)