Leslie Taylor is speaking on a panel assessing the challenges and opportunities associated with delivering the connected home, on Day Two of the Broadband World Forum, taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. We speak to her to get her personal views on the challenges facing telcos as they strive to reach that connected future.
Aside from providing the fat fixed-line broadband pipe, where does the telco fit into the connected home future?
Telco providers have a unique opportunity because they can provide both Internet connection support as well as customer education on services and features they offer within the digital home. As the provider of one of the most important connections, the Internet, they also speak with the customer at key decision points such as moving from or to a new home. I think you begin to see telcos leverage this more by providing complementary services that leverage the Internet connection they already provide – whether that is directly or through partner affiliations remains to be seen. Certainly telcos are in a unique situation to offer a whole suite of bundled digital home services and the benefit to the consumer is that they have one company that can provide troubleshooting and education.
Slow broadband is clearly the biggest barrier to the standardisation of the digital home. Will the connected home be a driver for uptake of faster services and will telcos need to educate consumers about the possibilities?
Broadband speed is affected by many factors on both the broadband provider’s side as well as their side of the speed equation. Explaining the impact that software, firmware, hardware, network infrastructure and bandwidth usage can have on speed is difficult for customers to understand. The biggest hurdle facing many broadband service providers is convincing consumers to upgrade their modem and router to the latest technology standard to allow for greater network efficiencies and more bandwidth to launch new services and features. Of course, as we launch more and more services and new features, this increasing the complexity of technology makes it more and more challenging to educate not just customers, but employees as well. Telecommunications providers are going to have to transition to serve the role of home technology consultants as well as service providers.
Even in well-connected areas, broadband upload speeds are often many times slower than the download speeds. How much do you see that being an issue for the future of the digital home?
Upload speeds continue to be a challenge that will be a large barrier to the growth of cloud services, in particular, data storage. The initial movement of uploading large amounts of data is time consuming and it is easier for most to purchase a new computer or storage device. In addition, there are many different providers competing in this space that makes it challenging to make the initial time investment because of the switching costs of moving to a new telco or cloud service provider. As service providers we are well positioned to provide cloud storage as a value added space, particularly if there is flexibility on file types that can be stored or even viewed. Many cloud providers limit what can be stored whereas your typical mass storage device does not impose this restriction.
Aside from video and content, a fully digital home would also include heating, lighting, health and security monitoring. To what extent are these significant opportunities for telcos?
The biggest opportunities in the near-term are in lighting, heating and security monitoring services bundled under one provider. Telcos are well positioned to capitalise on this opportunity with their large existing customer base and ability to providing bundles in terms of packaging but also in terms of service integration. In the longer term, health monitoring is one future growth area in this category with the large baby boomer population. One research company predicts the global sensor market will reach $5.6 Billion by 2017.
Concerns over privacy and data protection and information sharing among different providers will be key hurdles that have to be overcome in the healthcare sensor market. In the home automation space, the ability to control notification communication to manage both infrequent and frequent notifications will be very important. In addition, having adequate storage capabilities and the ability to easily review history for key event triggers will become more important features as the number of devices increase. This is absolutely going to be a growth market for telcos and I’m excited to be a part of it with Cox.
What’s your own personal vision of a connected home future?
Similar to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, I envision digital homes having one connected home device standard for Internet connected devices and appliances, and one cloud portal to manage it all from using your voice or device. Similar to a virtual smart panel, the single portal would enable easy installation, network connection and management of notifications and settings. There would also ideally be a seamless handoff between Wi-Fi and cellular networks for bandwidth heavy applications or increased usage allowances for customers that subscribe to telecommunication providers and their wireless provider partners. We have a huge opportunity with the connected home integrating into our lives just as smartphones have with our mobile lives. Imagine being able to manage not just your home but also to keep track of those things in the home that are important to you and your family such as iPads, car keys, smartphones and medical devices.