Things are hotting up in the smart home space that by 2020 is expected to be a 100+ billion Euro per year industry by many.
There are many problems that need solving before then in terms of the eco-system and the pure ease of use, but with Nest, Samsung & Apple having a combined bank balance with as many zeros as there are letters in the Alphabet you would hope that they plan to use some of this to fix some of these issues.
As I wrote about here I really do believe the key to the smart home is not in using apps, they are just not convenient enough so what is needed to control is something physical to take control, or perhaps voice control or dedicated touchscreen just to deal with control decisions. Of course true home automation does not need a UI, but in the home very often there are a lot of exceptions to consider before we get there.
This week Savant a company accustomed to homes of the rich and famous and their gin palaces have decided to launch a $499 remote focused on not just the TV but also for smarthome too, just how much of it is not entirely clear from their material so far, even the normally ever present Philips Hue there is no talk of. The product does look great in terms of design but this device does need to control everything to work in this role
The new "low cost" Savant remote, a shrewd move to target the end user or playing in a price band where selling through retail becomes a burn on cash? Time will tell as they gear up to a December launch.
But Logitech (or is it Logi?) last month updated their range with the new Elite range. In what appears to be largely cosmetic (I really believe they have the mentally with the guts of the system that "if it ain't broke don't fix it") I have the predecessor and it is one of the best smart home devices I own. It is the only remote for the ground floor and can control the TV, Cable box, blu-ray, AV receiver, Fire TV (Mainly for Plex), Philips Dynalite lighting system, Garden Lights, Wemo (including the sensor Wemo motion as input), Philips Hue, Nest thermostat and all the other devices gathering dust somewhere else too but also the Samsung robot vacuum to get rid of that dust too.
What doesn't it do so well? IR is unfortunately something that is a very old technology now in the days of 4k TVs etc. and whilst many of the devices connect via wifi or bluetooth two rely on IR both Samsung the TV and the cable boxes, so whilst it is not the Harmony's fault it is a problem. So far they have also not fulfilled my multiroom dreams, with only one touchscreen possible per hub. But as a long term user I am really nitpicking! The Elite is looking like lots of subtle improvements but back to only black, white to blend into my home no longer possible. At $349/349Euro it may not be worth the update for me, but I would wholeheartedly recommend it to those new to smarthome
With this they have also brought their Harmony home extender ($99) that adds even more to the table with Zigbee and Z-wave devices already being added to the party. Unfortunately this price is only in USD only, maybe another year until it comes to Europe? But each market and region brings it's own unique challenges. If I buy everything from the US then perhaps it will all stay compatible!
Neeo is a Kickstarter project, I hope it does see the light of day, of course it is delayed (with original shipping dates of May 2015) looks to be well thought out but bugs in this kind of product need to be ironed out and Logitech have had years of experience to deal with the nearly half a million devices they support and although a limited team they have a team to deal with all the updates and changes.
Back to Neeo their remote (below) looks like the love child of B&O and Apple, if it performs at least half as well then they should sell well, with 6000+ backers and $1.5million from them. They have not got IR on the actual remote but do allow for multiple hubs or "brains" and multiple remotes, solving my multiroom issues possibly
What is the future for these products and companies?
Savant are targeting to expand their market by going into the sub $1000 control system area and direct to consumer, will this act as a stepping stone to the customer installers, I doubt it as they are really setup to target a different market, will be an extra option for the custom installers and integrators to sell? yes, but the direct to consumer model is a risky one that I am not sure the market is ready for (yet)
Neeo on the other hand are a startup that will need to get their product out for their balance sheet, teams in Cupertino and Switzerland will not be cheap and then it needs to get some distribution fast to keep the bean counters happy, so far they have gone for international backing of course so that support list becomes very niche when it comes to local thermostats in European markets. I wish them success though.
Logitech tried to sell Harmony off previously stating it was not part of their strategic direction, has their strategic direction changed in the couple of years that have passed? I doubt it, but the obvious extension to home control has opened their eyes to a potential cash cow. With it having no obvious connection with the rest of the business yet (It sits in Digital Home on their website with camera products) could it be a worthy investment for another smarthome player with money to burn? Potentially yes [I am just speculating here] Apple no not their style, Google/Nest/Alphabet possibly with Nest, Dropcam, Revolv they have some history here of embracing and killing off hardware designed elsewhere, Amazon? Again not exactly their style, Samsung? There is again some history of acquisitions in the space with Smartthings and Boxee and for me personally I would love it as it would make Samsung realize that having to use IR to turn on TVs is something that should have died out with plasma.
Staying to the neutral ground is of course also beneficial and with Logitech being originally Swiss they have some history there too!
Just a guy with lots of smart home tech: