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Why the smart city could increasingly start at home

There are set to be almost 300 million smart homes installed around the world by 2022, according to a new report from ABI Research, and therefore smart home devices and services will play an increasingly important part in smart city programmes. We talked to the report author, Jonathan Collins, Research Director at ABI Research, to find out more.

Jonathan Collins, ABI Research
Jonathan Collins, ABI Research

Why, now, did you decide to look at the connection between smart home and smart city?

JC: At ABI Research we study transformative change on the near horizon and further out. We have tracked the development of smart city projects from complex, large-scale projects to more flexible projects based around a data infrastructure that can be open to data streams and applications not part of the initial design.

It’s a more pragmatic approach and there are providers, services and platforms increasingly available to support this. We have also examined the smart home market for decades, and now, a groundswell in the adoption of smart devices and system adoption within homes means a wealth of new potential data streams could help inform smart city applications and services.

We are already seeing some smart home services that could feed into smart city programmes and so decided that, despite the very different starting points of these two markets, there is potential for data in either system to be leveraged and exchanged between them.

What are some of the key findings from this research?

JC: The research finds that there is significant potential to leverage smart home infrastructure and capabilities to augment or even initiate some smart city applications that have previously been considered only part of the top-down smart city driven projects.

The research also highlights greater potential for smart home providers to extend their offerings, not just to drive their appeal to consumers, but also as a way for their install base to deliver city-wide capabilities with additional benefits as well as potential new revenues streams to be found from those capabilities.

Although you note the potential for smart home and smart city to be more closely connected, how much do you think this is actually happening at the moment?

JC: It’s certainly early days, but there is evidence and applications already emerging. Smart thermostats are already leveraged in some national markets as part of demand response programmes from utilities, and that integration impacts not just home owner energy consumption but also at the city and regional level.

Away from energy management, we have seen the more recent emergence of video feeds from external smart home security cameras being pooled at a neighbourhood end-user level. Both Vivint and Ring have begun offering this kind of service and they certainly represent a data feed that could be valuable in the smart city as well as the neighbourhood context.

Can you share some examples of how smart homes and smart city initiatives could better interact now, and in the future?

JC: Smart city application potential and opportunities remain largely outside of current goals for smart home players. Smart home is still a market moving toward broad and mainstream adoption – even in the most advanced markets.

Pulling smart devices into systems is still taking place in homes and by smart home device providers. The goal today is to drive that smart home user base to a density that smart home data can have a meaningful scope for smart city integration. Home healthcare and crowdsourced parking are examples where the focus remains broadly vertical with limited engagement with smart home systems currently.

What are the obstacles to this better integration between smart home and smart city applications?

JC: There certainly are obstacles that it will take time and commitment to overcome. Both smart home and smart city proponents have to be aware of this potential and be confident that there will be a return on the investment or savings over other more bespoke smart city applications.

As well as that awareness there will have to be a way to standardise the data stream from disparate devices, systems and system providers to ensure that data can be reliably exchanged.

There will also have to be developments over the ownership and permissions related to data collected between all engaged parties.

What are your takeaways for city leaders to help them better capitalise on smart home technologies and adoption?

JC: The key takeaway is that there is sensing infrastructure being deployed across cities already. It is at a consumer by consumer level, but it will build an install base that will increasingly offer a way to collect valuable data citywide and enable cities to better understand the demands and requirements of their residents.

It is a data infrastructure that can help cities gain or extend the goals of ongoing or planned smart city projects.


Find out more about the research, The Emerging Role for Smart Homes in the Smart City.

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