Deutsche Telekom’s Head of Smart Home thinks the operator is “one step ahead” of Apple in the race to capture the smart home market.
The Germany-based company launched its Qivicon smart home platform last September in its home market, but is now keen to expand it across Europe and beyond.
Qivicon is an open platform designed, in DT’s own words, to coordinate all smart home devices and products such as heating, lighting and washing machines.
The Qivicon Home Base serves as the central unit from which everything is controlled and works with any broadband connection.
DT has signed up over 30 partners, including energy provider EnBW, white goods manufacturer Miele and Samsung, to develop smart products for the platform.
In particular, it says it is focused on energy efficiency, security and “convenience at home” products.
Customers can buy the unit and packages from DT and its partners. For example, DT is offering a starter package for €299 that includes Home Base and apps for a smoke alarm, lighting and heating. Other apps can be added from the Qivicon shop as requried.
The sector has seen much excitement in recent weeks following Apple's announcement at last month's Worldwide Developer Conference that it was launching HomeKit as part of the new iOS 8 release.
HomeKit is a framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices in a user’s home, according to Apple. Apps can enable users to discover devices in their home and configure them, or users can create actions to control those devices.
The HomeKit launch featured a quote from Eric Rondolat, CEO, Philips Lighting: “HomeKit will allow us to further enhance the Philips Hue lighting experience by making it simpler to securely pair devices throughout the house and control them using Siri,” he said.
Other players jostling for position in the smart home space include Google, through its Nest smoke alarms and thermostats, and a host of other operators headed by Verizon in the US.
Holger Knöpke, who is responsible for the Smart Home platform business at DT, is confident that the operator’s “Android-like approach” has what it takes to succeed.
“Smart homes will be mass market… the majority of homes will be smart homes in 10 years time,” he tells European Communications.
“Our idea is to connect all the apps in the home by providing the gateway.”
Partners can “reap a multitude of benefits from the platform” as they can pursue their objectives by setting their own pricing, communications and sales strategy, he adds.
“We are negotiating with interested parties to offer the Qivicon platform and partner products internationally. The main focus of internationalisation will be on Europe, but we also see promising prospects outside of the EU.”
He concludes: “No one has found an approach that is as broad and innovative as ours. We’re one step ahead of Apple’s HomeKit.”
Frost & Sullivan agrees that DT is onto something. This week, it recognised the operator’s “visionary excellence” in the smart home space.
"Deutsche Telekom is focused on retaining limitless scope for gaining additional technologies, new partners and applications,” F&S Senior Consultant Olivia Price-Walker commented.
“Qivicon enables partners to provide more options to users through product differentiation, which creates an open and flexible technical solution for users.”
Ovum analyst Michael Philpott says DT is “heading down the right path” and agrees with Knöpke’s assertion that it is one step ahead of the competition thanks to its open ecosystem.
“DT has a better strategy than other operators who are developing closed ecosystems that are not very exciting at all,” he tells European Communications.
However, he warns its success is reliant on more partners buying into it and the industry “waking up” and working together.
“Different stakeholders developing their proprietary platforms is creating a fragmented market.
“The problem is not with DT – everyone wants to do their own thing and changing that is easier said than done.”
Change is happening, however, with Philpott saying he can see “green shoots”.
Ultimately, the goal is to take control of the home gateway. This will help operators with reducing churn, Philpott believes, although it might not boost revenues initially.
Sales might develop once operators develop their own apps down the line, although this does not seem to be DT’s approach.
But the analyst thinks there is an opportunity as there is not a lot of customer value being created from smart home apps and services currently.
“Consumers don’t want an iOS/Android home… they want to buy different solutions,” Philpott says.
Concrete stats on this emerging market are few and far between, but DT certainly looks to be ahead of the game.
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