Smart home technologies battle for market share


Ahead of the smart home boom, competing wireless protocols are vying for both brand and awareness and loyalty from developers and consumers alike.

Marketers have long wrestled with the imprecise concept of ‘brand strength’, attempting to gauge factors including awareness, leadership, uniqueness, and consumer loyalty to measure the health of their brand.

Last year, for example, Canadian market research analyst, Lux Insights, conducted the Bluetooth brand equity study, surveying consumers between the ages of 18 and 70 with a three-pronged aim: Identifying how consumer perception of Bluetooth technology has changed in recent years; benchmarking Bluetooth against competing wireless technologies; and identifying opportunities for growth.

According to the research, 92 percent of respondents were aware of the wireless technology, while better still, 78 percent of those people were actually using it. Only Wi-Fi polled better, while competing technologies such as Thread, Near Field Communication (NFC), ANT, Z-Wave, zigbee, and AllJoyn trailed by some distance when it came to consumer mindshare.

While the current landscape for Bluetooth technology is encouraging
—predictably outperforming alternative wireless technologies in its traditional stronghold market segments of wearables, audio equipment, and automotive— more informing is the road ahead. According to the research, the biggest opportunities for Bluetooth technology lie in home automation, location-based services, personal monitoring and tracking, and remote access control.

Consumers see the future power of Bluetooth wireless formed by the additional control and insight it can offer them, be that via location awareness applications, personal health and wellness data monitoring, and notably in-home automation control.

According to analyst statista, the home automation market will be worth $52.45 billion by 2022, which explains why several low power wireless protocols are going head-to-head for dominance in this relatively nascent sector. The real growth still lies ahead.

Bluetooth has one key advantage - its omnipresence in smartphones.
The smartphone with its rich user interface is almost certainly the easiest way today for consumers to interact with home automation devices, and Bluetooth’s interoperability with smartphones means it will likely always have a strong hold in this market, even if it’s in parallel with one, or multiple other, protocols.

While Lux Insights’ research indicates consumer awareness of Thread,
Z-Wave, and zigbee is currently nowhere near that of either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, each has vociferous evangelists in the home automation space, and the emergence of Thread is particularly notable. According to the research while only seven percent of respondents were currently aware
of Thread, a third of that seven percent have used, or are using, Thread- based solutions. Moreover, the technology rates highly in terms of constant improvement, security, and future potential.

Complementary protocols
Thread’s rise has added a further alternative to a crowded market, and which protocol (or more likely complementary protocols) smart home solution developers ultimately converge on is both unclear and fluid.
This situation has formed part of Nordic Semiconductor’s own product strategy. For example, late last year Nordic unveiled its advanced nRF52840 System-on-Chip (SoC), which not only offers Bluetooth 5 and ANT support, but also IEEE 802.15.4, the foundation technology behind both Thread and zigbee. The Bluetooth 5-certified SoC was Thread-certified in September 2017, providing developers with access to a powerful, single-chip Thread and Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) wireless connectivity solution.

Nordic is the first company to market with a multiprotocol solution offering concurrent operation for Bluetooth LE and Thread, ideal for developers targeting the smart home — including those working on mesh networked products — where multiple protocols could prevail.

“We are expanding our addressable market adding Thread [and] focusing on advanced mesh for smart home and industrial enterprise networks,” Nordic’s Director of Strategy and Investor Relations, Thomas Embla Bonnerud told attendees at the recent Q3 Investor Presentation. “We believe [the nRF52840 SoC’s] multiprotocol support gives us a competitive edge and value add. It is valuable for legacy support, but also for people who want to build heterogenous ecosystems, who want to take advantage of multiple different protocols in the same network.”

Which protocols will dominate remains unclear, but what’s more certain
is that home automation will remain at the front line of the battle for low power wireless technology domination.

Complementary protocols

Thread’s rise has added a further alternative to a crowded market,