A roundup of key events in the smart home market in October 2020. 

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Amazon turns the Fire tablet into a smart home controller

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

Amazon has introduced an alternative way to control Alexa-enabled smart home devices with the launch of a new “Device Dashboard” for Amazon Fire tablets. This application turns the tablet into an inexpensive smart display and control center for customers to manage their smart home devices. However, the device dashboard is only meant to control devices, not to set them up or configure new rooms or zones, for example. For those settings, users are still required to use the Alexa app.

With this strategy, Amazon is finally adding the Fire tablet into the smart home equation. Up until now, this device brand had remained disconnected from Amazon’s overall smart home proposition, working more independently at a personal level rather than a collective one. The rollout of this feature also means that Amazon is playing catch-up as Apple and Google already offer the same practical functionality in the Home apps of their respective tablets and smartphones. Finally, the introduction of this new interface acknowledges that, in certain scenarios of daily life, touch can be more convenient than voice.

Google discontinues Nest Secure

Blake Kozak, Senior Principal Analyst, Smart Home & Appliances

Google has discontinued Nest Secure, and Nest Guard is no longer available on its website. This could mean that the ADT + Google partnership is about to bear fruit. Although Nest Guard wasn’t as popular as other DIY security systems, like Ring, it still had an estimated installed base of about 340,000 households in 2019 and ranked 17th overall in the US for residential “connected” alarm monitoring.

Meanwhile, the Nest Secure hardware had been around since 2017 and was never updated, besides some over-the-air (OTA) updates. However, this isn’t entirely surprising since Nest hasn’t released a new camera recently either. Updates, either through OTA or through physical hardware, is important for the professional market to help dealers maintain strong margin. DIY systems, like SimpliSafe and Ring among others, have started providing more regular updates.

Overall, despite the news, it is likely Google has other plans for its home security offering and this isn’t a full (and abrupt) exit, although no replacement has been announced. Originally priced well above the competition, it never gained much traction, even when partnering with T-Mobile and Brinks. However, its partnership with ADT will force the brand to rethink its approach to home security.

Google partners with Telstra to support incoming calls on smart speakers

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

Google has significantly expanded the calling and messaging functionality of Google Assistant in response to the growing adoption of smart speakers and displays for communications. Throughout 2020, the company has added smart speakers and displays support for group calls and household contacts in the US, in addition to support for incoming calls in Australia via a partnership with Telstra. Google has been working with Telstra for more than a year in this space, offering smart speakers and displays voice-activated calling via Google Assistant for Telstra customers. Up until now, this service was only supporting outgoing calls. Similarly, Telecom Italia has been offering voice-activated calling via Google Assistant for its customers too, but this is only limited to outgoing calls for the time being.

Despite these recent improvements, Alexa is far ahead of Google Assistant when it comes to offering integration with mobile carriers. Alexa supports carrier calls, both incoming and outgoing, in more countries than Google Assistant, including the US (via AT&T), the UK (via EE and Vodafone), and Germany (via Vodafone). This means that Google still has more catching up to do to match the competition, offering not only integration with more operators in more geographies, but also parity in terms of functionality to allow customers to make and, most importantly, receive calls from the beginning.  

Scottish police propose allowing crime reports through Alexa and Siri

Michael Philpott, Research Director, Service Provider – Consumer

Police in Scotland are considering allowing the public to report crimes via voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa on devices such as smart speakers, smartwatches, and smartphones. Currently, voice assistants in the UK can’t call emergency services directly unless the user has entered them as a personal contact. On one level, the concept does carry some merit. One can imagine several scenarios where being able to contact emergency services quickly, using just your voice, could be extremely useful—speeding up initial contact in situations where speed could be critical.

However, there are also the questions of privacy (many people are already uncomfortable about having listening devices positioned in their home, never mind ones with a direct link to local authorities), and accuracy. AI voice assistants are infamous for self-activating as well as getting commands wrong. If consumers accept this type of functionality, authorities will have to make sure that using such technology won’t lead to an increased number of false calls, any subsequent recordings are not improperly or illegally used, and that it is an opt-in feature only.

Telefonica launches new e-health service in Spain

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home Services

COVID-19 has increased health consciousness among consumers, boosting not only the interest in smart technologies and services that have the potential to improve people’s health and well-being, but also highlighting the obvious potential of home healthcare. To take advantage of this trend, Telefonica has launched “Movistar Salud,” a new telemedicine service that offers 24/7 remote access to health professionals for individuals and businesses across Spain. As absolute trustworthiness is paramount in healthcare, the operator has signed a partnership agreement with e-health specialist Teladoc to deliver this service. Moreover, Telefonica has designed a cost-effective subscription plan for the consumer market, priced at €6.95 per month for individuals and €10.95 per month for families (two adults with children). Omdia’s research indicates that Telefonica has been clever to design an affordable solution that provides true value when it is most needed. This strategic move also shows Telefonica’s ability to quickly expand its product portfolio with innovative adjacent services, thus increasing its presence in the smart living segment.

Appendix

Further reading

Consumer Broadband Subscription and Revenue Forecast – 2H20 (November 2020)

2021 Trends to Watch: Smart Wi-Fi Strategies (November 2020)

Authors

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home Services

Blake Kozak, Senior Principal Analyst, Smart Home & Appliances

Michael Philpott, Research Director, Service Provider – Consumer

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