Many operators want to play in the smart home market. To gain ground and visibility, they want to provide greater device interoperability via Matter and access to innovative home security and well-being services via Wi-Fi sensing.
The Network X conference has been a platform for many broadband service providers to share with the wider industry their plans for the smart home. One of the main takeaways from the conference is that many operators believe in their right to play in the smart home market. To gain ground and visibility, they want to provide greater device interoperability via Matter—the new smart home protocol—and access to innovative home security and well-being services via Wi-Fi sensing.
Operators invest in next-gen router services to increase their footprint in the smart home
A common theme in many presentations and discussion panels throughout the conference was the need for operators to empower the router as a key enabler of digital experiences and value-added services for the home. Built-in Matter support and Wi-Fi sensing functionality were referenced by many attendees as the latest technology innovations expected to help operators make progress in this direction.
According to Omdia’s Digital Consumer Service Provider Insights 2022 survey, device interoperability is one of the biggest internal challenges operators face when providing smart home services (Figure 1). Offering support for Matter, the new smart home protocol developed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA, formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance), is expected to help operators overcome this challenge and solve the interoperability issue. The new standard has been created to boost compatibility between devices and platforms from different providers, therefore reducing the tech fragmentation the smart home industry has suffered from the outset.
More than 280 companies, including vendors such as Amazon, Google, Apple, and Samsung and operators such as Comcast, Cox, China Unicom, and Vodafone, have agreed to support the new standard. Comcast is already offering Matter support in its latest xFi Advanced Gateway Wi-Fi router. The growing cooperation among market participants and the need to work closely with the hyperscalers is expected to encourage more operators to join this trend, not only to promote device interoperability per se but also as a strategy to expand the reach of their device and service propositions with more use cases and applications for the digital home.
In the case of Wi-Fi sensing, service providers such as Verizon and Orange have announced they are increasing investment in this new home gateway functionality, which operates like a short-range passive radar and allows motion detection and biometric measurement at home via Wi-Fi signals. This innovative technology is easy to deploy with a software update and has several applications, including home security, health monitoring, and building automation, among others.
Besides enabling operators to offer motion detection as a new Wi-Fi app service feature that can help increase customer engagement, this type of investment also represents an important business opportunity and entry point for whole-home smart security. This is because Wi-Fi sensing can be used to attract potential customers interested in physical home security without the need for investment in new equipment. It is important to highlight that for operators to succeed in this area, it will be key for them to have in place, directly or via partnerships, a scalable home security service proposition designed to allow customers to choose the level of protection they want for their homes. This means offering complementary value-added services such as video cloud storage for self-monitoring and 24/7 professional security alarm monitoring. Moreover, Wi-Fi sensing offers operators a key opportunity to unify their digital and physical approach to home security, for example, by enabling customers to control cyberthreats and home intrusion via a single app.
Omdia expects more operators to follow these trends in the coming year, offering customers an opportunity to maximize the capabilities of their home Wi-Fi networks via motion detection and greater device interoperability. To make the most of these new technologies, it will be crucial for operators to treat Matter and Wi-Fi sensing not in isolation but rather as key elements of the bigger smart home picture.
Smart Home Broadband Service Provider Benchmark: 2022 (October 2022)
Smart Home Services Forecast: 2021–26 (September 2022)
Mariana Zamoszczyk, Principal Analyst, Smart Home Services
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