No mass market home automation players yet

Incremental advancement but no break through into the mass market for the home automation sector at CES this year. It remains a niche for hobbyists and specialty contractors.

Core technology companies, such as Qualcomm, NXP and Marvell, continue to support it. And there’s no shortage of companies offering, or at least developing, home automation products and services.

Part of the problem is the multitude of standards. Some device makers support more than one, but interoperability is the exception rather than the rule.

The missing piece is a home hub/gateway that’s both consumer friendly and network protocol agnostic.

You can find one or the other. For example, MiOS’s Vera router handles WiFi, Ethernet and Z-Wave natively, and can manage X10 and potententially other protocols via plug-ins. But its user interface is balky and basic. You need to be confortable with programming code to do anything ambitious.

Jakks Pacific’s baby monitor product is easy to use, and the wrist watch-style viewing screen is a nice innovation. But it’s a one trick pony. Canadian company 2D2C’s SafePlug is an interesting RFID-enabled solution, but they only have one item in their product line ready for market. Spain’s q1tecno is targeting the low cost end of the market with their Domotics Toys.

Home Protect, from France-based Moai, is a wonderfull piece of design work. They put their gateway and remote sensors into Tiki God cases that they claim will be plug-and-play simple to install. Unfortunately, it’s not ready for market yet. All they had to display at the show were solid plastic Tiki God statues.

Companies like Greenwave and Dutch manufacturer Freelux are positioning themselves as OEM suppliers to utilities. The advantage to that approach is that the electric company can provide customer support and incentives to use it. If the incentives are good enough, they can also dictate technology and network protocol choices to their subscribers. No one had any utility partnerships to announce, though.