Simplicity key to manufacturers' home automation solutions

Cloud-based server checks to see how it's running. You can look inside yourself to see if you need milk.

Three competing, and perhaps ultimately complementary, home automation business models are emerging:

  • Manufacturer supported.
  • Consumer-centric.
  • Carrier managed platform.

Lowes and AT&T moved aggressively at CES last week to position themselves as leaders in the consumer and service provider categories, respectively. Several companies were pitching to manufacturers, but the leader in that space looks to be Arrayent at this point.

The focus was on “it just works” simplicity for consumers. Manufacturers determine what kind of interactive features to offer customers and Arrayent provides the server-based support to make it possible.

Whirlpool is their marquee account. The refrigerator they had on display looked ordinary enough, but connected to Arrayent's infrastructure to provide a deliberately simple feature set of diagnostic and energy management support. Other manufacturers took notice.

“Once the news got out that Arrayent is the connected product platform, CPP, powering Whirlpool’s consumer appliance line, our booth was swarmed,” said Bob Dahlberg, vice president of business development at Arrayent. “Two memorable quotes of the week were ‘where have you been for two years?' and ‘we have been struggling to connect appliances for ten years, and with cloud connectivity we have half a chance to be successful'.”

With consumers providing the Internet connectivity – either directly via WiFi or with a wireless bridge in between – the cost to manufacturers of supporting products via the cloud is low. Whirlpool expects to more than offset the cost through warranty repair savings and the value of maintaining ongoing contact with consumers.

Big appliances are long term purchases, with expected lifetimes in the ten to twenty year range. Providing server-side support allows for at least some level of continuous functionality upgrades over that period, and builds a relationship with the brand that should pay dividends when products are eventually replaced.