Market for smart home sensors is changing

ABI Research predicts more microphones leading to more voice interaction
 - 
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

LONDON—ABI Research recently published a report, “The Future of Sensors in the Smart Home,” which looks at how smart home sensors will be changing over the next five years.

The study covers the global market for smart home sensors. “It’s definitely a U.S. led market,” Jonathan Collins, research director for ABI Research, told Security Systems News. Collins also pointed to Western Europe and areas of the Asia-Pacific region as notable areas gaining traction in the market.

ABI looked at the market in terms of shipments of smart home sensors. There were about 152 million shipments in 2016, and ABI predicts there will be close to 1.85 billion in 2021­—a CAGR of 18.1 percent. “Currently, the U.S. market represents close to 60-70 percent of smart home device shipments but this will drop over the period of the study to closer to 45-55 percent by 2021,” Collins said.

There are many different sensors in the home currently, Collins noted, such as those in thermostats, smoke detectors, motion sensors, and contact sensors.  

ABI is also looking at how devices are connected and how that impacts the market. “What we have been tracking in the smart home, of course, is as those sensors become increasingly wirelessly connected, [they become] easier to install and deploy,” Collins said. 

“What changes is the ability to not just detect a change, but also to inform the network of that change,” Collins said. When the network is informed, the environmental change can be understood by more of the connected devices. “Above all else, it’s not just the ability to detect and inform … but it’s to interrelate all of those actions and make smart choices about the operations within that environment and to automate that,” Collins added.

Sensors in the home will start to look at different information as well as compile data on different situations within a home. “The ability to not just monitor for smoke but monitor the air quality, for example, to monitor humidity in an environment, to monitor how that is changed … if a window is open, if a window is open and it’s raining,” Collins said.

“You could bring in ambient light sensors to understand if lights need to be turned on, coordinate that with motion detection [to tell] if it needs to be turned on for light reasons or because there’s someone in the room,” Collins said.

Microphones have potential in the future, according to Collins. “There’s an enormous potential around a listening environment within the home. We’ve seen the popularity in devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. If you extend that listening range—maybe not just in that central device, but throughout the home—then there’s the ability to voice automate or voice control a whole range of connected home systems.”

Microphones can also detect other events such as glass breaking, noises outside the home, health-related events or if people enter restricted areas, Collins added.

The market for traditional magnetic contact sensors could change, Collins said, pointing to the advancements of accelerometers in smart phones; an accelerometer could judge if a door is open with one device on the door instead of attaching a device to the door and its frame, Collins said. “It doesn’t have to be a door, it could be the cookie jar—it could be anything. Anything could be tracked to know if it’s been moved or to know its location.”

Another technology ABI is researching is “using radio waves to detect movement in the home or detect who is in the home or what devices are connected in the home by recognizing their radio wave footprint,” Collins said.

Where does ABI predict the most change? “We certainly see that sensors will increasingly be overlaid in already connected devices and that sensing will become an additional function,” Collins said. As an example, “New microphones could be easily deployed in a number of devices, not just a voice-controlled device like an Echo.”

This does not necessarily mean that there will be fewer devices, he pointed out; as smart home devices increase in usefulness they become more widely adopted and deployed.

Data management is also important, Collins added. “The most change comes from not just that more devices [are] carrying more sensing, but also the management of those data streams to create a more intelligent environment. That's the real, key change and, building on that, the fundamental point is that the management systems become increasingly useful and increasingly valuable to those smart home owners or smart home residence.”

Smart home dealers need to increase awareness. “It’s awareness around the increasing value not [only] the installation, but the management of the installation—and [not] just the management of the installation, but ensuring that the installation collects and leverages as much information as possible to make that system more valuable, more useful to that end user,” said Collins. “If it's a security-led installation, that doesn’t mean it has to just be about security.”

Collins identified complexity as a potential challenge for the market. “It’s all very well that a good deal of new sensors are going into devices, but if there isn’t a framework that can accept and interchange that information and leverage that information in a ready way, then there’s likelihood that that data stays unused or in a data silo.”