Parks studies IoT interoperability and customer expectations

43 percent of survey respondents see Amazon Echo integration as important
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

DALLAS—Parks Associates released a report, titled “Interoperability and the Internet of Things,” that said voice control integrations are high on consumers’ wish lists when it comes to new smart devices and most consumers only have one smart device, among other findings.

“This is an area that we cover very closely,” Brad Russell, research director, connected home, at Parks Associates, told Security Systems News. For Parks, interoperability in a smart home means “all the technologies that are required to enable devices to talk to one another, either machine to machine … locally in the home or through the Internet to cloud platforms that are then enabling interoperability.”

Parks gathered insight on this area through consumer surveys that the firm regularly conducts. “We are continually asking consumers about the importance [to] them that their devices work together, and the importance of that compared to other product features,” Russell said.

On the industry side, Parks often speaks with groups like the Z-Wave Alliance and ZigBee, and monitoring their innovations.

Voice interaction is a big area when it comes to a smart home. “We’re looking at a lot of voice control, and how—at least from a consumer perspective—the experience of interoperability is achieved through an Amazon Echo with Alexa, although the actual interoperability is happening in the cloud,” Russell said.

The report covered consumer expectations for interoperability, wireless networking protocols in the market, and application layer initiatives, which includes the Apple Home Kit and Samsung SmartThings platforms among others.

“What’s really surprising is how quickly the voice control platforms have become extremely important to consumers, considering that they’ve been around the shortest period of time, but now, they top the list of all platforms as far as those who are most important to consumers when they’re considering a purchase decision,” Russell said.

Twenty-eight percent of surveyed consumers that intend to buy a smart device in the next 12 months said it is very important—rating a six or a seven on a scale of seven—that their device works with Amazon’s Echo. Another 15 percent said that it’s important—rating a five out of seven—totaling 43 percent that value an Amazon Echo integration.

Similarly, 23 percent of those looking to buy a smart device soon said it’s very important for it to work with Google Home, and 14 percent called it important, meaning 37 total percent value this integration. 

Interoperability may not be as big an issue now as it could be in the future, according to Russell. “The vast majority of consumers still only own one device, and interoperability only really becomes an issue as you have more devices,” Russell said. “As they own more devices, it becomes more and more important to them.”

The report also covers how many surveyed respondents have adopted a single app to control their IoT devices. “Consumers, for the most part, are still using stand-alone apps to control their products,” Russell said. Thirty-six percent reported having apps for individual products, but no apps that control multiple products, he said. Another 25 percent said they can control some or all of their smart products through their security system app.

“Only 15 percent say that ‘I have one app that controls everything,’ and then another 10 percent say ‘I can control some or all of my products using a single app that is different than the app that controls my security system,’” Russell said. Fifteen percent were not sure.

Parks also recognized a growing trend of tech support issues related to interoperability—“In that sense, we would say that consumer expectations are not met,” Russell said.

Developments in technology at the chip level are a considerable factor for the IoT, according to Russell. “More and more things are done at the chip level, like dealing with data encryption and security, and that influences interoperability because that’s the beginning of all interoperability—the authentication of the device and the data and the users.”

The wireless networking protocols have also been very influential in interoperability, Russell said. “Certainly, we have big ecosystems built around Z-Wave and ZigBee and Bluetooth, and those kinds of protocols. So, not only is it the technology itself, but it’s the ecosystem of partners that have invested in that technology, so that all of their products are interoperable with one another.”