In 2016, Gartner launched the term 'Certified ecosystems' and predicted that by 2020,
85 percent of connected home solutions would be linked to a “certified ecosystem"
But what is exactly a certified ecosystem for the house and how do they look like today?
In recent years, the dominant technology players such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung have been engaged in a battle to secure their position in the connected home. Amazon and Google are building an ecosystem around their digital assistants. Apple has embedded it in its OS with Homekit and Samsung is using an acquisition strategy and its power as a semiconductor manufacturer.
The success of each of these ecosystems is highly dependent on the number of 'smart' devices they can support. One of the strategies used by the dominant players is to allow device manufacturers to join their ecosystem with programmes such as 'works with...'.
Apple has created the label 'Works with Apple Homekit'. Device manufacturers such as Fibaro, who have their own 'single Home automation product', shifted their strategy by offering smart devices that are Homekit certified. This was an important decision and they did it because they believe they can gain a larger market share by joining the ecosystem of one of the dominant technology players.
Amazon, on the other hand, has added a HUB feature to their 4th generation echo DOT, which sells for less than 100€. This opens up a plethora of supported devices as the HUB supports Zigbee, which is one of the protocol standards for the home. It also enables device manufacturers to integrate 'Alexa', the brain of Amazon's digital assistant, into their products.
Examples include builders of smart speakers such as Sonos, Ikea and Bose, but also car manufacturers such as Mercedes apply the smart assistant technology in their cars. Amazon also bought Ring, back in February 2018. With this, they added a portfolio of smart doorbells and cameras, these turned out to be the most popular smart device people bought for their homes in 2020. Ring continues to build new smart security devices, such as the Ring Always Home Cam which will be available in 2021.
Google's "Works with Google assistant" program, which allows partners to create an ecosystem around the Google home solution, is built around Nest. Nest is known for its popular smart Thermostat, designed by Tony Fadell. Today, Nest produces a variety of smart devices for the home, such as the Nest smoke alarm and smart cameras after its acquisition of dropcam in 2014.
Samsung is the odd man out in the series of dominant technology players. As a global semiconductor manufacturer, they acquired SmartThings back in 2014, creating an ecosystem around the SmartThings HUB and immersive Mobile APP. Samsung has developed a complete portfolio Samsung consumer appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators, cookers and so on. All these home appliances are integrated into the Smartthings Mobile APP.
The certified ecosystems of the dominant technology player may come at the right time, as early adopters of smart home devices want to increase the number of smart devices in their homes provided they can be integrated into their existing ecosystem, rather than having to learn new ecosystems.
When more and more smart devices come into the home, People will need to be able to turn to a service department to cope with the abundance of connected products and solutions. It could even lead to a new function of 'the connected home engineer'. The dominant service providers will probably be able to manage the required level of service, as they have the experience in house.
In addition to the above-mentioned advantages, there are of course also disadvantages for consumers. One is the risk of a lock-in scenario, where consumers, once chosen for an ecosystem, cannot benefit from the capabilities of the other ecosystems. And what about the consumers who currently use a do-it-yourself solution and who make up about 10% of the early adopters?
A large certified vendor ecosystem certainly brings certain benefits to consumers, but it would be of greater value if the certified ecosystems enabled others to integrate seamlessly with the DIY platforms or even allowed them to migrate to or merge with other certified ecosystems.
My book covers this topic in detail, explaining which certified suppliers have eco-systems, how to build your own and how to integrate them all.
If you want to know more, you can read all about it in my first book called the connected house 2.0