The German Smart Home platform QIVICON is the first cross-vendor Smart Home platform. Unlike most other systems QIVICON does not rely on just one communication protocol; it connects different wireless technologies. Users are thereby enabled to use and combine the Smart Home functions and devices of different manufacturers and are not limited to one provider and thus often to a single solution.
QIVICON was initiated and developed by one of the world’s leading integrated telecommunications enterprises – Deutsche Telekom. Available in the German market since autumn 2013, the platform is already used by more than 30 partner companies from many different industries and is increasingly developing into a Smart Home standard. Many of the partner companies are active internationally –Miele, Samsung, Philips, D-Link and Kärcher, for example. For QIVICON’s approach and its technical implementation, management consultants Frost & Sullivan named it the most innovative Smart Home solution of 2014.
Central control unit
The system’s central control unit is its Home Base. To install QIVICON for the first time, users connect the compact white box in their home or apartment with the Internet via any broadband connection. It does not matter in the least who their Internet service provider is. A Setup Assistant then guides the user through the installation procedure step by step and connects devices such as wireless adapters or radiator thermostats. The Home Base then serves as the interface between the different Smart Home appliances and the user.
Users access their Smart Home by WiFi or mobile Internet using the apps provided by the partner companies. They can do so by smartphone or tablet or PC, both at home and on the move. Some apps focus on functions such as lighting control, while others enable comprehensive home automation.
Easy to install
The Home Base then establishes a wireless connection with the installed devices. HomeMatic, a wireless protocol that is widely used in Germany, is already integrated into the control unit. Others, such as ZigBee, can be added. To do so the user plugs the appropriate wireless stick into one of the Home Base’s four USB ports. The QIVICON platform’s architecture is based on leading global standards. Its powerful Home Base is also regularly updated. As the devices also communicate wirelessly, users receive software updates not only for their apps (with which they will be familiar from their smartphones), but also for the Home Base, which is thereby continuously updated and state-of-the-art.
And as appliances communicate wirelessly there is no need for costly and time-consuming alterations during the installation. Neither walls need to be drilled nor cables laid to install QIVICON in your home. So existing housing stock and rented apartments are also easily fitted out with Smart Home technology. If the user moves home, he can remove radiator thermostats and adapters in a few easy steps and install them in his new home just as easily.
Encryption provides protection
QIVICON uses the AES128 standard to encrypt communication channels securely. The AV-Test GmbH test rating shows that QIVICON provides good protection from external access. The independent IT security test company gave QIVICON a “Secure” rating for providing effective protection from unauthorized access.
QIVICON-compatible Smart Home devices such as wireless adapters, radiator thermostats and motion and smoke detectors are already available in the German market, as are water detectors and door and window contacts. From this autumn the household appliance manufacturer Miele and the electronics group Philips will also be offering QIVICON-compatible products, so consumers will be able via the Smart Home platform to freely combine different manufacturers’ devices.
Starter packs for easy entry
For Smart Home beginners some partner companies offer a range of starter packs containing, along with the QIVICON Home Base, a selection of compatible components and an app to control them. They include packs to monitor and control the central heating, lighting or security system. So these packs cover, energy, security and comfort in keeping with what customers want.
Users can expand their starter packs by adding compatible devices such as a surveillance camera, shutter control, wireless adapters or smoke detectors. And unlike many other Smart Home solutions QIVICON partners’ offerings are not just for the wealthy. Starter packs cost as little as €269 (which is just over £213).
With so many different devices from different manufacturers on a single platform, a wide range of uses is available in the home. If, say, the user wants to make getting up in the morning easier, he can automate his morning tasks. The stereo is switched on at 6:30 a.m. precisely, the lights shine more and more brightly and the shutters open automatically. In the bathroom hot water flows into the radiator and in the kitchen the smart coffee maker switches itself on.
Safe from break-ins
In the Smart Home there is not only greater comfort but also, if desired, greater safety and security. If there is smoke or fire, the smoke detector immediately alerts the user by smartphone. Connected devices can also be put to preventive use. If a motion detector spots a movement in the garden at night, the Home Base can switch on lighting and the stereo to make it look like somebody is at home. That will probably make a would-be burglar abandon the attempt.
If, however, the intruder reaches the door and opens it, he will interrupt the connection between the two units of the door and window contact. That will trigger an alarm on the user’s smartphone so that he can inform friends or neighbours without delay. The application scenarios for devices are virtually unlimited.
Right now, QIVICON is still only available in Germany, but negotiations are under way with interested parties to provide the QIVICON platform and partners’ products soon in the UK and other European countries. At present we are receiving many enquiries from companies that would like to open up the Smart Home market by offering their products on the QIVICON platform.
Good prospects in the UK
Any company, irrespective of its industry and regardless whether it is a start-up or a large enterprise, can use the QIVICON platform to develop solutions and apps of its own and offer them to its customers. International companies, for example, can in future market their products as an extension of their German product range. We cannot yet say, however, what scope these offers will have in individual countries and when they will be on sale.
The outlook for Smart Home products selling well in the UK is certainly far from bleak. Consultants Strategy Analytics forecast a nearly 50% year-on-year increase this year in the number of UK households with a Smart Home system. That would mean 3.1 million Smart Home systems by the end of the year.
The help of a technician is usually required to install the Smart Home systems currently available in the UK. QIVICON, in contrast, is easy to install without outside assistance. That saves users time and money. They do not need to call in an expert for each and every change either. With its moderate prices, its wide range of combination options for end customers and its customised business models for partner companies, QIVICON could bring the Smart Home within reach of the general public in the UK.