Wandering around our local Curry’s the other day, a big box electrical retailer in the UK, I was interested to see an entire aisle now given over to home automation products like those from SmartThings and Nest.
German home automation brand Loxone has had a base in the UK since 2012. They provide a comprehensive and quality mid-market smart home system that’s somewhere between the budget plugin modules and the ultra-expensive bespoke systems for millionaires.
We asked them about their success and where the smart home is headed.
What is the general trend in smart homes at the moment?
As you’d expect, Germany is still leading the way in Europe for smart homes, with France hot on their heels. Elsewhere in the world, the US and China are seeing the most investment in the Smart Home industry and there are no signs of this slowing down in years to come. Many companies are beginning their international expansion, entering new markets and creating new products.
Thirty new Smart Home hubs were launched at the CES this year, and there are several new ‘smart’ products per week hitting the market. In the UK we’re seeing some of the larger retailers, such as John Lewis, stocking a small selection of off-the-shelf-products such as Nest.
There seem to be endless options & products – how can anyone choose?
Initially, the choice can seem overwhelming, but when you break it down, most products and solutions tend to fall into one of three categories, as articulated by Martin Garner of CSS Insight at Smart Home Summit earlier this year:
The first of these categories is ‘point products’, such as single-zone smart thermostats. These products are a single device with one app and one cloud. The advantages of them is that they lower the barriers to entry for many people and have greatly helped grow the awareness around smart homes. The problem, however, is that often these products are complete island solutions and the more you buy, the more tangled it gets to manage them all.
After point products comes ‘horizontal cloud services’. These look to bring many devices with many separate apps together into a single cloud.
The third category are eco-system solutions. As the name suggests, these are designed to look after the home in its entirety. Initial setup costs are often higher, however, the long term savings and benefits easily offset these. Together with the highly intuitive nature and simplicity of a centrally managed system, eco-system solutions are forecast to be the the choice of many consumers.
How do you think this will influence the market over the next five years?
We’re very optimistic for the future. I think we’ll certainly see even more new products hit the market, as awareness of smart homes continues to grow. As energy saving becomes an increasingly important consideration for homeowners, we anticipate that the majority of new ‘point products’ will be focused around lighting, heating and integration of renewable energy sources.
As I mentioned, the influx of the more affordable standalone solutions brings fresh interest to the smart home industry and opens up smart homes to a much wider audience. An advantage for us is that once someone begins to research into controlling one aspect of their home such as their heating, it opens up their mind to thinking about their home as a whole.
Besides lighting and heating, are there any other areas of the home where you predict growth?
We feel that ‘smart audio’ will become an increasingly important consideration for homeowners as the bridge between automation and entertainment strengthens. Earlier this year, we released our new Music Server, which we designed specifically for smart homes to help meet this need.
The other area getting a lot of attention in the media are smart appliances. For some reason, connected white goods are being touted as the way forward to rid the land of domestic drudgery. The only issue is that there’s a bit of a demographic mis-match with these products. The concept of a high-end, smart appliance is appealing to younger buyers, however, younger buyers don’t typically purchase premium appliances. So the likelihood of a wide adoption of these is rather slim.
How has 2015 differed from 2014 for Loxone?
We have seen rapid growth throughout both 2014 and 2015 with business levels increasing by almost 200% this year. We put this down to an increasing awareness about Smart Homes and a larger product portfolio.
We launched our Miniserver Go towards the end of 2014, and have been extending our Loxone Air range to offer a complete retrofit solution for Smart Homes. Our best selling product has been the Valve Actuator Air, which provides smart zoned heating and enables cost savings of up to £400 for the average UK home on their utility bills.
Traditionally Smart Home Technology was only considered by self builders and specified for bespoke builds. However, the increase in consumer awareness has sparked an interest in the installation of Smart Home technology in speculative developments, which account for 90% of the UK house building market. This is a very important change for the industry as a whole and has lead to Loxone being selected as the product of choice by several medium sized developers. Next year will even see the first large scale adoption of Loxone in multi-unit developments by national house builders.
The positive resonance of the UK market has resulted in us investing in new premises with showroom facilities to allow industry professionals and homeowners alike to experience the benefits of a Smart Home first hand.
To address the increasing requirement for trained installers we have also created dedicated training facilities and even fitted out the first UTC college with Loxone to train the next generation of Smart Home engineers.
What are your plans going into 2016?
We are looking ahead to a year that will see our operations expand both in the UK and globally, with several new offices and showrooms opening across Europe. Recent acquisitions and expansions will result in a wider range of products to simplify the process of designing and building Smart Homes even more.
Key commercial partnerships in the renewable sector will also see a number of new compatible products and advanced integration features for truly smart energy management.