Smart Home Solutions: Business Models Shifting to the Cloud
At the Parks Associates’ Connections Europe event last week I joined Audio Analytics, Evrything, Arrayent & Arris to debate “Smart Home Solutions: Business Models Shifting to the Cloud”. Stuart Sikes opened the panel by directly questioning me ‘How does nCube benefit from users fear of the Cloud’ to set the scene for the hour’s panel session. I corrected him it’s not about ‘fear’ but rather the question is why should I, a homeowner, have to manage my home using a cloud service (i.e. hosted server in some data centre)?
For an inherently online product such as Facebook being hosted is essential as that’s a deep communication and sharing product whereas my home isn’t – we invite only close friends and family into our homes. Our homes are private. So why should they be controlled on some remote server. In addition, we all know internet connections are not stable, we know data privacy is a problem and security is a real issue yet we ignore the terms and conditions and hope for the best when using cloud-based service – and that’s because there isn’t an alternative. If a consumer-friendly product is marketed and well known, then that should gain significant attention and traction.
I’m not against there being a cloud element to a service and indeed there is an nCube cloud for remote support, software updates, app connection out of the home, etc. But issues and concerns occur when part of the product logic is running in the cloud and what knowledge of the homeowner, and their family, is being tracked.
On top of this is the risk of long delays and even failures whilst one product talks to another via another online app – three different cloud services to get from a motion sensor to a lightbulb just sounds absurd when you stop and think about it; if each cloud is available 99.9% (which sounds very high to the average user) that equates to nearly 9 hours a year. Three cloud services running at the same availability are very unlikely to fail all at the same time so the likely downtime is 9+9+9 which is more than one whole day per year. And that’s not taking into account delays as messages track across the internet 4 times (1: device to its cloud, 2: then that cloud to the app connection cloud, 3: then across to the cloud for the second device and finally 4: back into the home).
The panel also debated where support responsibility lies where cloud to cloud connections exist – hint: it’s complex; remember that set of terms & conditions signed up to for each device. Device security was touched on such as the recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) that affected a large part of the Internet two weeks ago: it’s vital that any online service can quickly push out updates. There’s an argument that cloud-based services are easier and quicker to update but if the architecture is built correctly then it’s not much different to push an update to hosted servers or down to home hubs.
In conclusion, cloud-based services tend to have been architected more for the convenience of the provider (reduced costs, data gathering) than creating products from a consumer perspective which is what sets nCube Home apart.