By Kuldip Singh Johal, Vice President Sales – Subscription Broadcasting, UEI
Now, it could be at the heart of convergence, providing users with a single device with which to perform synergised functions, controlling everything from the television to your home’s temperature, security and lighting. However, with established technology manufacturers competing against smaller, yet more agile, counterparts, who will win convergence 4.0?
While there are a handful of manufacturers most of us will associate with smart home technology, many paid TV operators and telecommunication companies are turning their backs on these devices, thus creating space for some of the smaller brands to rise to the top. Not only are devices created by these big brands more expensive for paid TV operators to deploy, but they are also less adaptable for their needs. Conversely, by partnering up with smaller manufacturers to create bespoke solutions, paid TV operators can be in control of their own destiny and create their own eco-system on which they can build in the future. This is a fluidity that isn’t offered by larger branded devices where the roadmaps for convergence are already set out for them.
Solutions developed with telcos and paid TV operators in mind also allow them to have more autonomy in their approach to the market, rather than following the trends as dictated by large manufacturers. This is a key issue in convergence as with paid TV operators on side, the smaller manufacturers have the potential to tap into different insights and develop new capabilities.
Currently, many consumers are turned off by the idea of convergence due to the difficulties they face with configuration and setting up smart devices. For the average person, configuring multiple devices can be daunting and seem like it may require some engineering know-how, which can deter consumers from buying new devices or attempting to integrate them. Difficulties with configuring, discovering and controlling devices are among the biggest pain points for consumers of smart devices and is something that needs to be considered in relation to convergence.
It is vital that manufacturers and industry leaders address these pain points in order to make convergence and configuration a frictionless and simple process for the end user. This is also likely to lead to increased uptake of smart devices. Users require intuitive devices which are capable of automatically recognising new devices and help the user to configure them. However, many of the key players within the industry are yet to offer devices capable of this. Should manufacturers, and the bigger market challengers such as Amazon and Google, want to attract audiences, the need for end-to-end solutions which simplify the process of migration to the smart home for the end user needs to be considered. For example, devices should offer simplistic, voice-based processes to increase ease of use.
Additionally, the winner of convergence 4.0 will produce devices which are capable of ‘learning’ set skills. As well as being intuitive in recognising other devices, these devices must also intuit what a user requires when they perform certain commands. For example, ultimate convergence will come when users are able to ask their device to enter ‘movie mode’, for instance, and the device will not only play a movie but will also draw the curtains and dim the lights.
It is our view, that as many smart devices make use of voice-control, the two issues are intrinsically linked. Therefore, to win convergence 4.0, you must also be one step ahead in the fight for the voice-assistant market. The uptake of voice-controlled devices is growing significantly with a recent study finding that 1 in 6 adults in the US now owns a voice-activated smart speaker and 65% say they wouldn’t want to go back to a life without these devices. Their popularity and ease of use show that this technology should be a key feature for the future of convergence.
Given the current difficulties associated with configuring devices, the real winner of convergence will be the company that can make integrating these devices into the home it as easy and seamless as possible. At the moment, convergence is currently being driven primarily by the market as a pre-emptive strike to anticipate the needs of consumers. While the big names currently have a monopoly on this market, convergence 4.0 could be a case of the tortoise and the hare as smaller manufacturers step up their approach to the market. With a more insightful view of the requirements of not only the user but also telecommunication companies, these brands could be better able to tailor their offerings more precisely to suit the users’ needs.