A new collaboration among many appliance manufacturers has set its sights on a more interoperable and effective smart home.
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Samsung Announces the Home Connectivity Alliance from The CES 2022 Keynote Stage
Some of the largest residential appliance manufacturers in the world have formed a new vendor group aiming to drive creating smart home appliance interoperability. The Home Connectivity Alliance (HCA) aims to enable cloud to cloud connectivity between its members connected appliances. Samsung, a leading supporter of the initiative, unveiled the group as the company hosted the opening keynote at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2022 in Las Vegas. The new group and its approach represent a turning point for the smart appliance market just as the smart home market is moving in a different direction, reflecting the differing stages of development in both markets.
Targeting Cloud-to-Cloud Interoperability
The HCA’s founding members comprise American Standard Heating and Air Conditioning, Arçelik, The Electrolux Group, Haier, GE Appliances, Samsung, and Trane Residential. The new group says it aims to provide consumers with safer, simpler, and more interoperable options in their connected home.
The group highlighted three key aspects driving its initiative:
- Full interoperability through cloud-to-cloud connectivity.
- Consumer safety and data security.
- A commitment to continued functional development.
Reflecting the efficacy of its approach, as well as the enthusiasm behind the initiative, the HCA plans to have an initial implementation ready by mid-year 2022.
Initially, the project will span fourteen categories of residential appliances from washing machines and dishwashers through Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems and air purifiers, with countertop appliances, consumer robotics, and Smart TVs all included.
The new group joins a market already divided not just by single vendor smart appliance offerings but also rival smart appliance interoperability initiatives. Major player Bosch, for example, is not part of the HCA but has long supported the Home Connect initiative, alongside Siemens, Neff, Gaggenau, Balay, Thermador, Constructa, Pitsos, and Profilo.
A Pragmatic Approach to Drive Engagement and Value
The HCA and its effort come as connectivity continues to push into the smart appliance market. Without support for cross vendor smart appliance interoperability, the market would remain stifled by the long lifecycle of appliances and the disparate nature of most homes’ appliance investments. Despite the best attempts of appliance vendors to sell complete ranges of appliances to customers, in reality it is a market of individual purchases. A vendor may provide a dishwasher or washing machine in a home, but it will likely be installed alongside appliances from rival vendors. Additionally, the long lifespan of major appliances (typically around ten years at least), means any vendor looking to push connected appliances that only work with appliances from the same brand would not only limit the value of a typically premium priced connected appliance to their customers but also limit the ability for the vendors themselves to recoup investment in connected capabilities.
Key to the initiative and the impetus for the HCA is the ability for appliance vendors to offer management and higher value services to their smart appliance customers. By enabling data collection and broader appliance operations through inputs and data points from rival vendor appliances in the same home, HCA offers the promise of greater return for investing in smart appliances for both vendors and their customers. The ability to integrate and dovetail the operation of major appliances—often responsible for high energy consumption in homes—in a whole home manner to ensure efficient use of energy and resources offers vendors the ability for secondary revenue channels from their customers. Additional services could be automated—consumables, replenishment, or automated servicing and management. Even fees for service arrangements could be implemented where appliances are leased or paid for by monitored use rather than purchased outright. There are key benefits for the appliance vendors themselves in the insights they will be able to collect and factor into product design regarding the use of their products.
What stands out about the HCA and its approach is the method at the heart of the initiative. It’s focus on cloud-to-cloud reflects a pragmatism and an approach that echoes the development of the smart home market, just as the smart home markets starts to move toward a different approach.
Cloud-to-cloud interoperability means vendors will continue to invest in their own smart appliance app capabilities and end-users will remain dependent upon each vendors’ apps for onboarding and primary appliance management. That ensures each vendors’ brand remains central to the customer experience and under the control of the appliance manufacturer. This is in contrast to long running efforts such as the Home Connect initiative, which provides a centralizing Home Connect branded app with a single interface and localized control. Home Connect appliances have been shipping since Bosch launched the initiative in 2014 but it has failed to win wider industry support.
In the wider smart home market, the HCAs cloud-to-cloud approach has been the de facto standard for integrating third-party devices and applications with smart home management platforms. However, the Matter initiative is aiming to replace much of that with its in-home application layer standard which places no criteria for cloud-to-cloud interoperability. With many of the members of HCA active in the Matter project, the HCA insists its offering will be synergistic with the Matter initiative by enabling in-home control to be managed via Matter (currently smart appliances are not included in the first Matter specification) further out, while HCA supports cloud-to-cloud interoperability.
Above everything else, the use cases for connected appliances have not been compelling for end users due to limited functionality and limited interoperability. In many cases smart appliances, unlike say a smart light bulb or thermostat, still require physical interaction in their operation such as loading and unloading, for example. However, the ability for remote operation has some value but systematic control such as interweaving operation of various appliances to lessen the cost and energy demand of their use has broad benefits and appeal.
The HCA initiative is a pragmatic approach to bringing levels of interoperability to smart appliances. Smart appliance vendors have already invested in cloud connectivity and platform management and cloud-to-cloud interoperability has been the bedrock of smart home approaches to standardization before Matter. It highlights the differing degrees of success in drawing customer enthusiasm for smart home devices compared with smart appliances. The smart appliance market remains where smart home was almost a decade ago in its ability to draw customer engagement and understanding. We have for years written about the need for smart appliance vendors to extend the capabilities of their smart appliance offerings and undercut the premium charged for these devices with the benefits they can bring to the vendors themselves. This pragmatic approach could herald greater capabilities and enthusiasm for smart appliances, but it remains to be seen if the group can draw in those manufacturers currently outside of it. HCA’s ability to support multi-vendor smart appliance systems and turn them into valuable revenue opportunities will be key to that.