In this article, we are going to explore two separate topics. The first one is how TV Operators can integrate and offer features to clients with Smart Homes and the second is how these operators can offer a new intelligent service that capitalizes on the Smart Devices clients already have at home. Before we dive into these topics, let’s first understand why Smart Homes are buzzing again!
The “re-return” of Smart Homes
Most of the time, Smart Homes and Intelligent Homes get mistaken as there are definitely some differences between them. A Smart Home is a place where most devices are connected and can be controlled by a remote switch or app. Some testimonials may even sound like this:
“I can open and close my window shutters with an app”
Intelligent Homes, on the other hand, make use of the Smart Home connected devices and allows you to define routines, based on sensors and configurations. On this case, you may find the following sentence to make more sense:
“My window shutters are configured to close automatically when it gets dark”
Until a couple of years ago, unless you weren’t OK with having a handful of different apps to control devices that wouldn’t easily integrate with each other, you’d have to find a single manufacturer that had all those devices and offered a single interface to control and configure them. Luckily, with the rise of IoT and APIs, we have three major platforms at our disposal, compatible with thousands of devices from hundreds of manufacturers: HomeKit by Apple (integrated with Siri), Google Assistant and Alexa by Amazon (these two double as an assistant).
You may have to install the device app in order to connect it to one of these three platforms, but once everything is set, any device can be controlled, configured and managed from a single interface offered by the platform of your choosing. You can even use voice commands to control everything at home.
Let’s talk a bit about the massification of these devices and their cost reduction. We can now browse through Amazon or AliExpress and find all kinds of devices and sensors, suiting any kind of purpose or wallet. The majority of these works under the three platforms we’ve mentioned, significantly reducing the cost of making a Smart Home, even if your house isn’t state-of-the-art tech-wise yet.
We also need to take into consideration the massification of smartphones and overall connectivity, that has allowed for Smart Home control to be included in the cloud centralization of services. On this smart note, here at WeTek, we already offer solutions that would allow you to have The Set-Top Box as the brain of your Smart Home.
Still, one needs to have a comprehensive understanding of technology in order to be able to set up and configure the smart devices and their respective scenarios. Technology tends to get massified when its learning curve is reduced to a degree where the user doesn’t even need instructions.
For a home to become truly Intelligent, besides the scenarios posed by sensor inputs, we need to factor in conditions resulting from other cloud service integrations, such as calendars, social networks, tracking and wearable generated biometrics.
So…How can TV Operators integrate and offer features to clients with Smart Homes?
In order to illustrate our research on the topic, we will refer to the AnyTV service featured on our “Creating the perfect TV service using Google’s Android TV™” article.
There is no doubt that the main goal for a TV Service consumer is to watch the content of their liking, so let’s map the basic key actions and intents for a TV Service consumer:
So, before intelligence, we need to make the TV Service smart. To achieve it, we should pay attention to the following aspects:
1.All the content available on the TV Service should be integrated and provided to Google, Apple and Amazon systems so that users at home can search for their content on any smart device with an enabled assistant.
2. Integrate actions into Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa, allowing users to trigger actions like content playback and content search on any assistant enabled device.
3. If TV Operators run their TV Service on their own managed device, which is neither Android TV nor Apple TV, they should integrate it as a smart device on the platforms listed above and on open source platforms like openHAB.
With these three simple steps, the TV Service is now compatible with a Smart Home. The user is now able to create new scenarios based on the TV Service inputs or that will result in TV Service actions.
These options may automate some things at home, but besides allowing the consumer to get rid of the remote control and allowing actions through other devices, are we really adding any kind of intelligence or feature that they really need?
This brings us to the second question…
How can operators offer a new intelligent service that capitalizes on the Smart Devices clients already have at home?
Operators are bringing packages with Internet, TV and mobile data to consumers. They could now start offering a new Intelligent Home service, either as a part of that bundle or as a new premium service. It would allow increasing differentiation or revenue, depending on the strategy defined, while providing superpowers to user-familiar assistants like Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa and enhancing the offering’s added value.
This Intelligent Home Service (IHS) would be responsible for managing all smart devices available at home and providing comfort features to the consumer. This service would also be shaped as an app and completely agnostic of whatever devices or home setup the consumer has in place.
For example, let’s say we are considering an IHS service called AnyHome, requested by a young couple that lives in a studio apartment. They already had a contract with the AnyTV and AnyNet services from the operator Any.
AnyHome would only require these simple setup actions from them:
1. Access to control the Smart Home devices:
The AnyHome app will automatically discover smart devices the user adds home. It will then try to assign the device to the proper room. If it isn’t able, then manual assigning is as simple as pointing the camera to the device. As an example, let’s say the young couple lives in a studio apartment on which they’ve installed motion detectors, a smart door lock, smart lighting, light and temperature sensors, and an IR/RF gateway. These users also have a regular TV, an AC and the shutters are electric but not smart, so these are all operated with remote controls but available on the IR/RF gateway.
2. Household mapping:
The AnyHome app comes with an AR feature to map the home. Users only need to move around the house while the app maps the 3D space, figuring out the rooms frontiers, dimensions and, by AI/ML image processing, defining the type of room based on seen objects. While doing this 3D mapping, the user can tap on the smart devices so that AnyHome app knows exactly where they are (this step can be very helpful to the range of intelligence that AnyHome can have).
Continuing with the example above, the user has already walked around the studio apartment and the AnyHome service knows where all smart devices are located, as well as traditional home devices. Not only that, the AnyHome service knows the house orientation to the sun, windows and door locations.
3. Integration with other services:
The user is able to link AnyHome to several other services that will fuel its intelligence, improving the range of actions and touchpoints it can cover.
For this example, we’ve decided to integrate:
a) Google ID/Family, allowing AnyHome to know the household members, John Doe and Jane Doe. This also allows for Google Assistant integration.
b) Google Calendar, to understand the household member's schedule.
c) Google Maps/ Waze, due to travel routines.
d) Google Fit / Wearables tracking, to track user’s movements and habits.
e) Smartphone sensor/ location tracking, to never miss the device movements and location.
f) Smartphone configured alarms, for AnyHome to understand possible morning routines.
g) Facebook and Instagram profiles.
h) Spotify, Netflix, Youtube and the AnyTV Service, for the IHS to make use of the content consumption habits and routines.
So far, the consumer mapped his house just by walking by it and integrated the services he uses; now it’s time to activate the AnyHome intelligence.
AnyHome is responsible for compiling all these data inputs at a given moment and execute the proper actions when required. On the action execution, it may request the user for permission or confirmation in the simplest way possible.
To better demonstrate this, let’s take some examples into consideration for our young couple.
1. AnyHome will start by locking the home from the outside and close the shutters every day from midnight to 7 am. It does this because no one ever opens the door from the outside during that period and the only actions performed on shutters during that time are to closing them, never the opposite.
2. AnyHome will start to dim the lights when a movie is starting because the usage history shows that after starting playback on that kind of content, the users tend to dim the light on a manual switch.
3. AnyHome will get enough information from alarms and calendars to understand when the users get up, so by that time it starts opening the shutters and Spotify will play an awakening playlist. This playlist may even change from the days they hit the gym (from calendar and fitness data) to the days where they wake up to rest and watch TV.
4. AnyHome can combine calendar or social information and the couple’s locations in order to understand that for at least 5 days no one will be at home, so all lighting, TVs, and ACs can be switched off and doors locked, as well as window shutters closed.
5. AnyHome can even wake people up earlier due to information gathered on Waze’s/Google Maps’ trip history, current road conditions and calendar if the current alarm set will result in getting late to that calendar event.
6. AnyHome can track biometrics through wearables and sense that someone has fallen asleep on the sofa and dims the lights for better rest.
7. AnyHome can understand who is in front of the TV and who is actually watching TV so that AnyTV recommendations are targeted to that audience and not just everyone or a single profile.
8. AnyHome can open and close shutters to help manage the house’s temperature and save energy.
9. AnyHome can use historical information from the temperature sensors in order to better adjust it to who’s at home at that given moment (because John prefers a cooler house when Jane is away).
These are just some of the examples of what AnyHome will be able to do. It uses learnings from one’s household to profile and cluster people in homes in order to apply approved actions from one’s household to another household.
As more and more devices get smart and we have more combos and setups in smart homes, AnyHome will be able to deliver more intelligent behavior like the ones described above. It’s up to the service provider to understand their clients and what options they will want to implement in the future. This IHS is nothing more than the old school butler that anticipates what the master will want and makes it happen before it’s requested.
So, if you’re an operator wanting to follow the steps of media giants like Netflix and Spotify and make your TV Service available to smart homeowners, an operator thinking on offering an IHS service to your clients or someone that would like and even pay for such service, comment or contact us because we, here at WeTek, are working to make all this a reality on 2020.