How a unified platform can boost smart home adoption

Users can combine several solutions by installing one or more partner company's apps on a smartphone, tablet or PC. Some apps have a specific focus on, say, central heating control. Others facilitate comprehensive home control over just about all possible functions in a single app.

TRP: What part do partners play?

HK: QIVICON is all about partnering. We have by far the greatest number of partners of any smart home initiative. The more partners that offer QIVICON-compatible products on the platform and the greater the variety of the products they offer, the more attractive the platform will be for end customers.

Partners benefit in many ways from the openness of the platform, such as from greater efficiency in developing new products and use cases or from lower installation and running costs.

We not only have the most partners; we also have many strong brands such as EnBW, Belkin, Samsung, Miele, Kärcher, Vattenfall and Allianz – the world's largest insurance company. Companies can become partners by contacting us.

Any company, from large company to start-up, can become a partner. To simplify the process we have developed a special partner programme that includes business models customised for the partners.

TRP: Can competing partners exist on the QIVICON platform?

HK: Yes, and they characterise the QIVICON approach. Membership of the QIVICON alliance offers all partners an opportunity to jointly shape the smart home market of the future while still setting themselves apart from each other by means of their own products, pricing models, communication and sales and installation channels.

TRP: Why will a platform prevail in the smart home market?

HK: Platforms will always prevail in the IT industry. Just look at the PC and the smartphone market. Platforms provide significant advantages because they offer end customers and companies alike a clear added value in terms of innovation cycles, product and use case variety and economies of scale.

It is against this background that smart home platforms will make the running in the market. That is borne out by the findings of a B2B study commissioned by Bitkom, the German Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media.

31 per cent of companies said they were aware of or interested in Smart Home platforms and 22 per cent are members of platform alliances already. Surveys also show that end customers are keen to combine many solutions such as energy management, lighting control or security, that is something only a platform can offer.

TRP: Are there any plans to internationalise QIVICON?

HK: The QIVICON platform currently exists in Germany, but we receive many international enquiries. Many companies find the German smart home market highly promising and are interested in becoming a partner in order to open up the German market by having their products available on the platform.

But we are also negotiating with interested parties to offer the QIVICON platform and partner products internationally. The main focus of internationalisation will be in Europe, but we also see promising prospects outside of the EU.

As QIVICON depends on cooperation with partner companies we are ready to hold talks with any interested party and we are delighted with every new partnership. To keep this process as simple as possible we have developed a special partner programme. It includes the right business model for both large companies and small start-ups.

TRP: How does QIVICON work?

HK: Via the QIVICON Home Base, the smart home's central control unit, any compatible branded smart home product from QIVICON partner companies can be connected wirelessly using optimised smart home wireless protocols and then hooked up via the internet using partner companies' apps.

Any QIVICON-compatible devices, such as radiator thermostats, smoke detectors, blinds, lamps and household appliances, can be controlled. Consumers who buy a product from a partner company together with the QIVICON Home Base can add more.

QIVICON supports HomeMatic (868 MHz) and ZigBee (2.4 GHz) wireless technology. In the months to come we will be adding many more devices including LEDs, IP cameras and multimedia devices. QIVICON will then be able to communicate with more than 100 home automation devices and home appliances.

TRP: Is smart home for newbuilds only or can it be incorporated in older buildings too?

HK: In principle there is no need for any great distinction. QIVICON is a wireless-based solution that is easy to install and can be expanded. If you move home you can simply take QIVICON and the compatible partner products with you.

TRP: How much does the customer pay?

HK: QIVICON starter kits cost from 269 euros [£213, $362] in Germany. Partners can charge monthly or one-off fees, for example. In combination with different packages of equipment and apps there will be a suitable offer for each customer segment.

  • Holger Knöpke is Head of Connected Home at Deutsche Telekom. Prior to that he was a Senior Vice President of Product Design & Provisioning at T-Mobile International.

* Bitkom Smart Home Study 2012, © Dr. Bernd Kotschi

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.