ABB has partnered with Amazon and Sonos to add new functions to its home automation range of products, collectively called free@home.
ABB claims to be the leading home automation company in the German market, and the company is apparently looking to expand into new geographies, possibly including the US.
Its free@home range includes a variety of devices and hardware, all based on its digital platform, ABB Ability.
Amazon is probably the leading home automation device manufacturer in the world because its Echo and Echo Dot devices have proved popular.
Amazon’s devices are based on its Alexa artificial intelligence platform, which responds to voice commands, much like Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Google Home, among other companies, many of which are startups.
In fact, according to CB Insights, at least 60 companies have emerged to compete for the home automation market. The website provides a list of some of the main features householders can expect in a typical system.
- energy management – heating and lighting controls which can respond automatically to presence and proximity;
- smart locks – including ones which use virtual keys and facial recognition;
- automated cooking appliances – from exotic roti makers to machines that can rustle up a salad;
- home robots – usually small, quasi-humanoids which could integrate a variety of functions, such as security and monitoring;
- security – alarm systems equipped with advanced motion and light-detection sensors;
- health – Apple’s Beddit, which involves placing sensors on your mattress to monitor your health while you sleep, is just one example;
- lighting – smart switches that can respond to gestures or motion;
- media – this is currently the main activity of the big tech companies’ devices; and
- many more.
Currently Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePod, Google Home, and other, similar devices which are soon to be launched by Samsung and Microsoft, tend to prioritise media – mostly they’re used to play music.
This explains why ABB has partnered with Sonos, a developer of home sound systems and smart speakers; and why Microsoft is partnering with well-known speaker brand Harman Kardon, from automotive electronics supplier Harman, which itself is now part of the Samsung group.
All of these companies clearly believe the home automation market is set to take off, according to a variety of studies.
As Inc.com reported a few months ago, the home security systems market is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020, the connected home security market is forecast to surpass $15 billion, and the home automation market is on course for almost $80 billion in revenues.
It’s already a significant market, so now is probably the best time for the big names to make their brand presence known in the space.
Computer tech companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google are developing new services such as shopping – Amazon for obvious reasons, since it’s the world’s largest online retailer, and Google, in a more surprising move, is linking up with Walmart so users can do their shopping through the Google Home device.
But this is just the start, since so many things in the home could be automated.
ABB says its free@home system can now enable users to control 65 functions including lighting, blinds, security and heating through a tablet computer or smartphone.
The partnership with Amazon and Sonos has added voice control and other enhancements to ABB’s smart home offering.
Tarak Mehta, ABB’s electrification products division president says: “Over 1 million units of ABB-free@home have been sold since 2014. Innovation and integration are key success factors to ensure a smooth user interface with evolving functionality developed by multiple brands.”
He adds: “Consumers want smart home functions that make their lives more comfortable and help them contribute to a greener planet.
“We continue to push the boundaries and artificial Intelligence in this space will help us make a quantum leap forward, with solutions that anticipate the running of the house – switching things off when sensors detect the building is empty; automatically putting the heating on when the GPS detects you are 15 minutes from home; and learning your preferences for lighting and sound control.”
ABB also has significant presence in the commercial buildings automation space, which is probably a much bigger market in revenue terms, but that’s probably a separate category for another story.