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Making complex security products and home automation dead simple and consumer friendly

Smart Home Speaker Interview "Egardi " Robin Rietveld, CEO of Egardia
(https://www.egardia.com/en). Speaker of the Smart Home stream in the upcoming Smart Summit Frankfurt (www.frankfurt.smartsummit.net) taking place on the 6th and 7th April 2016 at Kap Europa, Frankfurt.

How popular are smart home products in your home market and how does this compare to the last 1 to 2 years?

Robin: The home market of Egardia is the North Western European Consumer Market, The Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Germany. We started in 2008 in the Netherlands with the brand WoonVeilig. Our key success factor is and was to make complex security products and home automation dead simple and consumer friendly.

Smart home products are becoming more and more popular and a rapidly increasing number of brands are active in this new market. You see more and more players delivering ‘smart connected products and services’. Different types of players are currently crafting the smart home market: retailers, manufacturers, telcos, utilities, security companies, technology companies, software- companies and start ups. It’s at the start of becoming bigger but right now there is no best market approach, no best business model and no best technology.
Smart Summit
I’m sure that this market will still be in development for the next couple of years. A house is a versatile thing with a lot of different customer needs and a lot of country specific setups. This makes the market complex and too big for one technology or one business model.

What more can be done to take smart home products and services to the mass market?

Robin: Better story telling, better solutions with better pricing and different business models. Egardia has a combined products and service offering. Ibelieve that excellent services are key for maturation for the smart home market. There can be no perceived risk for the customer!  

Smart home players have to have a complete solution for the total value chain of a specific function. For security, you need to have all the essential aspects inplace: prevention, monitoring, installation, signalling, alarm centre, video management, mobile security officer, video, smoke, lighting, CO-alarm and many more.

At this point in time, you need to have a pushpin profile - do one thing really good and make partnerships with other specialized smart home companies that do things really well in their field of expertise.

Which do you consider to be the most popular products for smart home consumers?

Robin: For products I like Philips HUE and Toon. For services, I like our Virtual Alarm Centre and the best App is Muzzley.

Which distribution channels are the most successful in your market?

Robin: Direct/online, retail, installers.

How important are industry partnerships to grow the Smart Home market?

Robin: In the future, consumers will have many different connected devices from different suppliers in their homes. They should have the option to connect them with one other when it adds value. Therefore, I believe that cooperation between industry partners is essential.  See also my answer for Question 2.

Connected industry partners are able to deliver a complete best of all worlds solution. The last 6 months we have prepared ourselves to be one of thosepartners. We can make combinations on hardware level with our gateway over Zigbee, Z-wave and RF868 but we also introduced an open API. With it we can easily make smart combinations with industry partners who are open to work with us. A good example is the partnership with Danfoss. They are good in making great smart thermostats. We made the combination with security so that leaving home and switching on the alarm system results in setting the temperature to Eco-level. We both had great products but together we added maximum value for the consumer.

What product/service will become “can’t live without”?

Robin: There is currently no single “can’t live without”. Consumer needs, technology, household demographics, service offerings, market maturity varies per country and even per region. In the future I believe it will be the combination of products and services from different service providers, which will prove to be the winner.

How are standards encouraging or hindering Smart Home growth?

Robin: From the supplier side: at this moment in time there is technological fragmentation within the connected home ecosystem. There are many wirelessprotocols, security options, data-storage solutions and hardware options for the smart home. This creates interoperability problems and it makes it confusingfor the supplier to develop and control multiple devices. No issues will be apparent at the start but when tens or hundreds of thousands of customers are connected it will become evident that everything has to work seamlessly to keep on delivering the service levels that customers expect.

Today it is difficult for the industry to set standards and find common ground to work together. You see a lot of initiatives but no real standard. We believe, in this phase of the adoption curve that different ‘standards’ will have to co-exist next to each other, as long there is added value for the customer. We have choosen a combination of Ethernet/wifi, Zigbee, zWave, 868 and a secured public API with O.Auth authentication to connect with other parties and devices. Every added standard will add costs in the value chain. So, it is in our interest that eventually we can do with less. For now we choose to have all relevant standards inside our gateway and our cloud platform to be flexible in creating combined security-smart home solutions with the right partners.

From the consumer side: not many consumers will experience big problems right now. They start normally with one functional area and after that, they areopen for more. In 3 – 5 years, house owners will understand that one service provider with one App and one service level has a lot of advances. I believe that multiple gateways will exist next to each other and that in the future more and more products will not be needing a gateway anymore.

How important is the brand for customer loyalty and buy-in?

Robin: The brand is paramount for loyalty and buy-in. We communicate our beliefs and we deliver on the customer expectations it creates. Egardia customershave an extremely low churn rate. Customers have chosen the Egardia brand with it’s associated reliability, customer service grade and innovation rate. Whenit concerns the home, safety and reliability will make or brake the satisfaction of the smart home consumer. SmartHome is not a gadget, that you can justthrow away when it doesn’t deliver on expectations. In your home, you expect a durable and reliable solution that always works!  Are security and privacy still a concern for customers and potential customers?

Robin: Consumers still have a healthy amount of security and data concerns. We think every smart home provider should have policies in place for responsiblechoosing a secure cloud architecture, secure hardware connectability, secure APIs, and secure internal procedures for personnel. In addition we believe in the business model where a customer always owns his or her own data. And that the data has its sole purpose of enabling a great smart home experience for that customer.

What can retailers do to boost Smart Home sales?

Robin: Primarily, they have to understand what they are selling. If you sell connected lighting, you have to understand how people will or can use it. Forexample: if you explain a customer that he can switch on his light from anywhere in the world, the customers will think 'Why would I want to switch on the lightwhen I’m not at home?' If you explain that you can create a lighting scenario so it looks as if somebody is at home and burglars won’t likely come in eventhough you are on the other side of the world, then they will understand why it’s called a smart home. Not many people know what a smart home is but when the daily practical benefits are explained then people will become aware of the need. Storytelling is key right now. We know that not many consumers are familiar with what the smart home has to offer but when you explain the practical possibilities, it will become apparent that you don’t want to live without them.

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