Internet of Things Konzept: Steuerung der Küchengeräte
© Gorodenkoff /
2024-07-01 VDE dialog

“Now smart homes are getting really interesting!”

So far, smart homes have fallen short of expectations, but this is about to change – thanks to a new standard and the possibilities that artificial intelligence will offer. This is the opinion of Adalbert Neumann, managing director of Busch-Jaeger Elektro and spokesperson for the Smart Living business initiative.

VDE dialog: There was a time when the smart home business was predicted to grow exponentially and unchecked. What has become of this?

Adalbert Neumann: In my view, there have been two major peaks in the development of smart homes: the first was around ten years ago, when app stores were integrated into home automation and the first Alexas and Siris managed to raise and lower blinds or switch lights on and off. The second peak then came during the Covid pandemic. People had the time and motivation to get to grips with the topic of smart homes and home offices. Since then, things have become a little quieter again, though. Currently, the technology is developing in a linear fashion.

But is it true that your hopes have been somewhat dashed?

I can’t say much about the development of simple solutions, for example from IKEA or the German company EQ-2 with its Homatik products. There are no precise market figures. But in the professional smart home sector, we as a manufacturer certainly believed that penetration would be faster. The fact is that professional home automation systems currently still represent only a small market share in the building automation sector and the costs for consumers are higher than with conventional installation.

Porträtfoto von Adalbert Neumann

Adalbert Neumann ist Vorsitzender des Vorstandes der Wirtschaftsinitiative Smart Living sowie Vorsitzender der Geschäftsführung der Busch-Jaeger Elektro GmbH, einem Unternehmen der ABB-Gruppe.

| Busch-Jaeger

Why did this happen?

There are the well-known barriers, above all the issue of interoperability and connectivity. Although the KNX standard – which originally comes from building automation – is a technological development in the right direction, such a system always involves a great deal of effort, and you need well-trained tradespeople to install and commission the system. Nevertheless, some interesting developments and trends are underway that suggest this could change in the future. With the further development of technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and IoT, smart home systems can become more efficient and cost-effective. And integrating affordable DIY smart solutions into professional systems that are open to other manufacturers will mean the entry barriers for consumers can be lowered. They can then design the system at their own pace and flexibly according to their own requirements. This could change the market dynamics.

Matter has been a new standard for a few years now, backed by industry giants such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung. What do you expect from it?

A great deal! I expect that Matter will certainly bring some momentum to the market. With Matter and the Thread wireless technology, it is now finally possible for components from different manufacturers to communicate with each other. Getting started in home automation with DIY solutions and then expanding to the comprehensive functions offered by a professional system is much easier. So Matter opens up possibilities that were previously unavailable to end customers in home automation.

There have already been several attempts to agree on a standard. Will Matter prevail?

That happened a long time ago. Apple and the like can of course use their muscle – by which I mainly mean their financial power – to push something through more quickly than, for example, a German or European initiative. Matter is already integrated in every iPhone and every Samsung phone. So the question is not whether Matter is coming, but what role we as German and European manufacturers will play in the Matter world in the future. If we do it wisely, we will be solution providers within this world and not just product suppliers. Because in such a role, we would have no long-term future on the market.

What is the current state of German and European competitiveness in this area?

Good! Some people believe that the General Data Protection Regulation, the Cyber Resilience Act and all these European regulations are an obstacle for the market. We, on the other hand, think the opposite is true. We believe that the legislation in Europe gives us a certain competitive advantage. All surveys clearly show how important it is to end customers that their homes are secure and cannot be hacked. In our view, this will be a positive differentiating feature in the future. Anyone who can’t offer that will be second best.

But so far the big markets aren’t here in Europe, but in the USA and China. And people there often don’t take such a narrow view of the issue.

The question is in which area. When it comes to commercial buildings, for example in hotels or offices, great care is already taken worldwide to ensure that data is used securely. The picture is currently more differentiated for plug and play solutions in the smart home sector. However, I am convinced that there will be a rethink here too – at least in terms of protection against manipulation, cyber attacks and espionage. There are different needs in different countries. People outside Europe often don’t care what Alexa and the like record and use elsewhere, as long as they don’t suffer any noticeable disadvantage as a result.

We started the interview with a look back at the past few years. To conclude, what is your prediction for the coming years?

I think the smart home is now getting really interesting. And this is due to the potential in the field of artificial intelligence. A system only becomes truly smart when it can independently process all possible available data and draw conclusions from that. At that point, it’s not just about offering users a little extra convenience; instead, we’re also talking about issues such as the sustainability of buildings or energy efficiency. “Particularly in view of the fact that buildings are responsible for around 40 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide, I see enormous potential here that will increasingly come onto the radar and greatly influence purchasing decisions in the medium term.”

Interview by Martin Schmitz-Kuhl

VDE dialog - the technology magazine