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Opinion The 'smart homes' of the near future – Irish homes will have about 500 connected devices

In order to be ready for the connected home of the future, we need to be getting our ‘infrastructure house’ in order now.

LAST WEEK, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White, made the ambitious promise of delivering high-speed broadband by 2020 to every home and business in the country. The commitment will ensure that people living in rural Ireland will have the same life changes and opportunities that people in urban areas have and will also help to attract investment to these regions.

As someone who works in the ICT industry, I welcome this announcement as it is imperative that we have digital equality in this country. It is also essential that, as we look forward to the delivery date of 2020, that the infrastructure we are putting in place does not just work for the Ireland of today, but has the longevity to meet our needs in six years’ time.

Analyst house Gartner released some striking research recently, estimating that by 2022 houses in wealthier nations, such as Ireland, will have on average 500 connected devices, covering areas from utilities to lighting, music to electric shavers. While this figure seems quite remarkable, the reality of this shift is game-changing.

Well connected 

When you look around your home now, you may see four or five connected devices in the form of smart phones, tablets or a connected TV. But it’s not an inconceivable leap to see more areas of the home being connected in the not-so-distant future. The wave of connected thermostats in the UK with the launch of tools such as Nest and Hive is the perfect example of this. Over time, the number of devices connecting will quickly stack up and demand more from our digital infrastructure.

While the connected home is still very much in development, it is clear that the evolution toward a truly ‘connected home’ is full of potential for consumers and businesses alike.

What much of the industry is currently talking about is how the multitude of connected products, made by different manufacturers, will interact with one another, with various industry bodies being set up to address this, such as Thread Group. While this is important, what I believe needs to be looked at closely, discussed, and monitored, is whether the connectivity infrastructure of today will be able to cope with the volume of data being produced tomorrow.

The exponential growth in the number of connected devices in a home will dramatically increase the demands being placed on bandwidth and our industry, which will be supporting this, need to be looking at how the data produced by this increase in connectivity will be sent, stored and managed. With over 500 devices in a house constantly sending and receiving data over the network there are significant infrastructure questions that need to be analysed, addressed and taken action on.

Getting our house in order

In order to be ready for the connected home of the future, we need to be getting our ‘infrastructure house’ in order now. Homes in 2020 will need a network for their data that is well connected and provides appropriate coverage for the range of their products, services or offerings. We also have to ensure that we have technology partners who understand the connected home opportunity and can provide a range of services to enable them alongside other customers. Without getting the connectivity side of the connected home right, the quality of the device of the content is irrelevant. The quality of the experience will always be determined by the connectivity constraints.

The connected home is an exciting prospect and it will be interesting to see some of the use cases manufacturers will come up with. But for it to truly make an impact it is not just the devices that need to be thought about, the supporting infrastructure has to take an equally important position in the development process. Tomorrow’s ‘connected home’ is today’s infrastructure concern and the Government’s ambitious plan needs to take this in to consideration in order to put the right steps in place to ensure success.

Tanya Duncan is Managing Director of Interxion Ireland.

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