PARTNER FEATURE : The smart home, powered by millions of interconnected IoT devices, has moved from novelty to commonplace in the space of a few years. Smart lighting, voice activated automations, app controlled HVAC, and smart locks and home security is everywhere. These are products and services that deliver entertainment, convenience and security for the average household.

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global smart home market is expected to grow from $99.89 billion in 2021 to $380.52 billion in 2028. This represents a huge market opportunity for communication service providers who are increasingly looking to smart home services for additional revenues, higher customer stickiness and brand differentiation.

Smart home adoption has faced some challenges in the past, such as ecosystem fragmentation, complex installation requirements and high costs. However, technology advancements have helped to make some systems easy to install, driving down the price of smart home devices and making them more accessible for everyone.

The issue of fragmentation is in the process of being solved. At the start of October this year the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) and its members announced Matter, a standard and certification programme that will deliver simplicity and interoperability across IoT devices, brands and systems, which in turn will drive scale up and costs down. It will also deliver reliability and improved security.

The formation of Matter is one of the biggest changes seen in the smart home industry for years, where some of the biggest names in technology are working together to create a more unified system. Matter is backed by 280 member companies that is made up of who’s who of technology providers, with the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google among its members.

Why cellular carriers are well-placed in the smart home
According to a Cisco report, fixed broadband, wi-fi and cellular networks will connect almost 30 billion devices to the internet by 2023, by which time IoT connections will account for half of the total connected devices and connections worldwide. The same report also projects that connected home applications, such as home automation, home security, and connected white goods will present 48% of total IoTconnections by 2023, and it’s no surprise that carriers are increasingly looking to smart home services as a new growth point.

While Silicon Valley giants like Amazon, Apple and Google dominate news headlines within the smart home sector, many people may not see the unique position of telecom carriers in this segment. Carriers have a strong and trusted relationship with their vast subscriber bases. While smart home deployment will vary from country to country, in most developed countries it is fair to assume that most people of bill-paying age will have a mobile subscription. That represents a potential market for smart home solutions of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Carriers are also well placed to offer the convenience of installation services, bundled billing and no-fuss interoperability with other smart home products. With an existing network of local installers and technicians, MNOs can make owning a smart home less daunting for many customers by providing smart home installation and consulting services for their customers. This places operators at a significant advantage compared to pure smart home and tech companies.

Furthermore, IoT services – much like wi-fi or cellular connectivity – are expected by consumers to operate in the background 24/7. While people might take them for granted, they certainly notice the service if it is not present – particularly in situations when it would be deeply beneficial in emergency cases such as a break-in or fire. Even home automation products that deliver convenience, such as voice activated lighting, are missed if they are suddenly unavailable. Therefore, being able to offer customer with 24/7 support can be a key differentiator for carriers compared to standalone device suppliers.

LG U+ and Aqara join forces for home security solution
South Korean technology giant LG Electronics is also one of the major players within CSA pushing for the Matter standard. So it should come as no surprise to learn that fellow LG Corp subsidiary and network operator LG U+ has marched into the smart home segment and teams up with smart home vendor Aqara to provide a co-branded smart home security solution, My Home Guard.

My Home Guard is available via a monthly subscription. The solution is easy to install for users as everything is pre-programed with LG U+’s ecosystem, and includes both the pre-paired hardware devices and the 24/7 home security services jointly developed by both parties. Moreover, the security package also provides subscribers with a one-click-to-police function on its mobile app, which easily alerts local police station in case of emergencies. Home accident insurance is also covered in this package, so that subscribers will be compensated in the case of break-ins or fire damage.

Through this collaboration, LG U+ is able to offer a one-stop home security solution that incorporates smart devices, software, cloud storage, home insurance and even quick access to local police force. The My Home Guard package makes it much simpler and easier for average users to watch over their homes and families.

This co-branded solution was first released by LG U+ and Aqara in the Korean market in 2020, and soon it attracted hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Recently the two companies have upgraded this home security solution to the second generation, adding advanced features to the surveillance camera including pan-and-tilt rotation and AI-enabled human tracking and pet tracking.

The combination of LG U+’s wide consumer reach and Aqara’s profound know-how in the smart home industry forms a deep, synergetic relationship. Aqara contributes an end-to-end IoT solution including software, hardware and cloud platform, which accelerates the software and hardware development of this home security solution while reducing time-to-market, R&D investment and operation overhead. The partnership with smart home experts like Aqara helps carriers to augment and optimize their smart home offerings, and to capitalize on the enormous IoT opportunities.

With over a decade of experiences in IoT and home automation, Aqara has a broad portfolio of more than 700 SKUs and offers partners customizable, end-to-end solutions for an array of use cases such as security, internal environment control, automation control system and even elderly care. Its expertise in low-power IoT protocols like Zigbee and smart home product development provides carriers high flexibility to create value-added smart home services that address local market demands. Aqara also offers private cloud deployment to carriers, which boosts data privacy, cloud-data throughput and end user experience.

Aqara has a firm belief in the smart home future of interoperability and openness, and the company’s products are compatibile with almost all major smart home systems. As a CSA member and an early participant of the Matter standard, the company is also working with major stakeholders such as Apple, Google and Samsung to quickly implement the new standard. Carriers can capitalize on Aqara’s Matter experiences to build smart home solutions with seamless interoperability.

In the telecom industry, Aqara has helped more than a dozens of carriers to seize IoT and smart home opportunities, including Celcom, China Mobile, China Telecom, Far EasTone, LG U+, Maxis, M1 and Singtel.

The case for carriers
When it comes to smart home technology, mobile network providers around the world are extremely well-placed to leverage the trusted relationship they have with millions of subscribers. There is a clear thirst among consumers for smart home devices that are secure, private, easy to install and use, and interoperable with other smart home solutions.

And with Matter gaining traction the larger players already in the market are likely to gain an even stronger position. If an organization is not part of the picture now, it could be playing catch up for a long time. By collaborating with the right IoT vendors in the space, MNOs can unlock even more smart home opportunities beyond security, as smart home applications can be far-reaching.