The December holidays are coming to a close along with 2014, while there is still some frenzied shopping going on, the end is near and the view of the market is clearing. There will be much to be disappointed about for most retailers, according to the news chatter more generally, but when it comes to the Consumer Electronics (CE) sector, there's still an effect on cautious spending, but the high-ranking gifts are carrying chips inside.
The smart hub proliferation
The Internet of Things (IoT) is quite evident on gift lists and in stores. There is not only the usual draw for CE that we traditionally see, but now the idea of adding light bulbs and door locks to the list includes the electronics industry. Connectivity is the central point. The smartphone or tablet is not just the gateway to the internet but it is the key to the home and home entertainment space. That is really an important shift, even though it might seem a bit obvious when you think about it. We see more and more that smart device connectivity is being extended by having their functionality go beyond making them "just" a TV remote. The addition to the home (and gift list) are hubs – lighting hubs, remote hubs, video security hubs, you-name-it hubs.
Right now in the SmartHome ecosystem, these hubs are one method to connect between the individual smart systems (like lights, music/TV, thermostats and smoke alarms, door locks, security systems, etc.) and the "universal remote" which is generally seen as the smart phone or tablet or a system like the Logitech Ultimate Home (remote and smartphone as gateway) which connects with roughly 270,000 "home entertainment devices." The hub systems are going to create a bit of a device clustering in the home for consumers, with many system requiring their own hub to extend the compatibility to smartphones and tablets and/or to coordinate them into a single, interconnected system like through the Logitech Ultimate Home.
For the CE market, this is great news (even if it is cluttering living room entertainment centers) because each hub is its own wireless gateway with a nice BoM supporting market growth and (eventually) demanding service and repair and additional support. That's a bit of a grinch's view of a nice holiday gift, but from a market analysis perspective, it’s a demand driver.
LED Smart lights to take off?
On the semiconductor and electronics side, this is all great news. IoT proliferation will happen by enticing consumers to try something new and cool, let's face it, cool and tech sell each other. Case in point, now the idea of a light bulb entered the CE space in a very real way as lighting is moving to a more central position in the IoT and SmartHome.
Right now these hubs are device specific, like the Phillips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting system that uses the capabilities of LED color spectra to allow for customized light settings from color to brightness based on whatever the users wants to base those changes on. There are a few smart home lighting players right now, but what's interesting about Phillips is that they have chosen to have a more open system and include software applications that users can run through their smartphone to choose preset lighting configurations, settings to go with events like movie night (or pre-programmed holiday light shows!) or sync with gaming programs, etc. This all sounds like a pretty cool and fun adult tech toy to help brighten the holiday season – bad pun absolutely intended.
With CES 2015 just a few short weeks away, Smith's own Todd Traylor will again be reporting from the trade show floor and pointing us in the directions that will shape our industry and CE world for the next year or so. Stay tuned and happy holidays! We'll be back next week to share more market views and insights.