In Part 1 of this blog post, we focused on some of the key applications and uses of M2M in a “smart home”, as well as how a real-life example may work in the future.  In this post, we focus more on some of the challenges that stand in the way of every home becoming a “smart home” in the near future.

Big question....Can we can expect all of the devices in our life to talk to each other in the near future? 

The answer is not are a few reasons why:

While it makes sense in the examples listed in Part 1 of this blog, there may not be a financial driver for many consumers to make an investment in M2M for all devices in their homes.  In the example of a sump pump, there is a significant external cost (in possible flood damage) that can be saved by the implementation of this solution.  It is the potential savings, not a consumer's desire to have a "smart pump" that will drive the reason for purchase.   I am not totally convinced that there may be such a desire to link many normal household appliances for most consumers, except for the "coolness factor".  As well, based on the incredible drop in the cost of many of these appliances, I am not sure that most consumers would pay extra for a model that is "smart", and may rather opt to pay more for one with better features.  So, M2M may end up being a free "nice to have" on many of the higher priced models only.

Cost of complexity  
While there are many great companies that can help OEMs integrate connectivity to their solution, you have to wonder why many manufacturers would want to make their devices more complex.  As it stands now, one of the largest costs for many manufacturers of low-to-mid cost appliances is customer support and unnecessary warranty claims.  I wonder how many more calls they may get (driving up support costs) and if they could recoup this money in extra upfront sales and recurring revenue from monitoring applications.  As well, since they often will have several models of the same product, how much overlap there is (in terms of design and certification cost) among the different lines?  Like in the point below, they may choose to put this only in their "flagship model" and not in the ones designed for larger consumer markets.

Are we speaking the same language?   
One of the biggest obstacles in the world of M2M today (and I have certainly talked about it enough already) is the lack of a compatibility among the different device manufacturers.  Today, a device from Sierra or Digi can only be managed by their respective Device Management platforms and neither one of these platforms can manage a device from CradlePoint, Sixnet or Multitech.  So, in a field where there aren't a ton of players, we can't find a common platform to manage all of them. are we expecting an alarm clock from any one of a few dozen manufacturers to talk with a dishwasher (also from dozens of manufacturers) and for them both to talk to your washing machine (from, you win the prize if you guessed, from dozens of manufacturers to talk) when we cannot get a few devices to talk now? This market desperately needs some standards for it to have any chance.  As it is now, the only way that you could get such devices to chat would be to buy devices only from one manufacturer.  Unless Apple comes out with an iToaster and a iJavamachine sometime in the future, that may never happen!

Who plays the role of traffic cop?
So, you now have solved the issue of devices talking to each other (please play along in the home game with me on this).....who handles the overall intelligence for the system?  As it stands now, there are a few possible players who will strive for this role:

  • Consumer software and hardware companies (like Microsoft, Apple and Google) will want you to use your PC (if you still use one) or your tablet/smartphone to act as a traffic cop here.  They will boast about how the device will easily have the intelligence to control much of these functions.  The drawback for tablets/smartphones is that your device will have to be on and in the house at all times for optimal functionality.  The drawback on using PCs is that the number being sold is falling like a stone, so it may not be the best platform to invest in going forward.
  • Router companies (like Netgear and others) will claim that they have the best platform to handle this, and there are some valid points as to why.  First, routers tend to be both stationary and always-on, two valuable points in their favour.  As well, many of them have the built-in ability to effectively route traffic (makes sense....they are called routers after all), so it can ensure that your devices are speaking in a timely manner.  However, for this to happen, it would likely mean that the router companies would have to lead the charge in this space, as they would be the ones most likely developing the standardization charge.  While I am sure that Cisco has the desire, they may have to partner up with another company (like Google) to perfect the experience.  Since there haven’t been any announcements yet, don't count on it anytime soon.
  • Manufacturers of the appliances themselves aren't likely to want to be shut out here.  The ability to offer services and features that make you not only more likely to buy another (or two) more devices from them, but also the ability to make your purchase "sticky" is a huge upside for them.  The problem here becomes that, like the aforementioned modem manufacturers, this tends to lead to a silo-based solution where only one manufacturer's products can be controlled by their systems. 

So, is the idea of the smart home doomed?  Far from it.  When there is as much money at stake as there is this space, standards/protocols will be created.  It happened in the world of PCs and it will happen here.  It just may take a bit longer than we all think for it to happen....

As always, let Novotech know how we can help with your M2M needs, such as antenna selection.  You can visit our web page @  As well, feel free to reach out to me directly ....larry(@)  You can also follow us on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) and you can follow me personally as well (@LBNovotechM2M).