One of the reasons that many new technologies fail is because they only get the backing of one or two companies. The HD DVD is a recent example – while it offered exceptional quality, it really only enjoyed the backing of Toshiba. In contrast, Sony and Phillips were among the early backers of Blu Ray, and giant publishing companies like 20th Century Fox were soon brought on board. Ultimately, this meant that Blu Ray succeeded whereas HD DVD soon became a failed technology.
The problem for manufacturers is that they fear collaboration with other organisations. They believe that developing a technology in tandem with another organisation will mean that they lose potential and endure diminished profits. It is a difficult dilemma for modern brands to face.
However, a number of technology giants have put their heads together to form a smart home consortium – a group of companies that will develop a standard for the technology behind smart home systems.
There is a major challenge in creating a true smart home. While we may have Hotpoint washing machines and dishwashers, we are equally likely to have a Samsung fridge, a Philips TV, and a Panasonic Blu Ray. Then, of course, there’s the Nintendo Wii, the Microsoft Xbox, and the Sony Playstation.
The idea of the smart home consortium is that at least some of these organisations will create devices that can communicate with one another. This means that every item in the home, from the games console to the stereo, would be able to combine into a single system.
Technophiles love talk of the smart home. It means that a single controller could be used to turn lights on and off, play a song through all the speakers in the house, and share content between media devices. It means that remote access could be used to set the cooker going when you’re at work, and check to see whether you remembered to turn the washing machine off when you go away for the weekend.
The consortium currently consists of ABB, Bosch, Cisco and LG. They have agreed to work towards creating smart home standards and, now that there are a few well-known brands giving it their backing, it should make it easier to attract other companies. While companies may be reticent to share their knowledge with competitors, they will be a lot more worried about being left behind and being forced out of the smart home of the future.