The market for integrated home systems, automation, and control has always been seen as attractive, but it has failed to realise its potential as people strive to find a single ‘Killer Application’.

However, recent market conditions have reinvigorated interest in home management, and once again we see companies seeking to hit a home-run by searching for a single application that will finally define the market. Intamac believe that this is a mistake – there is no single Killer Application – the route to realising the true potential of this market is through simple measured steps, and sadly, there are no short-cuts!

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This view is supported by history. When Electricity first became available to the public, it received a muted reception. It was expensive, the ecosystem needed to pipe Electricity to domestic properties made it difficult to role out. Even where businesses were willing to make the investment, customers questioned the value of Electricity – consumers had gas and paraffin for light, and generally went to bed when it got dark, so they perceived it to be of little value.

What made Electricity an essential utility in every home wasn’t the fact that Electricity could produce light. The market took off when companies like General Electric helped develop the ecosystem to reduce the cost of delivery, and produced low cost electrical appliances that added value and made it desirable. It was the development of fridges, heaters, air conditioning, cookers, food mixers and kettles which suddenly made Electricity an essential utility in every home. There was no single ‘Killer Application’; what spurred growth was the availability of a wide range of devices and appliances that made use of Electricity, offering lifestyle benefits and creating new needs and desires amongst the public.

Intamac believe this is how Broadband will grow to become an essential utility in every domestic property.

Like Electricity, Broadband did not appeal to everyone when it was only providing faster access to web pages on a PC. It is the continuous development of the ecosystem that allows Broadband to reach more homes, and to be more easily piped around the home, that is driving growth. In particular, it has been the ability to use Broadband for entertainment applications that has been the real driver to date. However, as the history of Electricity shows us, there is another phase of growth to come with the advent of low-cost devices and appliances that will exploit Broadband to deliver convenience, comfort and care in the home. This is the phase in which home management will finally realise its full potential.

Intamac argue that internet platforms will provide the key building block in the ecosystem needed to enable this new phase of growth; platforms that enable consumers to interact with their home, and all the devices within it, through an internet enabled computer, mobile phone or pda. Recent development work with partners such as BT and Cisco Linksys, has lead to the development and launch of innovative new product and service ‘bundles’ for the home. The positive response to these new products and services suggests that this approach can work and that the market is ready.

However, as with electricity, these products and services will only become mass market propositions when consumers can afford them, they have a perceived value and benefit to lifestyle, and all you have to do to make them work, is plug them in! As an example, Intamac have developed a broadband home monitoring & security service for British Telecom, which can be self-installed by the consumer. The complete system retails for under $300. This provides the consumer with new levels of protection in the home and the ability to remotely manage their systems for a low monthly fee. It is possible to integrate IP cameras and have pictures delivered to mobile phones, and online video storage. As a next step, low-cost home automation devices can be integrated. Intamac believe it is this modular “pick and mix” approach that will help educate the customer and stimulate growth.

These products and services give consumers simple and exciting capabilities. By adopting a platform-centric approach, companies such as BT are able to scale up offerings with attractive support packages that generate recurring revenues from a mass market customer base, and increase their customer retention. Moreover, these products and services are a first step in a huge growth market. Intamac are working to network a wide portfolio of partner products and to help add features that will allow them to be deployed into new and attractive segments such as Telecare, and utility and appliance management. Whilst web platforms like Intamac’s are being recognised as key node in this new home management ecosystem, it is the advent of low cost wireless networking devices, with technology such as Z-Wave and Zigbee, low-cost IP cameras at under $100 retail, and solutions for remote management of routers that will begin to really allow the market to develop.

So, if you have been searching for the single ‘Killer Application’, and come to the conclusion that it would be easier to find the end of a rainbow, you may want to try a more measured approach to attacking the market. Adopting a low risk strategy through partnership in this growing market, providing simple product and service ‘bundles’ which utilise Broadband and can be integrated together, will help demonstrate the value and benefits of home management and automation to consumers.

Intamac Systems Ltd are the UK’s market leader in the field of Internet enabled security monitoring systems. The Internet is the fastest growing technology in history and is creating new opportunities to offer customers exciting new services. Intamac have embraced this technology to develop an Internet platform that can provide new ways of monitoring alarms and alerting customers: The Intamac Home Manager™ is the world’s first Internet based property monitoring service. Designed to support the average home, customers can buy a level of service to suit their needs, and this can be managed by using their website or by calling a contact centre.

Intamac Systems Limited is continuously working to develop the communications infrastructure and services that will enable systems and appliances to be networked using the Internet. As the home and business environment become more and more automated, Intamac will be able to provide their customers with the ability to monitor and control these systems remotely from a website, a mobile phone, or any other compatible device.