November 9, 2020

    Explosive growth is expected in the home automation market as more individuals adopt smart home technology. Statista is predicting the market to be worth upward of $53.5 billion by 2022. This is an astronomical number for a largely consumer-driven market. These numbers are mostly influenced by video entertainment, followed by home security and monitoring services. Tony Testa, our wireless connectivity expert, provides some insight into this high-growth market, giving some details about what Qorvo is seeing in home automation.


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    Tony, what is home automation?

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    Home automation, sometimes referred to as a “smart home,” is the use of technology to automate your home. This technology allows you to control many electronic devices inside the home that are tied to the network or Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT network is a compilation of physical objects that can gather and share electronic information. This home automation/IoT network provides users the ability to control functions such as security, thermostats, lighting and appliances, including physical and non-physical (i.e., voice) engagement.


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    What is attributing to the rapid growth of the smart home automation market?

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    Smart home automation market growth can be accredited to consumers’ desire and need for convenience, connectivity, security and safety. The rapid growth of the IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications has also accelerated smart home automation adoption.

    The home IoT system connects products, services and end users to enable a smooth flow of data and the ability to make real-time decisions. Over the past several years, the IoT has proved its efficiency and ability to enhance automation systems' quality and consistency. Many consumers adapt their focus toward the convenience of remotely controlling their home lighting, HVAC, security, healthcare and entertainment. These use cases, combined with the ever-increasing number of internet users worldwide, are expected to further boost the growth of the overall IoT smart home automation market.


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    We often hear of the home automation market as being fragmented, can you explain?

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    There are challenges with interoperability due to market fragmentation, as many of these IoT home automation devices communicate using different standards and apps.

    The smart home automation ecosystem includes hardware, software and service segments. To ensure efficient and reliable functioning of all home automation products, the smooth and collective operation of all three segments is essential. Smart home automation manufacturers work diligently to eliminate the risk of malfunction by increasing interoperability. They do so by collaborating and partnering on agreements with software and connectivity to help overcome this challenge.

    A headache each manufacturer is trying to eliminate is the fear consumers have of being tied into one product brand or network provider as this limits overall consumer ease of use and flexibility. During network device purchases, we all fear the new product will require yet another different app download or hardware device to set up and control – adding potentially more complexity to our existing network automation control. This reliance on many differing solutions can also cause security issues.

    Manufacturers and standards bodies realize this challenge and are working to address the issue to make our lives easier and simpler.

    Apple, Google and Amazon see this as a critical hurdle as well. To increase ease and adoption rate, they are teaming up to create a standard called CHIP. CHIP stands for Connected Home over IP. The goal of CHIP is to create a radio-neutral protocol that will include a set of pre-defined schemes for connected devices. This will allow devices to understand what types of objects they are communicating with and what those objects can do. CHIP is early in its maturity, but there is a need for standardization in the IoT and smart home automation industries. These organizations are making a real effort to make things easier for consumer adoption and use.


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    What are some recent technological advancements in home automation?

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    In the past few years, advancements in technologies and software have improved connectivity solutions and the adoption of home automation controls. With the advent of Wi-Fi 6/6E, Zigbee, Thread, and Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE), the installation of automated control systems has become easier. With smaller and more efficient integrated circuitry, device manufacturers can create sleeker smart home automation products that include several protocols inside. For example, an Amazon Echo can include Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth, providing the ability to communicate with each protocol-enabled device throughout the home ecosystem. This is done using elements that are more pleasing to the eye and blend into our home environment. No longer are network devices being created with large protruding antennas, but instead, these antennas have integrated into smaller units, some with sizes only slightly larger than our smartphones.


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    How do you see healthcare in the smart home automation ecosystem?

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    The healthcare IoT market has grown exponentially over the last few years. Driven mostly by the smart watch or other consumer health wearables. Apple even has the electrocardiogram (ECG) in its watch to monitor heart patterns for any irregularities. This type of technology will become increasingly common over the coming years and will slowly migrate into smart home devices. It will also increasingly be used by healthcare providers, as the data from these devices becomes more prevalent and more accurate.

    In-home healthcare provides the potential to increase data from these wearables while at the same time reducing stress on traditional healthcare channels, like doctors and hospitals. Ultimately, this will help life expectancy in our ever-growing elderly population. The data collected by smart home devices will be increasingly used by medical doctors, mostly due to the ability to collect data 24 hours a day in a patient’s environment. The recent COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has also contributed to the need for this, as individuals are confined to the home and going to visit a doctor is sometimes difficult. Video conferencing and data monitoring will continue to increase for health and medical, as it is more convenient and can meet many medical needs in real-time.


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    You mentioned COVID-19, what if any effect has COVID-19 played in the home automation market?

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    The stay-at-home guidance issued by governments around the globe because of the COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated an increase in home-focused spending – from renovations and repairs to digital automation. The obvious video, gaming and mobile apps have all increased as consumers were forced to shift their behavior from offline activities to online. Now that most employees have moved from the work office to the home office and students have moved to distance learning, the need for home security, convenience, health services, home services and entertainment have all heightened. There is also evidence from analysts of a year-over-year rise in consumer revenue toward digital services spending.

    While research data will ultimately validate an uptick in the home automation market, it appears that COVID-19 has had an increased effect. In parallel, the advancements in Wi-Fi 6/6E deployments and 5G have helped the market flourish. The demand for greater bandwidth and capacity within homes, coupled with the broad need for the world’s population to have access and connectivity during this pandemic, have catapulted the use of the internet and connected services.


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    With smart home automation taking off, how will network devices change to meet the capacity need?

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    A faster home network means a smarter home. All this automation requires a robust network to ensure connectivity and reliability. With deployment of advanced Wi-Fi 6/6E systems and 5G, smart home devices will be connected faster and stream more data effectively. This will make the home network more powerful and provide better access to data and the cloud.

    Wi-Fi 6/6E offers more capacity, reliability, and RF range. This will enable many devices that previously competed for network capacity to work unimpeded – removing the logjams of earlier network technologies.

    5G promises the ability to provide more accurate IoT services across a wide area network. 5G will also allow more devices to untether, freeing nodes and end nodes of wires and cables while consuming minimal power.

    These faster, more capable networks with the ability to leverage cloud, Wi-Fi and 5G instantaneously, mean we will be able to create more sophisticated applications, provide and transmit larger amounts of data opening more possibilities in wireless applications. Given this, smart thermostats, automated security systems, and automated appliances will have access to more data with real-time information to help users make better decisions – progressing towards localized processing/decisions (edge computing) – while improving lag and limits of passing information to the cloud for processing.

    Wi-Fi Tech & Trends

    Read other blogs in this series to get practical design advice from Wi-Fi expert Tony Testa.

    The Mesh Network and the Advancement of IoT Devices

    Enhancing the Smart Home with Mesh Wi-Fi Systems


    Tony’s Final Thoughts

    Home automation is taking off as consumers are looking for ways to add convenience and security in their everyday life. The need for broader access and connected devices was compounded with the current COVID-19 pandemic. With more focus on the home and the connectivity of more devices, along with trying to make our stay-at-home lives easier, we are all focusing on smart devices to help. Convenience, safety, health and connectivity are key drivers of smart home automation. Qorvo is working diligently to support the growing smart home automation market demand to ensure these needs are met.


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    About the Author

    Tony Testa
    Director – Marketing, Wireless Connectivity Business Unit

    Tony Testa inspires wireless connectivity product innovations for Qorvo. With his 20 plus years of experience supporting industry alliance activities and customers, he helps engineers create state-of-the-art RF solutions that have a profound impact on our daily life.