Real Time Communications Featured Article

The Connected Home, Community and Real Time Communications

April 07, 2015

Windstream and Ovum released an interesting report this week that deserves a read for real time communications (RTC) advocates. Entitled  "Smart 2025: The Future of the Connected Home and Community," it's the sort of thing you would expect out of a Tier 1 provider -- assuming Tier 1 providers actually cared about what the future was going to be, rather than how they dictate the future based upon what they want it to be.

"Windstream is in the business of connecting communities, so we wanted to paint a picture of how connected technology will impact our lives from the home to the workplace to the classroom," said Sarah Day, senior vice president of consumer and small business at Windstream. "Connected technology is rapidly changing every aspect of everyday life from major cities down to our local communities, and this research is for everyone curious about how technology is and will continue to shape our future."

Over the next decade, all of our stand-alone bits and pieces in our houses, including security, energy efficiency and home automation, are expected to be in "mass-market infiltration" in the next three years.  That's not rocket science, given the gradual market creep of Nest on the one side and large communications providers (i.e., cable and telcos) pushing IP-based home monitoring/security systems on the other.   Within a decade, ease of use and greater interoperability is expected to make smart homes a DIY-venture.

Ovum is betting implementation will be driven to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs -- no, I'm not kidding -- with basic things like smart energy and e-health coming before "esteem and self-actualization" applications such as home automation devices, with factors such as price, advertising and design less of a factor in adoption.

I don't quite buy into the whole Maslow's pyramid scheme in the report.  It puts wearables at the top of the pyramid as a "self-actualization" need, while consumers are already embracing and being steered towards wearables as a health "physiological" necessity as a part of e-health. 

However, I agree with the report's assertion that individual "smart islands" and categories will ultimately communicate among one enough to give us "smart living" with billions of connected devices providing cross-platform and cross-application data so everything is better.

via Shutterstock

Real time communications has a vital, if just emerging, role to play in connected home/connected community environment.  It's currently the only platform agnostic standard for moving data between things in either a peer-to-peer or client-server fashion.  All these IoT devices in the home, car, person, and around the neighborhood will need to talk to each other and centralized servers to exchange everything from location information to what the current temperature is in refrigerators.

Exchanging information on a peer-to-peer basis will allow people to get more and better personalization and customization of their environments as they move from place to place.  As a person moves from the house to work, the house can "sense" the departure and turn down the hot water heater if the washer and dryer aren't running.  Upon arriving at work, the office desktop setup can move from shut-off state to save power into standby mode, ready for action at the tap of a key, along with the appropriate lighting adjustments.  During the day,  building power and cooling can be adjusted and fine-tuned based upon the number people moving in and out and between floors -- nobody has to play with a thermostat.

Modes shift again as the worker goes home. The hot water heater is turned up as he approaches and home thermostat adjusted accordingly, with information moving either on a peer-to-peer basis or to a centralized monitoring service that manages the individual's local solar system of IoT devices.  

And that's just the simply shuffling-data mode. Voice and video can be applied as appropriate in the home, car, and office, depending on the circumstances.  A problem or alarm at home can trigger an alert to both the individual's smart phone and a centralized monitoring service, with both able to review in home video to assess the problem and dispatch a technician for repair if necessary.

RTC provides the ability to bring everything together in the Internet of Things through standards such as WebRTC.  Connected everythings will need ways to exchange information both in a peer-to-peer and client-server mode.  WebRTC currently provides the best way to do this, with the added built-in benefits of supporting both voice and data streaming.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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