Telco-led connected home platforms are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, and Europe got another one this week as Telia unveiled its own version.
Telia Zone joins Deutsche Telekom’s Qivicon, to which KPN has also signed up, Orange’s HomeLive, and AT&T’s Digital Life, which O2 UK has promised to launch later this year.
Last week, Nokia became the latest vendor to launch a platform, joining rivals Huawei and Ericsson in an ever more crowded marketplace.
Telia Zone is the Sweden-based operator’s attempt to crack the market, which is thought to equate to less than five percent of homes in Europe having a connected home platform installed.
Rickard Damm, Telia’s Head of Innovation, tells European Communications that its completely open source platform is what sets it apart from others on the market.
“Users should able to choose any ecosystem – that’s very important to us,” he says.
Telia Zone is the customer-facing brand of Premium Zone – an open API the operator has set up for developers to build connected home services onto.
Broadband customers access these services via apps that will be activated once Telia performs a software upgrade on its routers.
There are six launch partners, connected lock company Glue, supermarket ICA, postal service Postnord, connected thermostat company Scypho, digital audiobook producer Storytel and music streaming service Spotify.
Damm says over 70 companies turned up to Telia’s first official developer day earlier this week.
When TeliaZone goes live in Q4 in Sweden – Finland and the Baltics are set to follow next year – the operator’s 1.2 million broadband customers will get access to the services on offer.
Spotify-based CoPlay is the service that Telia is keen to talk about, and with good reason – the Telia Zone concept has only come about thanks to the music streaming company.
In short, users sign into their Spotify account via the CoPlay app, which then generates a playlist from everyone’s most listened-to songs. Damm says it’s a “fun service” that could be used at dinner parties.
Telia and Spotify have a relationship that dates back several years; 12 months ago, the operator increased its stake in Spotify to 1.4 percent.
The two companies also committed resources to create with new products together as part of the deal.
Damm is the project manager for this and says CoPlay is the result.
“Spotify wanted to know if we could tell them which of their users are in the same house,” he reveals.
“[They wanted] to create something special that happens in the Spotify app when you connect to Wi-Fi from Telia.”
Damm’s team came up with a technology that enabled Spotify to get what it wanted.
The innovation chief describes the tech as “very generalised” but adds there are patents pending on it.
He says it delivers on Spotify’s aim of gaining more of a presence in the home and making music more social.
But it also led him and his team to consider that other companies might be interested in something similar.
“The next battlefield is the home,” says Damm.
“By coincidence we have created a tech that resembles many of the functionalities [offered by the likes of Google Home].”
When queried on the “coincidence”, Damm says: “Everyone is thinking in the same way.”
According to the exec, Apple’s and Google’s connected home plans are stymied by their lack of coverage in Sweden.
“Google would be happy if they had 10,000 connected homes in Sweden...we have 1.2 million,” he says.
Telia Zone will be activated on those 1.2 million routers “overnight at the flick of a switch”.
Damm is keen to emphasise that it’s not an either/or decision between Google and Telia.
“We don’t have to force to consumers to choose,” he says.
Telia Zone will be free, and Damm says it is both an attempt to add value to its broadband offering, thereby reducing churn, and to add differentiation to new sales.
Until it launches, however, his target is to attract “really good” developers.
“That’s the proof point,” Damm confirms.
Clearly, this will define the success of the platform and will be no easy task.
It has taken Deutsche Telekom several years to attract 40-odd partners to its Qivicon platform.
Gigaset Elements was the latest to join in April.
Damm says local Swedish companies are the “sweet spot” in terms of targets and claims Telia Zone can provide “value” to them.
Telia says it is “open” to discuss different revenue models with partners.
“We want to build a business around this,” says Damm.
What is impressive is that Damm says it took just 10 weeks to launch the Premium Zone portal for developers.
But he rejects the idea that this is a fail fast attempt to get into the smart home space: “It’s not rinky dink type of project at all.”
With Telia’s latest financials showing revenues in Sweden fell 2.4 percent in the first three months of the year, it is important this latest venture gets off to a good start.