A Nokia exec has admitted the company is late to the smart home market, but predicted that its new single box solution would make it stand out from the crowd.

The Finland-based vendor unveiled its offering last month.

Nokia Smart Home is based on a residential gateway unit and comes with an app, a backend server for user authentification and data storage, plus a device management system.

It claims to support 72 percent of all smart home devices using the Wi-Fi, Z-Wave and ZigBee standards and is due to launch before the end of the year.

Laszlo Gyalog, Fixed Networks Marketing for Smart Home at Nokia, admits the company is a latecomer to the market but adds: “If you look at integrated devices leveraging on the stregths of a telco then we are the first ones.”

His argument is based on the fact that Nokia’s offering is a single box solution.

Looking at its rivals, Huawei offers support for smart home services via its NetOpen platform – seven operators are known to have signed up for this – as well as providing a router for consumers to which they can add their own connected services.

Ericsson, meanwhile, remains in talks with AT&T about bringing its Digital Life solution to international customers.

But it is not vendor rivals that Gyalog views as the major competition.

Rather, he cites Deutsche Telekom’s Qivicon platform as the benchmark in Europe.

The Germany-based operator has, since 2011, built up an ecosystem of over 40 companies that have developed smart services that will run over its Home Base device.

It must be connected to a router and it only supports the HomeMatic protocol as standard, meaning users must connect a USB if they want to use devices based on ZigBee or Wi-Fi.

Nevertheless, KPN and energy company eww Group have both signed up to roll it out in the Netherlands and Austria.

Orange has its Homelive platform in France, while last month Telia unveiled its new offering.

Gyalog describes Qivicon and others as taking an OTT approach to the smart home that “completely bypasses any service provider value add”.

His argument falls down somewhat when looking at Telia Zone, which is also based on a router and is backed up by an open source platform for developers to build services upon.

[Read more: Telia’s Head of Innovation: Our connected home platform is no “rinky dink” project]

Nokia is attempting to foster its own developer ecosystem through ng Connect, a programme it founded to bring together a range of partners looking to develop digital services for a range of sectors, including automotive, energy and retail.

A look at its website, however, shows that none of the current concepts being worked on are focused on the smart home.

Gyalog maintains that it is “important” to Nokia’s offering but says it is “only one of the possibilities” open to operators and that not every telco will need to use it.

Both Nokia and Telia remain playing catchup with Qivicon, which Gyalog concedes does have “an established ecosystem”.

To date, it has over 40 partners signed up.

Of course, operators do not necessarily need to rely on a platform approach.

Just over 12 months ago, Telefónica teamed up with Verisure to add a single home security service to its quad-play offering in its home market.

But Gyalog claims to have been at an event where the Spanish operator admitted that this strategy “may not be the best one”.

He cites the fact that Verisure has its own agenda to sell its smart home products direct to customers.

Telefónica does not publish figures on how many people have signed up to its quintuple-play offering. When it comes to services, the Nokia exec says that there are four use cases that the company is focusing on: the “no brainers” of home security and automation, plus smart metering and digital health.

It is perhaps the latter that is most interesting, given Nokia spent €170 million on digital healthcare company Withings in April.

Withings’ product portfolio includes activity trackers, weighing scales, thermometers, blood pressure monitors and home and baby monitors.

Gyalog confirms: “We plan to introduce Withings into the smart home.”

The elephant in the room here is the combined power of Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, who all have designs on this space.

Telcos, naturally, have no given right to assume they will be the channel of choice for smart homes.

Says Gyalog: “The whole point of the telco is that they are a single point in the home.

“If you prefer a DIY approach you can do it but you will end up with seven or eight different hubs and the same number of apps on your smartphone.”

He assumes, it seems, that the internet giants will not be able to convince users that their services are simply better.

It is a battle that telcos have fought and lost many times before.

Gyalog rightly points out that the smart home remains a nascent market.

He says telcos “need support” and that Nokia plans to undertake a number of trials and proofs of concept later in the year.

The Nokia Smart Home platform, which is only available on FTTH networks currently, will be expanded to include Ethernet and, depending on demand, G.Fast and EPON.

With discussions underway with “a number” of operators, Gyalog predicts that the first customer announcements are expected in Q3.

Nokia is making a sizeable bet on the smart home, but however good its first offering is, it is reliant on its telco customers to make it happen.

Their track record suggests Nokia’s late entry may not be the eventual winner.

 

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