Content and the Connected Home

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Article ImageBack in the 1980s, George Carlin had a famous bit in which he said, "A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff." One can only imagine what comedic inspiration the late performer would've mined from connected homes in 2015, which have the ability to direct us when to go get more "stuff" or, alternatively, fetch "stuff." As household connectivity increases due to consumer adoption of broadband and wireless networks, homes (and the objects in them) are getting smarter. Products available in the Internet of Things (IoT)-defined as a state in which everyday objects are networked wirelessly and imbued with the ability to communicate without human intervention-now include an egg carton that alerts a homeowner when it's down to the last two eggs and learning thermostats that moderate temperatures in part by sensing when the home is empty.

But there's a slight problem with the household adoption of the IoT. "Right now, the technology is superseding the use case," says John Buffone, executive director and industry analyst for Connected Intelligence, an advisory service that provides analysis of the "connected consumer" and the environment in which she resides. He cites the Apple Watch as a case in point-a device whose basic functionality upon release is likely to be dwarfed by the eventual number and scope of apps being developed for Apple's highly anticipated wearable.

Who can play a key role in moving the connected home from gimmicky to "How did I live without it?" The answer is publishers, which are sitting on a wealth of compelling, engaging content desired by consumers. They are faced with opportunities-and challenges-that could allow them to play a key role in driving the everyday utility and adoption of the IoT.

Trending Toward Tipping

For publishers, figuring out which of those smart devices to align with will be the first challenge. So many players and technologies are still jockeying for a position in what almost everyone agrees will be a huge market.

A 2013 study from Gartner, Inc. estimated that the installed base of the IoT-excluding desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones-will expand to 26 billion units by 2020, up from less than a billion such devices in 2009. BI Intelligence, the research arm of Business Insider, projects a compound annual growth rate of 35% for what it calls the "Internet of Everything," with revenues in the $600 billion territory by 2019. Perhaps Boo-Keun Yoon, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics, said it best during his opening keynote at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, regarding the notion of ubiquitous connected gadgets: "It's not science fiction anymore. It's science fact."

Much of that "science fact" is centered around the connected television at present. Buffone cites Connected Intelligence research from 2014 that found 42 million U.S. households had at least one television connected to the internet via a video game console, Blu-ray Disc player, streaming media player, or the TV itself. And that number is expected to rise rapidly as services that can be delivered via the television proliferate. "We're past the early adopter phase with connected televisions," Buffone says, pointing to the rise of over-the-top (OTT) applications such as CBS All Access, HBO GO, and SHOWTIME ANYTIME that allow programming to be delivered directly to consumers.

The next category in line, in terms of widespread adoption of connected "things" in the household IoT, is wearables, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. A 2014 Gartner study predicts that by 2016, 40% of "wristworn" devices will be connected smartwatches, buoyed no doubt by the release of the Apple Watch in 2015. Noble Ackerson, founder of LynxFit, a cross-platform solution for publishing exercise content to wearable electronics, points out that "Apple tends to validate markets. And Android Wear manufacturers are already releasing their sophomore class of devices."

Networked thermostats and security systems are still in the early adoptation phase. Behind them are networked "things." These include tea kettles that can be turned on with a smartphone app or an oven that preheats itself when the homeowner leaves work and sends a text to individual family members when the roast chicken is ready. Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of the internet-?enabled home thermostat and smoke detector manufacturer Nest in 2014 was a giant step toward encouraging widespread consumer adoption of the IoT. This is especially true as it adds "Works with Nest" partnerships that leverage Nest connectivity to drive actions on other connected "stuff" in the home, such as washing machines and remote cameras. 

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