Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Boris Maurer, Communications & Media Industry Lead for Europe at Accenture, urges communications service providers to seize the smart home opportunity.
Homes all over the world are becoming increasingly connected. Now you can turn off the lights or adjust your central heating from the comfort of your sofa. And as the cloud-capable players continue to enter the home at a blisteringly fast pace, the number of devices we’re starting to depend on – from voice assistants and speakers to radiators or lightbulbs – grows by the day. Thanks to low power requirements, low latency and fast speeds courtesy of 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) will only accelerate. The impact of COVID-19 has clearly transformed consumer behaviour too, with many people self-isolating at home, creating a greater desire for high-speed connectivity and in-home entertainment. As outlined in ‘The Future Home in the 5G Era’ book, this presents opportunities for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to build customer relevance and trust.
However, whilst technology companies battle it out to launch the best smart devices, and mobile network operators compete to offer unrivalled 5G coverage, today’s consumers are yet to realise the ‘connected home nirvana’ they were promised. Instead, there is even more fragmentation and technologies are held back by too many isolated point-to-point device solutions that are difficult to set up and don’t deliver the interconnectivity that could genuinely assist them. And whilst each individual engages with their home set up differently, they’re yet to experience an ecosystem that personalises to each and every person living under the same roof, let alone receive upgrades to the user experience on current devices. We need a player who can bring all the strands together to create a harmonious, personalised ecosystem, that includes technology systems from device manufacturers, platform providers and app designers, as well as input from companies that address increasingly critical consumer needs, but it’s a niche yet to be filled.
As people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and consume more news and entertainment content, they’re more reliant than ever on the connectivity that their CSPs provide. Wireless and fixed-line broadband are the foundations on which any living service experience can be enabled, so it makes sense that the providers of these services – the CSPs – take on this challenge. By unlocking the future home ecosystem, becoming the concierge-of-choice for the Future Home, CSPs can help consumers to set up their smart devices seamlessly and securely on their network, personalising it for each user, across all age groups, and guiding them through every single integration as their device ecosystem expands.
It’s a big move for any CSP to take and they would need to take strategic steps to realise the opportunity, including investments in the structure and culture of their business, but there are three unavoidable reasons why they should do it – and fast.
Experience is everything
Ofcom recently revealed that over 20 million UK households are no longer on the original contract from their broadband provider and are overpaying as a result. CSPs are now obliged to inform their customers of when their contract ends and how much they’ll be spending going forwards. It’s a move that will promote competition as they now need to focus on the customer experience they provide more than ever.
Offering a ‘future home concierge’ service is a prime way for CSPs to improve their customer experience. It could help customers to ensure their devices are set up securely, fully connected, offering accurate network diagnostics and automating software updates seamlessly. And it’s a service that conveys to customers that CSPs care about the quality of the network as well as how best they can utilise it.
As consumers place more spend, data and trust within their home systems, it’s up to the CSPs to help customers realise the full potential of what IoT can bring. The CSPs that do this successfully will be the ones that keep loyal customers.
It’s all about the data
Data is a new asset class for businesses, and IoT produces a great deal of it. With the right consent and transparency, CSPs could ethically collect data on when, why and how consumers choose to use their smart devices. For the CSPs that enable a personalised future home experience, the data gained will prove to be invaluable, giving them true understanding of the dynamics within each and every household. The result? Insight that enables brands to offer a relevant and tailored customer experience, while also helping device manufacturers and service providers to improve their offerings.
Lead the IoT race
The opportunity to provide consumers with a secure, holistic view of their universe of connected products and services is now. The home ecosystem includes device manufacturers, platform providers, app designers and more. CSPs already have the trust of consumers and provide the connectivity, so will be central in the ecosystem and make an obvious choice to take the leading role, unlocking the potential for innovation and growth for all partners. But disruptive brands are known for challenging the status quo, of course, so that outcome isn’t a guarantee.
As consumers increasingly embrace connected products which improve everything from their health, workplace and lifestyle, many industries are thinking about how they can get involved. Whilst the key components of each individual’s IoT ecosystem exist, consumers still require the technological ‘glue’ that draws it all together and ensures it’s working effectively and constantly evolving. The businesses that tap into consumer demand for IoT that’s seamless and secure will prove themselves to be just as indispensable as the home itself. The race is on to establish the first future home concierge, and if they choose to take part, it’s a competition the CSPs can win.
Boris Maurer is a Managing Director and Communications & Media Industry Lead for Europe at Accenture. He has served telecommunications, energy and high-tech clients for more than two decades and has helped clients develop strategies for connected home and living spaces. Boris is based in Berlin.