Energy and tech companies team up for smart home automation

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As the digitalisation of energy management and the Internet of Things intensifies with the arrival of technologies such as machine learning and capabilities including automation, consumers in Europe are now demanding innovative smart home and energy services from providers.

The demand is pushing energy services and technology companies to integrate their solutions and come up with advanced mechanisms that can help consumers to address challenges such as high energy bills and the removal of manual processes in doing so.

In response to this trend, energy company Enel X has partnered with data services firm Unidata and communications technology company ZTE to launch an integrated smart home connectivity solution.

The launch of the solution is part of the companies’ efforts to ensure increasingly advanced and cost-effective smart home management.

The solution will enable consumers to use a single platform, an internet modem, to control home heating and lighting and monitor energy consumption in real-time.

The solution – called Gigafiber Smart Home – comprises Unidata’s internet connectivity solution with Enel X’s Homix smart home technology and equipment and ZTE’s Wi-fi modem.

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Unidata’s package will also include unlimited calls whilst Enel X’s will include a smart home energy management system, smart light bulbs and smart room range. Users will be able to manage smart home devices directly from smartphones using the Homix app. Alexa users can also download the Homix skill for voice control, making home management.

Renato Brunetti, the CEO of Unidata, said: “The choice of this partnership, embodies everything that characterises and will continue to characterise all our lives in the future, both at home and at work: high performance, speed, the Internet of Things and Home Automation.

IoT and smart home market in Italy

The launch of the product comes at a time when the Italian Internet of Things (IoT) market is evolving. A study conducted by the special IoT Lab of Italy’s largest technical university Polimi states that the country’s IoT market generated €6 billion ($7.2 billion) in 2020 of which €505 million ($609.9 million) was generated within the smart home segment alone. The majority of the revenue within the smart home sector was due to increasing sales in smart boilers, thermostats and conditioners which are used for managing heating and air conditioning.

In regard to consumer awareness of smart homes in Italy, over two-thirds of Italian consumers have heard of the smart home at least once (69%), Polimi’s study has revealed. The level of knowledge is highest among 18 to 34-year-olds (82%) and among users who are most familiar with technology (89%). The percentage of users who own at least one device (43%) and the use of smart functionality is also increasing (19% have increased their use, 13% have reduced it).

5G is expected to further evolve, standardise and consolidate the smart home market as it would improve interoperability between the different IoT devices.

Home automation in Europe

The trend in Italy is not unique. In Europe, the home automation market is expected to expand by 17.2% per annum through 2027 with revenue anticipated to reach $1.50 billion from $495.3 million in 2020, according to a new study released by research company Frost & Sullivan.

The market is expected to be driven by increased demand for indoor air quality products and growing consumer awareness of energy-efficient retrofitting. European Commission’s push to modernise buildings with energy efficiency will boost demand, says Frost & Sullivan.

Anirudh Bhaskaran, Energy & Environment Senior Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said: “Consumer awareness of the need for energy efficiency and introduction of government grants for green and energy retrofit homes will also expand the overall home automation products market—lighting, indoor climate control, entertainment control, and window/shutter/blind control—over the next 5 to 7 years.

“Though a professional home automation system is seen as a luxury segment of the smart homes ecosystem, its attractiveness can be improved within the mainstream segment through value-added offerings. Additionally, with low prices, the do-it-yourself (DIY) smart home products pose a huge threat to professional home automation products. This encourages home automation systems market participants to acquire or partner with DIY mid-market players to help top-end participants thrive in the market by offering value-addition and competitive pricing.”