Connected devices are more mobile than ever. Laptops are turning into tablets. Smart phones have become handheld Internet access points. Wireless speeds are continually improving. Improved battery technology means devices can work for longer periods of time without needing a wall tether. The pieces are all in place to achieve the fabled “connected living room”, but connecting our devices with our living rooms still isn’t a seamless experience. What’s missing? As it turns out, there are three things to accomplish before we can truly live a connected life.
1) A True Universal Standard
The biggest roadblock to the connected living room is the ability to have any two devices communicate with each other with a minimum of human intervention. The connected home won’t be a “must have” until a person can walk into a friend’s house and share a video on the living room TV or play music through the house sound system without needing a special set of instructions.
Belkin showed off an extensive array of connected-home technologies. Andrew Hoang, Product Marketing Manager for Belkin said that their solution for streaming media from devices to Smart TVs is based on DLNA standards, which is important for “doing what I want, where I want, when I want,” and went on to point out that they’ve taken strides to “make complicated processes easy by using html5,” for their router setup pages so that they display effectively on any device, not just PCs. This is a step in the right direction.
2) A Reason to Change
If there isn’t inherent value to the consumer they will be reluctant to adopt a new technology. You and I may already have a fully connected living room, but what about all of our non-tech friends and relatives? Do they really need a Smart TV and the ability to interact with content? Maybe not. Qualcomm is taking steps to change this attitude by exploring new applications of connected technology.
In collaboration with Sesame Workshop, Qualcomm presented “Abby’s Fairy Rock”, a proof-of-concept demo that enables true interaction between tablets and Smart TVs. In order to get this technology to work, “You need powerful processors that enable the technology, and you also need to design content that works between connected devices,” said Brian Vogelsang, Director, Product Management Snapdragon Ecosystem for Qualcomm. If “Abby’s Fairy Rock” is any indication of what’s coming then consumers might soon be presented with a much stronger reason to want to connect all their devices.
Possibly the most important element still missing from the connected ecosystem is
3) A Call to Arms
This is the intangible “cool factor” that always precedes any major technology shift. Napster made it easy and attractive for consumers to share music online, which helped create the online music culture. Apple’s iPod and iPhone were the much-hyped mp3 players that many people who had previously ignored digital music players just suddenly “had to have,” and led the shift to widespread digital music consumption. In order to get our non-tech friends to embrace the connected living room, there needs to be a mass-market “cool” product that wins them over.
In Smart TV, Sony is offering TV SideView as a system that “lets you control BRAVIA from your VAIO”. Newer services like this will both compete and interact with veteran offerings from Apple, Google and WD, all of which are popular devices, but none of which have hit any kind of critical mass just yet.
One last thought. Belkin built a five-room layout at CES to display their WeMo technology as the core system of a connected household. With WeMo, an assortment of wall plug adapters enable remote access to almost any appliance for remote operation, on/off control and even video monitoring. For me, the system evokes memories of the computer setup in Electric Dreams, the 1984 rom-com about a digital-age love triangle between a girl, a boy and his computer. Anyone else remember that one? Just me?
What do you think? Are we finally ready for connected living? Leave a comment and let us know what missing links you think I might have missed.