Automated Home 15th Anniversary Special #5 – Dave Bell, Vesternet

Automated Home 15th Anniversary Special

2011 sees Automated Home reach the ripe old age of 15.  To celebrate our quindecennium (yes, really) we’ve asked some friends of the site to look back and give us their home automation highlights from the past decade-and-a-half.  For an even greater challenge we then asked them to look ahead to what advances the next 15 years will bring to digital domesticity. This time Dave Bell, CEO of Vesternet, looks at the question many of you want answered.  What is the 21st century suceesor to X10 going to be?

Dave Bell

Dave Bell, CEO – Standardisation is they key market driver now pushing the automated home, and in particular – wireless standards.  Bluetooth & Wi-Fi have demonstrated huge success over the past decade, due mainly to the commitment of defining open standard specifications that any company in the world can decide to base their product design upon.  Rapid adoption comes with a slick user experience, but at the core is the success-breeds-success mantra.  When the tipping point comes and with so much momentum behind a standard, then its hard to stop the flow of innovation and market traction.

Whilst hands free laws did it for Bluetooth and web-without-wires was Wi-Fi’s driver, the killer application in the smart home isn’t 100% clear yet.  What is clear, is that whilst X10 was the early winner of previous decades, that technology has now been superseded by vastly superior specifications in the form of ZigBee and Z-Wave.

Z-Wave is the more traditional home automation player, with vastly more market traction and product choice.  Up until just this month, Z-Wave could be said to be more proprietary than open standard – but with the recent announcement of a second chip supplier and established brand names beginning to adopt, it could well be that Z-Wave is the 21st century’s answer to X10.


A long time in waiting is ZigBee.  Having taken the different approach of owning the smart home of the future, the standard has been backed by a who’s who of technology and utility companies worldwide in an effort to make in-roads through their Smart Energy certified products.  By 2020 every UK home will have a smart meter, meaning your home will have a real-time dialogue with your utility company, changing prices and usage dynamically in real-time based on peak demand across the whole country (think Scottish Power sending a message to your TV or iPad offering drastically discounted electricity rates for the next 3 hours whist demand is low).

It’s the plan to have all these smart meters powered by ZigBee, and so act as a Trojan horse for the home.  When the meter is installed, you can then pair lots of other home automation devices like door sensors for security or smart sockets for reducing energy consumption.

If ZigBee are taking their time to bring products to market, then the myriad of sectors targeted could go some way to explaining why.  In recent months, ZigBee have announced new profiles for Telecom Services (mobile phones), Input Devices (keyboards, mice & consumer products), Health Care (home patient monitoring), 3D Sync (3D TV support), and Remote Control (replacing the age-old technology of infrared).

The result is in 15 years, your home could be a complex wireless network of interoperable short and medium range standards, attending to your health, comfort, security and energy needs with little intervention from you.

Dave Bell is CEO at  :  Automated Home – the 1st 10 Years

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