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HOME REGIONS EMEA › INTERVIEW: Holger Knöpke, Deutsche Telekom

INTERVIEW: Holger Knöpke, Deutsche Telekom

by Stuart Wilson, Tuesday 22 July 2014

Holger Knöpke is head of connected home at Deutsche Telekom and is one of the driving forces behind the company’s QIVICON smart home project. QIVICON is an alliance of companies, initiated by Deutsche Telekom, with the aim of promoting the field of smart home technology and providing solutions for customers on a multi-manufacturer basis. Knöpke gave Channel EMEA some insight on what to expect in the smart home space in the years ahead.

Channel EMEA (CE): Why do consumers need smart home products?

Holger Knöpke (HK): If we project forward ten years, do you think you could imagine a world without smart cars? I can’t. And, of course you would expect an equally ‘smart’ home. Why will people want ‘smart’ homes – well the benefits in terms of energy savings, better security and increased convenience are quite compelling.

Whilst smart home solutions may be a little way off, for every home, the technology is there and it is only a matter of time before smart homes become commonplace. Smartphones and tablets are already widespread and broadband is available in the majority of homes making it easy for people to link in to their smart home. At the same time smart home products are becoming more and more affordable.

Other factors also lean in favour of smart homes – spiralling energy costs and demographics. If we look at the rising cost of energy, consumers’ budgets are being squeezed and they are actively looking at ways to keep their energy costs down. With demographics and an ageing population, smart home products can provide some solutions for older people who want to maintain their independence and live in their own homes for longer.

CE: How large is the smart home market?

HK: Deloitte predicts that by 2017, smart home solutions will generate revenues of more than £3.25 billion (US$5.5. billion) in Europe, while Berg Insight anticipates that the smart home market in North America will grow by 42% to a volume of £5.6 billion (US$9.56 billion).

CE: How does QIVICON differ from other connected home offerings?

HK: The smart home market is characterised by many incompatible solutions. If a user buys one provider’s smart home product he can only, as things currently stand, use that company’s functions and solutions and not those of a competitor. Our approach is radically different. We have developed a technical platform that is open, multi-vendor, one for which any company can offer solutions, regardless of the industry to which it belongs. We currently have more than 30 partner companies. By the end of the year there will be about 50. So QIVICON is already the smart home platform with the world’s largest number of partner companies.

The result of this variety is a unique pick-and-mix smart home with compatibility for a range of brands, with QIVICON revolutionising the smart home market. This innovative approach coupled with QIVICON’s technical implementation has seen us win several awards – most recently the European Visionary Innovation Leadership Award – awarded by international management consultancy Frost & Sullivan where QIVICON was named as the most innovative solution of its kind in 2014. Thanks to awards like this, coupled with our approach we are increasingly being viewed as the innovation leader in our field.

CE: Could you explain how QIVICON can be used with a variety of smart home solutions?

HK: QIVICON is both a business-to-business (B2B) product and a product for end consumers, so it’s business-to-business-to-consumer. So, how does it work? Some smart home solutions only enable the user to manage one application, such as lighting or heating. By contrast, with QIVICON, you can connect the entire home. You can combine your central heating, electrical appliances, windows, blinds – whatever you want – anything is possible. So QIVICON adds an entirely new dimension to the smart home: easy-to-use management for an unlimited variety of smart home solutions. QIVICON is a uniform platform for total home control that combines partner companies’ products. Consumers using the QIVICON smart home platform will find that there are a multitude of solutions that they can control simply and comfortably via the QIVICON home base.

CE: How do I as a user combine several solutions on QIVICON?

HK: You simply install one or more partner company apps on your smartphone, tablet or PC. Some apps have a specific focus on, say, central heating control. Others facilitate comprehensive home control over just about all possible functions in a single app.

CE: What role do partners play in the QIVICON ecosystem?

HK: QIVICON is all about partnering. We have by far the greatest number of partners of any smart home initiative. The more partners that offer QIVICON-compatible products on the platform and the greater the variety of the products they offer, the more attractive the platform will be for end customers. Partners benefit in many ways from the openness of the platform, such as greater efficiency in developing new products and use cases or from lower installation and running costs. We not only have the most partners; we also have many well-known brands such as EnBW, Belkin, Samsung, Miele, Kärcher, Philips, Vattenfall and Allianz – the world’s largest insurance company.

CE: How does a company become a QIVICON partner?

HK: By contacting us. Any company, from large companies to start-ups, can become a partner. To simplify the process we have developed a special partner programme that includes business models, customised for partners.

CE: Can competing partners exist on the QIVICON platform?

HK: Yes, and they characterise the QIVICON approach. Membership of the QIVICON alliance offers all partners an opportunity to jointly shape the smart home market of the future while still setting themselves apart from each other, with their own products, pricing models, communication and sales and installation channels.

CE: Why will a platform prevail in the smart home market?

HK: Platforms will always prevail in the IT industry. Just look at the PC and smartphone markets. Platforms provide significant advantages because they offer end users and companies alike a clear added value in terms of innovation cycles, product use case variety and economies of scale. It is against this background that smart home platforms will make become market leaders. This is borne out by the findings of a B2B study commissioned by Bitkom, the German Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media. 31% of companies said that they were aware of, or, interested in, smart home platforms and 22% are members of platform alliances already. Surveys also show that end users are keen to combine many solutions such as energy management, lighting control or security, all of which only a platform can offer.

CE: Are there any plans to internationalise QIVICON?

HK: The QIVICON platform currently exists in Germany, but we’ve already had many international enquiries. Many companies find the German smart home market very promising and are have shown an interest in becoming a partner, and making their products available on the platform thereby opening up the German market. But we are also negotiating with interested parties to offer the QIVICON platform and partner products internationally.

Initially our international focus will be in Europe, but we also see promising prospects outside of the EU. As QIVICON depends on cooperation with partner companies we are ready to hold talks with any interested party and we are delighted with every new partnership. To keep this process as simple as possible we have developed a special partner programme. It includes a suitable business model for both large companies and small start-ups.

CE: How does QIVICON actually work?

HK: Via the QIVICON home base, the smart home’s central control unit, any compatible branded smart home product from QIVICON partner companies can be connected wirelessly using optimised smart home wireless protocols and then hooked up via the internet using partner companies’ apps.

Any QIVICON-compatible devices, such as radiator thermostats, smoke detectors, blinds, lamps and household appliances, can then be controlled. Consumers who buy a product from a partner company together with the QIVICON home base can then add more products from any of our partner companies to their QIVICON Home Base if and when they want to.

QIVICON supports HomeMatic 868 MHz and ZigBee 2.4 GHz wireless technology. In the months to come we will be adding many more devices including LEDs, IP cameras and multimedia devices. QIVICON will then be able to communicate with more than 100 home automation devices and home appliances.

CE: Is smart home for new builds only or is it of interest for older buildings too?

HK: In principle there is no need for any great distinction. QIVICON is a wireless-based solution that is easy to install and can be expanded. If you move home you can simply take QIVICON and the compatible partner products with you.

CE: How much does it cost the consumer?

HK: QIVICON starter kits cost from €269 (US$363) in Germany. Partners can then charge monthly or one-off fees. The combination of different packages of equipment and apps ensures that QIVICON has something to offer different every customer.

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