Having first launched its smart home offering in Norway in 2017, Deutsche Telekom has announced a distribution deal with a group of 15 energy companies to bring its Qivicon platform to market – through a new company called Hitch. Over in the US, the other major player in the Smart Home as a Service (SHaaS) game, Comcast, has announced a partnership with a startup called Hippo, to explore using smart home devices to provide data for insurers to use in their pricing – a term known as Usage-based Insurance (UBI).
This whole market has been very slow to emerge, despite its clear value to the operators – who can use SHaaS to tie customers into contracts, and enjoy greatly reduced levels of churn. For the operators, these platforms also provide opportunities to generate new revenue from business integrations, and both of this week’s examples show this.
SHaaS is therefore a way to win on two fronts – improving the quality of service provided to a direct customer, and building a platform on top of these customers that can be monetized down the line. Both Comcast (Xfinity Home) and DT (Magenta Home) have realized the value of licensing their designs to other operators and utilities, and if they achieve sufficient scale.
These ecosystems will begin to draw in major players in the consumer electronics and home appliances markets. Bosch and Siemens have already cozied up with DT on this, as well as Nest, Sonos, Schellenberg, Philips, and Miele. There are around 250 supported devices in the Qivicon ecosystem.
In Norway, DT first launched Qivicon through Nettalliansen, an alliance of 47 utility companies. That announcement came at the same time that DT announced its Slovakian subsidiary, Slovak Telekom, would also be deploying Qivicon. Previous to that, Bitron Video had announced plans to deploy it in France and Italy, KPN in Holland, Cosmote in Greece, and a few German utilities use Qivicon inside its home territory. It is not clear if Nettalliansen still has that agreement with DT, or if the new 15-utility Hitch deal has replaced it. We have reached out for comment.
Over with Comcast, a pilot program has been launched in Houston, Texas, to explore how Comcast Xfinity Home customers could better purchase home insurance. Hippo, an insurance broker, is offering an upfront discount for Xfinity Home households, and then further discounts if those houses install connected smoke detectors and home security devices.
Comcast is already planning to expand the system into other markets through the year. However, Comcast has been exploring this area for quite some time – since 2011, as outlined by this Light Reading article. While the old Xfinity Home Security offering has now evolved into today’s Xfinity Home, Comcast is now looking for opportunities to make money off of this platform.
Which is what leads it to make deals with the likes of Hippo, and over the coming years, probably quite a few more such deals. For Hippo, it gains access to device and usage data, which it can then use while conducting its risk assessments. This should ensure that it does not provide insurance to higher-risk customers, and in time, expose itself to less risk thanks to that Comcast platform.
Comcast, as the service provider, has a vested interest in keeping its customers happy. It would want to ensure there aren’t fires or floods that destroy its customers’ houses, and so a connected fire alarm that could summon the fire brigade, or a leak sensor that could alert an owner to a potential flood in the home – or better yet, trigger an emergency shut-off valve for the water supply.
In a similar fashion, it would damage the Comcast brand if its security offering was exploited to open its doors to burglars, or if an energy saving package ended up using more electricity than before. Because these operators have such a vested interest in protecting that brand, and have pockets deep enough to fund the necessary research, they could be some of the most ardent vanguards for progress in the smart home space.