A robust home automation product should be based on simplified design protocols

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Karan Kumar, co-founder and CTO of Hogar Controls

With the growing demand for smart homes and appliances, many chipset manufacturers have started to design low cost SoC (System-on-Chip) modules suitable for different applications. In a discussion with Deepshikha Shukla of the EFY Group, Karan Kumar, co-founder and CTO of Hogar Controls, a smart home automation product company, explains how smart home technology will have a great impact on the electronics industry.

Karan Kumar, co-founder and CTO of Hogar Controls

EB: What are the requirements in the Indian home automation market?
Home automation in India is still in its nascent stage. However, the penetration of the Internet, rising double and disposable incomes, and the increasing consciousness among consumers about the need for energy conservation have led to more consumers implementing home automation. Presently, lighting comprises the major portion of home automation in India, followed by security. It is estimated that by 2020, 1.8 billion smart home devices will be required only for the home sector. This will increase the demand for low cost SoC modules.

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EB: What are the globally accepted protocols and standards in this area?
Most home automation products use ZigBee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies/protocols.

EB: What is the role of chipset design in this domain?
A robust home automation product should be based on simplified design protocols. This avoids problems of complexity, multiple incompatible standards and the resulting expenses in the existing systems. Low power SoCs are in high demand— examples include the Z-Wave 700 chipset that has 10 years of battery life.

EB: Why do we need a smart home controller and how do home owners select the right one?
At the heart of home automation is a central device – known as the home controller or hub. When this controller or hub is connected to a power outlet, it takes control of all the smart home devices. The controller acts as the central relay unit to all connected devices, enabling the home users to control their connected devices either via a remote or any other device.
The criteria to select a home controller or hub differ according to the individual needs of homeowners and the quantum of devices they wish to automate. Hogar’s Home Controller Pro, for instance, can directly control up to 232 smart home devices within a range of 30 metres, and up to 200 metres when using an inbuilt mesh network protocol.

EB: How many R&D and manufacturing centres do you have in India?
While product designing happens in USA, development and manufacturing happens at the R&D and manufacturing facility in Hyderabad, India. The Hyderabad facility will serve as the hub for Indian and Asian markets.

EB: What are your main priorities for customers in India?
We endeavour to offer a smart life to our customers. The solutions that we offer our customers are simple, intuitive and transformative. At Hogar, our products and solutions are all wireless, which allows for easy installation. Second, all Hogar products are custom built and retrofitable which also simplifies installation, be it in a new or old home. And finally, all Hogar products are powered by the Z-Wave smart home wireless protocol, which provides remote access from anywhere around the world.

EB: What are your strategies to achieve your market targets?
We are focusing on B2B channels, covering dealers, systems installers and real estate developers.

EB: Could you highlight a few smart products from Hogar Controls? What is the USP of your products?
In India, Hogar currently offers products in four categories – the Smart Series, Touch Series, Enviro Series and Security Series. Under the Smart Series, our product portfolio includes the Home Controller Pro, Home Controller Mini and The Pebble —a secondary switch control in the Touch Series. We offer a range of smart touch panels that are aesthetically designed and add elegance to the home. For instance, the 4+1 is a smart switch panel which is ideal at the bed side. One of our recent launches was Prima+, a master room controller. In the Enviro Series, one popular product is a fan dimmer insert module. And finally, in the Security Series, we offer a range of devices like video door bells and sensor cameras.

All Hogar products are designed keeping the customer in mind. We make products that the customer wants, that are easy to use by even grandmothers, yet add a touch of elegance and class to the home.

EB: What are the challenges that the Indian market is facing, with regard to smart home control devices?
According to studies, the home automation market in India is expected to touch ₹ 550 billion by 2024. The forces driving India’s home automation market are growing Internet penetration, the upgradation in network infrastructure, dropping prices of products in this segment and increasing disposable incomes.  Home automation is one of the most attractive categories for general users. At present, this trend is limited to metro cities only, but this market has great potential in Tier I and Tier II cities too.

A few of the biggest challenges that Indian home owners face in automating their homes are special wiring and the electrical back gangs installed, which do not adhere to Indian standards. Other home automation products need rewiring so this needs to be planned for during the construction phase, such that they can withstand electrical fluctuations and power cuts. Hogar products complement traditionally built homes with their retrofit design, thereby eliminating many problems normally associated with installation.

EB: How is the global home automation market expected to grow in the next few years?
The global home automation market was valued at US$ 39.61 billion in 2016, and is projected to reach US$ 81.65 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 11.2 per cent from 2017 to 2023. Increased awareness about efficient energy usage, the rise in electricity prices, and technological advancements are expected to drive the home automation market’s growth. Increased concerns about safety have fuelled the adoption of home automation systems, thus boosting the market’s growth.

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