Home is where the smart is

James Pearce
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Dutch incumbent KPN has turned to Deutsche Telekom to launch a smart home solution. James Pearce spoke to DT executive Thomas Rockmann about the project of making homes across the border in the Netherlands smarter

For most homeowners, the future is connected. With most European countries having launched, or now launching, programmes to get superfast connectivity into most homes, the door opens for devices to be connected.

Operators see this as an opportunity, but the challenges and cost of setting up a complete smart home strategy at a time when the market is in its infancy may seem off-putting.

Leading the way with an established smart home solution is Deutsche Telekom, which has launched a project with KPN that will see the Dutch firm use DT’s platform.

Already offering a white-label solution to enterprises in its home market of Germany, Deutsche Telekom saw the chance to launch a global solution for other connectivity providers in other markets. Enter KPN, which agreed to launch the project with the German company.

“For us, we started this business in 2014 and it was in the early market stage,” explained Thomas Rockmann, joint CEO of Deutsche Telekom’s smart home project. “There were few strong solutions in the market so we decided to build our own with partners. Now other players are trying to do the same, so we need our own footprint. 

“It is not enough just to have the German customers on this footprint. That’s why we’ve opened this up to other European telcos and energy companies.”

So what exactly does a smart home solution look like? Deutsche’s offering is based on its Qivicon platform, which channels connected devices in the home, such as smart light bulbs, thermostats or speakers, through a central hub. In Deutsche Telekom’s own solution this is a router, which can be controlled from a smartphone via an app.

Rockmann explained: “What is our portfolio? It is based on an open-source Qivicon project using Eclipse smarthome. We offer a white-label app to control the smart home, we offer more than 150 products from 40 IoT vendors.

“Some of the device partners include Amazon Alexa, which can integrate voice control with our smart home. We also have a gateway in which connectivity is key. We have the capability to integrate our gateway with any other products – in Germany, with our own routers, so the entire broadband solution can act as a gateway.”

The beauty of the offering, he adds, is that it takes away the stress of having to develop a new smart home platform, yet also allows KPN to add its own products and services with minimal fuss.

One example of this in KPN’s SmartLife offering is its partnership with Trigion and Philips. The former offers security solutions for the home, such as connected CCTV or sensors that can be placed on doors to detect entrants into a building. Philips, through its Hue products, offers connected LED wireless lighting that can be controlled from a smartphone. Neither are available from DT, but both are live on KPN because of the flexibility Qivicon offers.

Rockmann added: “The products allow our partners to drive new business opportunities. Our partners can build a base on this portfolio and make its own promotional plays, together with a device partner, and bring this offer to their own customers. The benefit for them is revenue streams from hardware, monthly recurring charges, and less churn because of increased loyalty. That’s a main driver and makes us think this business model is strong.

“This story must be integrated into their own branding and portfolio but it needs a strong story or the customer will not buy it. KPN has its own broadband story, but they are also searching for differentiation and did not want to build something on their own. We were in the game and that gave us the opportunity to pitch and to work with them.”

GTB asked KPN to speak about this project but, after initially agreeing, the Dutch operator refused to comment.