Please describe i4Things?
With its headquarters in Herten in The Netherlands, i4Things was founded in 2014 by two serial entrepreneurs with a background in the world of Media and ICT. Initially developing technologies for smart home integration, following the acquisition of MyLifeGuard in 2016, i4Things accelerated its development of a Smart Home as a Service solution. In early 2019, LIOF N.V. became a strategic investor ahead of the launch of Consolomio®, the first commercially available Smart Home as a Service platform.
i4Things’ Smart-Home-as-a-Service (SHaaS) solution Consolomio® is designed to enable service providers to offer smart home as a mass market offering sold within a B-to-B-to-C model. The goal is to make smart home easy to use, affordable and worry free for end users and profitable for service providers. i4Things reduces the complexity for both parties by integrating many different (and often expensive) brands of devices and UI’s into a simple smart home scenario. At present, i4Things Consolomio® supports i4Things OEM devices along with major smart home branded products from a growing ecosystem including Philips hue, IKEA, Sonos, Amazon Alexa and several others across areas such as heating, lighting, security and automation.
Using commonly deployed Wi-Fi connectivity, Consolomio® removes the need for users to install additional smart hubs. This simplifies installation and speeds up market adoption. Beyond subscription revenue, Smart Home offers an attractive proposition for Service Providers to address their full subscriber base for potential upsell and to reduce churn for increased overall ARPU.
As a cloud-based platform, offering infinite scale, i4Things also provides an integrated operator console which can interact directly with the service provider’s OSS/BSS platform and thus enables service providers to deliver pro-active and reactive first-line support to their customers. For day-to-day operational support, i4Things offers a full-service layer including tasks such as OTA firmware upgrades, camera password refresh, scenario and scenes creation plus integration with an ever-expanding ecosystem of pre-certified devices.
What is i4Things go to market strategy?
i4Things works exclusively with service providers in a pure B2B2C business model. This is the perfect route to deliver a mass market Smart Home as a Service by working with the strengths of the service provider community that already have trusted brands, monthly billing relationships and a CPE footprint. This win-win opportunity aligns with our innovative and scalable architecture that helps service providers to increase the revenue per user, attract new users and keep them on board longer. In telco terms, the offering could be thought of a “penta-Play”, following the earlier triple and quadruple-play metaphors. Our initial solution set provides services providers with a complementary offering for use case such as smart home security, comfort, energy and care.
What are the key products, services and IP of i4Things?
i4Things’ Consolomio® is a cloud based Smart Home as a service platform that comes with a set of user interfaces for phone, tablet, PC (web) and TV along with a software stack for service provider management. The solution comes as a white label offering, meaning that the service provider can quickly launch a full suite smart home offering under its own brand. This is further simplified through a broad range of affordable devices and pre-configured Starter-Packs for multiple target use-cases. Besides user-interfaces for the end-user, i4Things offers a unique back-end support interface for the service provider’s OSS/BSS, such as customer care and billing environments. This integration allows service provider to offer fully managed service to their subscribers and take care of 1st level calls, should they occur. This is further reinforced by 2nd and 3rd level support services delivered by our own technical teams and call centers.
Please describe in more detail how Consolomio® works?
Consolomio® is a service platform that allows pre-certified, WIFI ready smart home devices to directly connect to the cloud without the need for an additional hub at each customer’s home. This pre-certification simplifies the installation and creates a “open walled garden” approach that offers service providers the flexibility to select the devices they want to allow their subscribers to connect – with i4Things handling the testing and access rights management. In a typical service delivery model, once the customer has received their subscription details and optional starter pack of devices, the initial setup can be done through an automated process using just a smartphone running the Consolomio® iOS or Android application which is a white label app that can be branded fully to the service providers requirements. As Consolomio® comes with an SDK, the Service Provider can even integrate the app in their own, already existing, end-user app, so their customer can perceive smart home to be an even more integrated part of a service providers offering.
Integrated and pre-certified 3rd party devices such as Philips Hue lighting or Sonos multiroom sound products can be added as well and are linked to Consolomio® in a cloud-to-cloud model where Consolomio® ‘talks’ directly with the respective 3rd party cloud service and can react to triggers from, and send control commands to, these 3rd party devices in a uniform and secure (Consolomio®) way. This allows the end-user to use one single Consolomio® app which is available for multiple UI’s to integrate and manage their smart home devices in one system with one uniform user experience. There are also no limits between the devices. For example, a water leak detected on the sensor of brand X, can lead to a lamp of brand Y flashing blue and a valve of brand Z being switched off.
In addition to the regular phone/tablet/web interfaces, Consolomio® has an (optional) Control Panel interface consisting of a wall mount Wi-Fi connected tablet. This screen is also branded in service provider design and can show 2 camera feeds such as a smart doorbell view, garden view, as well as the keypad to arm/disarm the alarms. The control panel also provides access to the full UI command interface similar to the smartphone app for additional flexibility.
What are the additional value-added features?
Consolomio® also has an (optional) ‘always-on’ TV Dashboard which the service provider can use to revitalize the function of the main screen in the household which can include service provider branding and content such as educational videos or even targeted ads. This always-on dashboard provides the end-user with a continuous view of camera feeds and other information related to the smart home solution including temperature, alarm status, energy consumption and other alerts. This is then completed with the user’s favourite IPTV channel or music stream playing, which is particularly useful to telcos and ISP that can thus deliver a Smart Home offering fully integrated with their broadband access/TV proposition.
Other features within the platform include Voice Control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant along with multiroom speakers of Sonos to play media files as well as alerts for doorbell or other alarms. For alarm notifications, particularly when you are not at home, a circle of trust is provided, allowing the user to configure who, besides on their own phone, should receive alarm notifications to ensure a prompt follow up on alarm events. Think of neighbors, relatives, neighborhood protection apps, etc. who are often much quicker on-site than professional alarm companies.
How is security / privacy handled?
All devices that connect to Consolomio® are authenticated to avoid unauthorized access. In addition, all communication between device and cloud and vice versa takes place via encrypted channels. Consolomio® allows the service provider access to metadata of the devices in order to be able to manage the system on behalf of its customers. However, customer data itself, such as video recordings, are always transmitted and stored encrypted and can only be accessed by the end-user.
Consolomio® is backed by an expert development and support team at i4Things that takes care of keeping this ever-expanding ecosystem of OEM and 3rd party devices and UI’s up to date and working in a fully integrated way. This long-term partnership delivers a hassle-free service for both the service provider and its end-user customers when it comes to API changes, firmware upgrades, security updates and the addition of new pre-certified devices and UI’s.
Please describe a typical business model for operators delivering a SHaaS offering?
Our initial discussion point to a model where a service provider will offer its customers a starter pack that contains a set of devices to cover a certain use case. For example, an insurance company with a security use case offering a starter pack with a motion sensor, a security camera or a smart door-bell, a door-window sensor and some smart bulbs. The service provider can charge for this pack or use it as an incentive/teaser and provide it initially free of charge but take recover the cost through a monthly subscription fee that its customers pay for the SHaaS offering. i4Things charges a small fixed fee on a per user basis and depending on the amount and type of included devices. This fee serves to maintain the service including firmware updates, cost of storing camera recordings, higher level support, security updates, along with adding to an ever-expanding roadmap of devices.
What types of smart home services are you helping to enable?
We currently have interest and starter packs that focus on 4 different use-cases:
- Security use cases focuses on how to protect the home or small business premises from damage due to fire, vandalism, burglary, water leakage and other external threats.
- Energy use case is designed to help homeowners optimize energy bill by automatically regulating the use of lights, air conditioning and heating based on certain scenarios or sensor reading.
- Comfort use case includes technologies such as automated lighting, but also smart doorbell and door locks allowing the ever-growing number of home deliveries to take place when residents are away from the property.
- Care use cases aim to help people, often elderly, to continue to live in their trusted home environment with technology to help support this outcome.
How does this approach benefit consumers using a smart home service?
i4Things offers a set of affordable pre-certified devices within each starter pack that retails for between 150-200 USD which is significantly lower than the cost of buying and integrating multi-vendor equivalents. For a reasonably priced monthly subscription, service providers are guaranteed video storage, security updates, firmware updates and an ever-expanding ecosystem of smart home devices within a simple to manage environment that requires no technical skills on the part of the subscriber. On top of that, as a company based out of the EU, we value the security and privacy of the end-users particularly as with smart home you come very close to their most private setting of their house and beloved ones.
How does i4Things integrate with the wider smart home ecosystem? (partnerships, compatibility, API’s)
i4Things make use of the existing open API’s and obtains certification from device brands that already have an integration program in place which currently includes Philips hue, Sonos, Amazon Alexa, Nest and several other vendors. i4Things also works with our service provider customers to approach brands they would like to be integrated including market specific devices that can join our wider pre-certified device portfolio allowing our managed eco-system to grow for the benefit of end-users and service providers.