Most consumers define the phrase “smart home” in a relatively simplistic manner: the ability to remotely control appliances, lighting, security and/or electronic devices, generally via a smart app or digital voice assistant product. While this baseline definition is accurate, it doesn’t fully convey the potential of what is quickly becoming known as Smart Home 2.0—when reliable and robust connectivity to cloud-based solutions (not merely local devices) unleashes capabilities and usage models which have not yet been contemplated.
Plume’s game-changing approach to home wireless connectivity
When Plume broke out on the scene in 2014, most observers viewed the company as not much more than a “mesh” wireless connectivity company that sold stylish-looking “pods.” Since then, mesh networking routers have gained enormous popularity, growing to $6.1 billion in global revenue in 2018 and projected to expand by 9.1% between 2019 and 2025. Plume has succeeded by approaching wireless connectivity in the home in a fundamentally different way than pure hardware players (e.g., Netgear or Linksys) or upstarts like Eero (acquired by Amazon in 2019).
First and foremost, Plume sees itself as a cloud-based software and smart services company. While its stylish-looking “pods” are a crucial element of its offering from a customer-facing standpoint, the essence of its value proposition is its focus on delivering services that optimize the wireless performance of consumers’ smart devices in the home and protect against cyberthreats (for a reasonable $99 annual membership fee). Being software-defined and cloud-based allows Plume’s technology to constantly optimize and improve consumers' overall WiFi experience in the home—something that is increasingly important as the number of smart devices in the typical home grows. Plume recognized years ago that the hearts and minds of consumers would be won over with an adaptive wireless connectivity technique that relieves home network congestion, increases overall network speeds throughout the home and dynamically adapts to modern usage models (e.g., streaming vs. gaming). Adaptive WiFi and AI security are the essential foundational elements of Plume’s strategy, upon which it built a powerful, experience-driven services platform.
Secondly, Plume realized that its cloud-based approach to home wireless connectivity could be of enormous value to ISPs, both from a cost-savings and customer satisfaction standpoint. Wireless connectivity in the home is among the highest pain points for ISPs, resulting in lengthy and expensive customer support calls, as well as costly “truck rolls” where technicians are dispatched to address a technical support problem. Cable operators view Plume’s wireless connectivity platform as a powerful antidote to these challenges. In just the past two years, Plume partnered with an impressive roster of cable operators, ranging from Comcast, Bell, Liberty Global and even members of NCTC (via an exclusive agreement signed last year). With 14 million homes outfitted with Plume’s technology, and 500 million devices on its cloud, Plume is positioned as the de facto learnings and insights entity for home wireless connectivity. This noteworthy fact allows the cable operators to do what they do best—deliver advanced home services—without the cost and complexity of managing robust and reliable home wireless connectivity.
OpenSync offers ISPs its first modern wireless architecture
OpenSync, the open-source silicon-to-service framework founded by Samsung, Comcast, Bell Canada, Liberty Global and Plume, is helping the company deliver on the promise and potential of Smart Home 2.0 (read more about OpenSync here). In January, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Plume offered a sneak peek of Plume Motion—a feature that detects motion using WiFi signals. Working in partnership with Canada-based Cognitive Systems (who created the underlying technology), Plume Motion uses radio frequency (RF) signals from WiFi-enabled devices to identify and alert users of motion. Coupled with AI and predictive analytics, this new capability could enable ISPs to offer new (and potentially exponential) service offerings such as smart home automation and elderly monitoring. It would be impossible for most ISPs to offer this breakthrough technology without OpenSync’s modern architecture, given the engineering and deployment efforts required. While Plume is certainly not the first company to utilize WiFi to sense motion, OpenSync allows Plume’s ISP partners to seamlessly activate the feature, if desired, via a minimal software update.
Liberty Global steps up its commitment to Plume
Plume’s Smart Home 2.0 vision was effectively endorsed this week by Liberty Global, one of the largest European operators, with its announcement that it would roll out an entire package of smart home services from Plume across its geographic footprint later this year. While Liberty Global has been a Plume partner for over a year, this announcement shows that the company is more than satisfied with its initial engagement with Plume. Furthermore, it’s an open display of confidence in the OpenSync architecture and its ability to provide advanced home services in a cost-effective, time to market fashion. Plume is enabling Liberty Global to offer more value, convenience and innovation to its subscriber base.
More to come
Since Smart Home 2.0 is a new and somewhat unexplored concept, my next two columns will dive deeper into the potential implications, usage models and opportunities it presents for both consumers and ISPs. The ability to turn on a light with a digital voice assistant seemed so astonishing just a few years ago—with Smart Home 2.0, that sort of usage model will look like child’s play. We’re heading towards a brave new world.