The future looks ‘appy’ for broadband connected homes

By CSIRO

16 April 2013

CSIRO_infograph

The app journey so far Source: CSIRO

You’ve heard of the Ice Age but have you heard of the ‘App Age’? Today we’ve released research from our ‘Broadband Connected Homes’ report which suggests the next generation of broadband-enabled applications will be more about connecting households to new sensors and cloud services than checking emails and social media invites.

The report describes the changing environment of Australian homes, the technologies that are affecting it, and its capacity to support new applications and services. We spoke with Colin Griffith, Director of CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation to get his perspective on what kinds of trends we may see as a result.

Next generation broadband apps to drive a new era of services 

You may have noticed that there has been a lot of discussion about the bandwidth and types of cables required to connect Australian homes for broadband services. While this is an important debate, it is largely ignoring the big opportunity to develop apps for Australia’s broadband connected homes that will usher in a new era of services and business opportunities. These apps will provide new ways for people to access health, energy, education, retail, security, entertainment and many more services. They will also create an opportunity for Australian software and service companies to become global leaders in this part of the emerging digital economy.

The landscape within Australian homes is rapidly changing. Fast disappearing is the era of dial-up connections with a single computer per house. Today’s pre-NBN or first generation broadband homes typically have around four-six connected devices such as computers, tablets and smart phones. This is about to change with the emergence of the ‘internet of things’, or in other words, a world with lots more devices are connected to the internet. Cisco predict that Australia will have 142 million connected devices by 2016, about six for every Australian, with a large number of these located within our homes.

What will these devices look like? For a start, there will be many more devices with screens. These will include more computers as well as their many derivatives such as laptops, notebooks and ultrabooks. There will be even more smart phones, with their numbers predicted to match Australia’s population by 2016. It will also include more and more tablet devices, with predictions that fifty per cent of Australians will be using one within three years.

But more and more other domestic devices will be connected, both familiar ones such as televisions, set-top boxes, energy meters, security monitors as well as unexpected ones such as washing machines, fridges, weight scales and even lights. The point of connecting these devices and sensors is to allow us to have greater control over our environment, reduce energy consumption, improve access to a whole new world of home based services.

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What will these broadband apps actually look like?

Interesting things start to happen when more and more things are connected. As when the internet started to connect computers together to create game-changing applications and services, so too will by the impact created by the networking of home based devices. Economists call this the “network effect”, where the economic value obtained from networks increases in a manner related to the increasing number of connections.

For people however, the value of broadband will be experienced through apps used on their increasing number of smart devices. These apps will provide simple, intuitive and fun ways to communicate, be entertained and access information and services. They will be used on smart devices that will predominately use fixed broadband services to send and receive data.

In Australia, a strong and vibrant industry of app developers has emerged, building globally successful apps such as Fruit Ninja, Flight Control and others. Our developers have built a reputation for innovation, creativity and technical smarts.

The Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation (ACBI), a collaborative research initiative supported by CSIRO and NICTA, Australia’s two leading technology research organisations is already developing practical services for Australia’s broadband homes. Some of these include:

Smarter, Safer Homes project – developed to support older Australian’s that are living independently by providing feedback and monitoring on their wellbeing through the use of non-invasive in-home sensors. The app also allows its users to share this information with their families, carers and clinicians.

Social TV project – the next generation version of catch-up television which will allow users to discover and share high definition video content in richer and more efficient ways.

Energy management systems – CSIRO has developed a system which will allow householders to not only monitor but also remotely control their energy use. It has been designed to allow consumers to use energy brokering services to reduce their energy bills. We have also worked with iiNet to develop a new home gateway device that will help connect the increasing number of devices within a home using different wireless technologies.

Broadband connected homes filled with a multitude of connected devices present an opportunity for Australian developers to build apps for this new environment. Australia’s reputation as an early adopter of technology and with major broadband infrastructure investment programs, means we are well positioned to be a leading developer of apps for broadband connected homes across the world.

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An example of a centralised communications hub Source: iiNet

C’mon, get ‘appy with our new competition

ACBI in partnership with its industry and government partners such as Intel, Foxtel, iiNet, and the NSW Government has launched a Broadband4Apps competition for software developers to showcase what this next generation of home based apps might look like.

The competition will help Australians better understand what is possible through the smart use of broadband. It will also help accelerate the ability of Australian developers to realise these new business opportunities and connect with service providers, technology partners and end users to build game-changing apps.

Further details about the Broadband4Apps competition and the wider opportunity for broadband connected homes can be found at www.acbi.net.au/broadband4apps   

Media: Dan Chamberlain. P: +61 2 9372 4491. M: 0477 708 849. Email: daniel.chamberlain@csiro.au