“Mobile will very soon become a gateway to our homes”
The trend of installing wireless home automation system is going to be a next big thing in today’s smart world where Internet of Things (IoT) is making rapid inroads into our lives. And here again, your smartphone holds the key to your home. EBTL, a Delhi-based company, is leveraging the trend in home automation with Amour, a mobile-assisted smart switching solution for modern homes. Monish Salhotra, the Co-founder of EBTL shares his insights about the emerging technology, its features and market scenario, in a conversation with Ramesh Kumar Raja. Salhotra also talked about the challenges being faced by the industry in a country like India. Excerpts:
Home automation systems have undergone a massive change. How do you look at its current scenario?
The current scenario is like a fertile land for home automation systems to grow strong into a new market segment. The current penetration of home automation systems is approximately 2% households in India and this is set to increase to 15% by 2023. This is a massive jump for any industry to grow – home automation is going to be a 30,000 crore market in 2020. In the current scenario, lots of independent automation protocols are there in place. Industry is bound to mature in coming years and this will also lead to standardisation of technology and communications protocols. Currently, India is going through a very interesting stage where the population is young and is very open to accept new technology to upgrade their living standards. From the demand side, this phenomenon will definitely act as a catalyst for the penetration of automation products at grass root level. From the supply side, the current retail network is also getting open to accommodate smart products as a part of their offerings. I strongly believe that with the demand and supply forces working together, home automation is set to be the next unicorn industry globally.
How has a mobile phone emerged as a key to the home automation? What are the technicalities involved?
Mobile is the key! Mobile has become our music player, gateway to virtual world, camera etc. and very soon it will become a gateway to our homes. In fact, today majority of the home automation products are mobile app based. The hardware used for making a home automated is hardly visible. The major user interface is the mobile app. Just to make it simple to understand, I can say that it is equivalent to sending a message from your mobile phone to any other phone. Here, the other mobile phone is your automation placed at home. Technically, a mobile app will send a packet to the server or to some middleware; post that it will be routed to the automation panel over the internet. The basic requirement for communication between the mobile app and the automation system will be a communication protocol which could be over the internet or through GSM. However, going forward technologies like mesh in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are going automated, even simpler for the end-users.
The home automation industry in India is expected to reach Rs 30,000 crore by 2020. What’s your comment?
Yes, it is going to be. All I can say is that end users are going to experience flurry of products at very affordable prices in 2019 and 2020. The automation will become so affordable and approachable that it is going to give a very strong push and competition to the modular switch industry in coming years.
The home automation industry will see a convergence of other products getting merged into it. For example- we will see security products, thermostats, music players and video products getting merged into the home automation products.
What services EBTL provide and what is its business/revenue model?
EBTL provides automation services to homes, commercial spaces and hospitality sectors. Since its inception, we have been trying to simplify automation in terms of installation and usage. Today we are among the simplest automation solution (to install and operate) provider in the market. We have undergone various life cycles of product development. Currently, the third generation of Amour automation series is available in the market and the fourth generation is all set to be launched by the mid of 2019. As an automation solution provider, we place a touch screen panel on walls which is connected to our servers through internet. The Amour automation panels can be accessed through a manual touch, mobile app and voice controls. We have embedded the programming capability in the panels which can be used to schedule, lock, monitor power consumption and setting up favourites among the Amour panels. We also offer the web-based services for the commercial and hospitality segments. The revenue model includes the direct sales of automation panels and subscription for the web-services.
Can you please elaborate about the Amour app and how it is simplifying lives?
Amour is a single touch mobile solution to virtually enter into your automated area. The Amour app UI has simplified the entire user experience of home automation products. To ensure a seamless user experience, we have kept the UI of Amour exactly similar to the UI of the panels. We have eliminated the requirements of an additional hardware to be installed for automation of a home. For example- an automation hub, CAT 6 wires, transponders etc. It has now become a plug and play solution for the end users. Besides being a plug and play solution, Amour has got enough options of customisation within the app and panel to suit the requirements of the end users. Amour panels and Amour app can be customised to the requirements of clients just with a few clicks on the app itself. Moreover, the programming capability in the app has been created in such a way that anyone in the home of any age group could operate Amour with any user manual or assistance. Still if there is any need for support, we have uploaded enough video tutorials online to support our users.
How do you look at India as a market for home automation and related IoT solutions?
India is an apt market for any technical product to flourish and not just for IoT products only. Trends have shown that the rate of acceptance of technical products is higher in India than the global average. In recent years, we have seen a very deep penetration of technologies like smartphones, laptops, desktops, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers etc. IoT products are expected to follow a similar trend of penetration into the Indian market. I strongly believe that a robust product with ease of installation and operations and affordable pricing will be two major factors of market penetration in India.
What are the challenges in adopting home automation system on a large scale in a country like India?
Pricing and ease of installation & operations – these are the two major challenges for the automation industry right now. The price factor is very easy to understand. The automation industry is very well aware that we have our competition with normal switch which is available at as low as Rs 10 in the market. Although there are many more luxury features which automation offers with it, essentially it does the same thing. The pricing and overall solution has to become lucrative and affordable so that an end user will not be confused whether to go for automation or for a normal modular switch.
The second major hurdle is the ease of installation and operations. The installation of some of the products is so complex that you need to do the re-wiring, install a smart hub, install a backend of relays at home, create a server room, get the static IP and a lot more jazz to be done before even a single switch is put on automation. However, there are companies which have eliminated most of hardware requirements for setting up automation at homes. In fact, in Amour none of the above mentioned additional hardware is required for automation purposes. Even if a customer is ready to fight a battle to get the automation installed at his/her home, using it seamlessly is not less than another battle to be won. We will see a lot of improvements in coming time on the ease of operations as well. It has to become as easy as sending a WhatsApp message and this is exactly the philosophy upon which Amour automation systems have been built.