Thursday , March 23 2017

Telstra Launching Their Own Smart Home Platform

telstra-smart-home-launch
A few days ago Telstra announced their new smart home platform. We were unable to attend the launch, and Telstra isn’t exactly releasing too many details. Today I attended the first ever Australian Technology & Gadget Expo at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre (Jeff’s Shed) and grilled the Telstra smart home staff regarding their foray into the IoT.

Telstra’s smart home aims to encompass “smart security, automation, energy, and more”. Through it Telstra hope to bring the IoT to Australians in a simple, easy-to-use package. Launching “later this year” running on Telstra’s own software using the Zigbee wireless protocol, the 9 devices are connected to the internet through a single hub that can be either ethernet or wifi connected (when wifi enabled the hub also acts as a wifi extended.)

Using an app from your smart device – iOS and Android apps will be launching simultaneously – you can then control any, or all of the 9 devices launching on the Telstra Smart Home platform. The app, which I had a quick preview of, is a very simple app that unfortunately did not look like it was focused on material design, more following the UI design language of most iOS apps (even though I saw it running on an Android phone). The app has tabs for controlling each device and then gives you information about each device (eg. how much power it is pulling etc), a tab for automation/rules (they’re talking about IFTTT partnerships), and also a history tab. The app looks very easy to use and should appeal to Joe and Jill Public.

IMG_20160626_101830_390

The Devices

There is a smart light globe, the Sengled Smart Lighting, which can obviously be switched off and on using the Telstra Smart Home app. The globe can also be set to turn on at a set time each night or at random times throughout the night (eg. while away on holidays).

There is a Zen Thermostat which obviously can be set to turn on or off to whatever temperature you decide on the app. It can also be set to turn on automatically at a time each day, or even, integrating one device to another, when a sensor detects movement it can be set to turn the thermostat on- eg. if it detects movement in your corridor at 6am it can turn on the thermostat. It cannot learn your patterns such as the Nest thermostat available in the States though.

The doorbell associated with the Telstra smart phone is the Skybell HD Doorbell which allows you to answer the doorbell from your smartphone. Using the app you can see, hear and speak to the visitor ringing the doorbell, whether you are home or not. This feature is only under development and will not be available at first release later this year.

There is a Lockwood smart door lock allows you to lock or unlock your door using either a pin code or the app itself. It also has a key override for those times you forget the PIN AND lose your phone.

Another notable device includes a smart power plug that is not only a wifi extender but also can be set, using the Telstra Smart Home app, to turn off and on at certain times.

Alongside all these there is indoor and outdoor cameras, door/windows sensors, and a wide and a narrow beam motion sensor. All in all the devices seem to be nothing revolutionary but the congregating of the control of them all into a single app is a smart move by Telstra.

The Future

At this stage these are the only devices that will work in the Telstra Smart Home app. While the system runs on the Zigbee protocol it does not mean you can just add your own Zigbee compatible device to it. Only Telstra-certified Zigbee devices will be allowed to be added in. Telstra said that they are looking at adding many more devices in the new few years and many are undergoing testing/certification. Telstra are currently in talks with Amazon regarding integration of the Amazon Echo into the system if/when Amazon release it here but until Amazon do that is just pie in the sky. No comment was forthcoming on the Google Home device that has all us Ausdroiders frothing at the mouth to get our hands on.

Contracts?

After speaking to the Telstra representative it is clear that you do not need to have a Telstra contract, nor Telstra internet for this to work in your house, although I find it hard to believe that there will not be some form of ongoing monthly fee to have this product installed in your home. There is no word on pricing at this stage.

Two Smart Home packages will be available at launch:

  • The ‘Watch and Monitor’ option will give customers peace of mind by allowing them to keep an eye on things when they’re away from home with motion sensors and a camera that can be set up to send instant alerts to their device.
  • The ‘Automation and Energy’ option comes with smart power plugs and motion sensors, helping customers set up tailored energy solutions for their home.
  • While this is the first real attempt to bring an IoT automation to Australia I dare say it won’t be the last. Anyone else out there hoping to bring something like this into their homes? How many out there already have some of these devices or similar?

     

Scott Plowman   Senior Associate

  • aaricku

    With Telstra track history of making crappy apps (i.e. Presto and Foxtel mobile apps) and slow to update (i.e. Android phone firmware updates), I would not buy into this smart home platform. Best to look at established vendors like SmartThings, which is a very open platform that has wide integration options with 3rd party products and a vibrant developer community.

    • Gerhard

      Hi aaricku

      I’m from Telstra’s Smart Home Team.

      Our carefully selected platform partner has been around since 2004, with a track record spanning millions of homes connected to it across the globe. The learnings from this experience has been built into the current app along with feedback from trials.

      Even though we’re very glad to note that the author found the app “easy to use”, we’ll continuously refine it to match the need of our customers.

      • aaricku

        This information was missing from a lot of the info and assumption was that Telstra created your own platform. Looks like this is exactly like Roku and you guys are rebranding iControl. Hope you guys realise that openness and interoperability are important for any platform going forward. Look at Microsoft and their shift to embracing open platforms. I saw in the press that your device works with Philips Hue. Are this native integration or via IFTTT? Hope it’s native. But if it’s IFTTT, that’s good thing too..as it means you guys have open integration with a lot of other IoT platform out there.

        • Gerhard

          No worries, that’s why we thought we’d jump in and clarify. Just to further clarify iControl provides services exclusively to telco and security operators, so it’s rather a joint development than a mere rebrand.

          Our initial focus is to provide a solution that is simple and easy to use. Thus as a starting point all integrations are currently native.

          Whilst we are maintaining discipline in delivering the vision of a simple and easy to use solution, our leadership is also encouraging and supportive of thinking big and out of the box. Thus, where it will deliver customer value is where you’ll see the product grow into.

  • Fred

    “Only Telstra-certified Zigbee devices will be allowed to be added in.”

    Don’t you just LOVE standards adherence, make things so flexible and under the users’ control. What do you bet that Telstra will want control, all the user data, and a hefty fee for being approved?

    Frankly the heart of future home automation platforms will be things like Echo and Google’s Home – everything else is fairly generic and simple.

    Without and open and free interface, this is going to be still born against the competition.

    • virduk

      Reminds me of what they are doing with Roku.

    • Gerhard

      Hi Fred.

      I’m from Telstra’s Smart Home Team. Privacy is one of Telstra’s core values and one that has been vigorously maintained in the development of this product.

      There are several provisions built into the system to ensure your privacy such as local (Australian) video storage and the highest levels of encryption. With this in mind the certification process has been put in place in order to ensure that your system remains secure and private, whilst maintaining flexibility.

      • Fred

        Well, thanks for actually popping up and trying to defend your work, but I note that you don’t actually say that you aren’t going to demand a kickback for the being ‘certified’. I’m smelling that “local (Australian) video storage” as being Telstra-only, and another way of extracting the cash. Just look at what Telstra did to the Roku, particularly in comparison with the NowTV.

        As far as privacy is concerned, you do realise nobody is about to trust Telstra either? Certification doesn’t certainly guarantee it; some serious snooping on packets and control of IP data is much more powerful. Realistically, no data needs to escape the house – and a system that enforces that is a better bet.

        I can see that Telstra would love to be in there, making money. But I see no particular reason to jump in this type of direction – as I say, the integrating hub, which is the only real value part of this is going to go the way of the big boys – google, amazon, probably apple when they wake up. The integration that they offer will enable many more uses and smarts, although at the expense of privacy. Throw deepmind at the behavioural data and ….

        Personally I want an open source solution where I’m in charge….

        • Gerhard

          Hi Fred

          Apologies, I didn’t read a concern about kickbacks in your previous posts. I’m not aware of any kickback schemes being planned, as it’s not our commercial focus. Our focus is to provide a system that’s simple and easy to use for all Australians. If customers love using our product we get more people on the platform and that’s our objective. It would therefore be counter productive if we make it hard for customers to get onto the platform by superficially increasing device prices.

          Concerning the comment around video being stored by Telstra. Yes it will be stored by us, but that’s good as it’s a closed system that will again protect your privacy and security. I’m unfortunately not at liberty to disclose the monthly fees yet, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the costs and the model.

          I’m not a security expert, however what I can tell you is that our communications are encrypted end to end. I’m therefore happy to give you my home IP address where the system is running if you want to see if you can hack it.

  • Seems like they have all of the right marketing surrounding it, but I can’t help but look at this and thinking about the disaster that T-Hub was.

    • aaricku

      Haha..agreed. At least it’s ZigBee. So when this experiment fails, you can hopefully still use your investment (minus the hub) with other open platform. For example, the “certified” zen thermostat already works on my Smartthings hub currently. At least they’re supporting an Australian company like Zen Thermostat.

      • Gerhard

        Hi Catherine and Aaricku

        Why don’t you come to one of our demo rooms to have a look? We’d welcome your feedback and are confident that we can change your perspective? I’m sure you’ll find that it’s even better than the (admittedly brilliant) marketing

        • aaricku

          Hey Gerhard..I’m definitely open to checking it out. I’m already heavily invested in Smartthings and another platform for security so I won’t be looking to buying into another smart home platform. However, I can definitely give feedback based on my experience so far with other platform. I can immediately see a gap that Telstra could easily bridge seeing that you’re a Telco.

          • Gerhard

            Hi aaricku- it seems like my previous comment on this wasn’t posted or was deleted. Let’s try again- please mail me at gerhard.loots[at]team[dot]telstra[dot]com and we can arrange.

        • Graham

          How easy is it to access these demo rooms? It’s all well and good to make the offer, but unless you’ve made them easily accessible across all of Australia that’s a pretty empty offer.

          • Gerhard

            Hi Graham.

            It’s an earnest offer to them, I just don’t know where either Catherine or Aaricku is based and I thought it’s better to not ask them to confirm their location on a public platform- hence providing my work email.

            It is however certainly our intention to make access to the product available as we ramp up closer to launch. We were fortunate to have thousands of people view the product over the weekend at the Technology and Gadget Expo, with an overwhelming positive response. If you wish, you can mail me too with your location and I can let you know when a public demonstration is available in your area?

  • virduk

    Just what we want an telco exclusive smart home platform. And here I thought a homeHit/android/samsung fight would be bad enough.

    • Gerhard

      Hi Virduk

      Our platform is rather agnostic- for starters it is an over the top service that will work with any broadband service provider.

      There are also several external vendors such as Zen, Lockwood and SkyBell already on the platform with a product roadmap that will continue to grow with further external vendors to address the needs of our customers. It’s simple really: We can only be the preferred smart home solutions provider by listening to our customers.

      So if there’s something you’d like to see on the platform please let us know that we can look at it.

      • Myk

        Hi Gerhard,
        Will these devices work with other Zigbee hubs? I have an Almond+ router that includes Zigbee functionality, and I’m moving towards building a Zigbee-based home automation solution. There are also the Swann Zigbee devices now available from JB Hifi, and so far they are integrating easily.

        • Gerhard

          Hi Myk. Sorry for the delayed response. At launch only devices certified to work with Telstra Smart Home will work for reasons stated above, so in short no. Post-launch we will expand our offering to include more devices and platforms, but I cannot comment at this time on future compatibility as it is not finalised at this point. Our initial focus is on providing a product that is simple and easy to use; the future product road map will be dictated by customer demand.

          • Myk

            What you said above is that only certified devices will work with the Telstra Smart Home hub. There wasn’t anything about the devices themselves being locked down to being _only_ useful with the Telstra Smart Home hub.

            If that is the case, as you confusingly seem to say here, then they are of no use to me.

          • Gerhard

            Hi Myk. Apologies for the confusion- I misread your question. I can’t comment on whether Almond specifically would work with the Zigbee devices as I’m not an Almond expert. Zigbee is however a standard which we have followed and as such the Zigbee devices should theoretically work with another Zigbee compliant hub. Trust this clarifies

      • Paul Donovan

        This explains why the Zen thermostat has suddenly become unavailable…very disappointing. I’ve had one on order from Officeworks for the last three weeks and was told today that it’s not going to arrive as they are now unavailable. Presumably they’ve all been taken to a Telstra warehouse to have Telstra logos stuck on them…and I expect they’ll be a lot more than the $99 bargain Officeworks were ‘selling’ them for.

  • Snoozin

    I don’t get this. You can already get devices that you can control remotely that connect to your WiFi modem. And your not restricted by the “zigbee” crap.

    • Gerhard

      Hi Snoozin. I’m from Telstra’s Smart Home team. Wi-Fi is ubiquitous as you’ve stated and where it suits the application requirement this is the protocol which have been selected. Wi-Fi does however have it’s limitations in terms of battery life, which makes it unsuitable for retrofit applications where there is no source of mains power such as window/door sensors and in particular door locks. By having a Zigbee enabled hub we provide flexibility and further product choices beyond current Wi-Fi only offerings. In addition Zigbee also builds a mesh network, meaning that each additional Zigbee device added actually extends your reach in the house.

  • Adrian Van Der Heijden

    Interesting, so what hvac can you support with the Zen thermostat? Not many, I know. As the hub is using Zigbee Ha1.2 (which for those who do not know, this is not just zigbee) try integrating the osram lightify range. But again, a telco doing this is only going to ruin the reputation of our wireless Home Automation systems that are already trying to establish themselves. Telstra hub?, try something more compete and developed and has a far greater range of supported products such as Fibaro, Vera Edge, Zipato or Homeseer. And companies who have experts in this field.
    But thank you for marketing this idea to the general public, this is what is lacking for this industry, that is immensely popular in USA and Europe.

  • The Riddick

    Which manufacturer makes the hub?

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