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Smart everything: Behind Hive's plans to automate your entire home

Matt Brian, @m4tt

When British Gas' Hive entered the connected home space a year ago, smart thermostats were still an emergent technology. The energy provider joined a small number of manufacturers, promising to change the way you heated your home with a mix of complex automation algorithms and slick mobile apps. Fast forward to today: While Brits have embraced smart thermostats from Nest, Tado, Climote, Netatmo and Honeywell, it's Hive that has enjoyed more of a significant uptake than most. Today, the subsidiary is claiming that its controller is now the most popular smart heating solution in the UK, having been installed in over 100,000 homes.

To celebrate the first Hive Active Heating installation exactly twelve months ago, the company feels now is the time to reveal what is has planned for the future. Kassir Hussain, Director of Connected Homes at British Gas, tells me that while work has already begun on the second-generation of Active Heating, Hive is looking beyond the thermostat, and will soon branch out to bring smart features to the rest of your home.

"Infrared presence sensors and little keyfobs you put on your bag that tell you when people in and out are on our radar," says Hussain. "We're also looking at geolocation but we're being very careful with that due to privacy issues. Knowing that you've stepped through the front door is a good first step, but whether we'll go beyond that remains to be seen."


Hive is already testing smart sensors that alert homeowners when a family member returns home or when someone tries to gain unauthorised entry to a home. However, the company is aware of where its strengths lie and is very open to partnering with established brands to provide additional hardware. While we'll see products that it will curate and own, that come directly through Hive (like Active Heating), the company admits it doesn't have the necessary experience with door locks and other home security products. Hive intends to join up with other major players that not only have years of expertise in these areas, but meet strict European security standards too.

"We don't believe in closed ecosystems. Customers are going to want to choose a variety of different products, which could be from other manufacturers or they could be from us. The key for us is to create an open ecosystem and platform that allows people to collect the products they choose, not the ones we curate. We're excited about Apple HomeKit and Google's recent home automation announcements, and are actively looking into Bluetooth LE, ZigBee and Z-Wave standards to ensure we remain open."

With all this talk of new hardware, it's easy to think that Hive will dedicate fewer resources to Active Heating. Luckily, that's not the case. While some of the very first smart thermostat owners had to get used to scheduling only two events on their Hive, before expanding to four, an update coming later this month will increase that limit to six events. Other smart features will come to existing boxes, but Hive remains quiet on when we'll get them. Developers will also be invited to incorporate Hive controls into their apps, which could usher in a new wave of innovative product features in the process.

So when can you expect to see Hive's new products? "You'll see a new Active Heating product arrive in the summer next year," teases Hussain. "We'll start talking about the new family of Hive products in the first quarter of next year, and they'll be available in the second."

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