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Imagine living in a state-of-the-art high-rise apartment outfitted with every amenity, including appliances that automatically switch on and off, air conditioning and lights that self-adjust based on mood, and a whole array of luxury delivery services that can be booked effortlessly just by swiping your phone.
That's the smart home life envisioned by Philip Tang & Sons Pte Ltd., a software development and consulting company based in Singapore, which is using its long-time software integration expertise to create a new offering called Habitap based on IoT technology from Greenwave Systems.
The initial idea for the platform sprung from consulting work Philip Tang did in 2014 to build a prototype system for city-state Singapore's public housing sector. Unlike other cities, Singapore's public housing sector is not just for low-income families, but for a broad swath of the population -- more than 80% of citizens by some estimates. The prototype smart home management system was commissioned by a Philip Tang client looking to capitalize on the city's Smart Nation charter, which designates the city as a testbed for smart technologies that address common urban challenges.
While the project didn't gain ground in the public housing sector due to the costs associated with build-out construction, the initiative got Philip Tang execs thinking about the opportunity to branch out on their own and create a comparable IoT-based platform which could be marketed in the private housing sector.
"We spent a lot of time building products for our customers -- creating the first version and then they would take it in-house and build subsequent ones," explained Franklin Tang, the company's CEO. "We had gained expertise in many industries and across different verticals and understood business requirements. IoT provided an opportunity to do it on our own."
The early public sector smart home management system became the prototype for Habitap, an app and managed services offering Philip Tang currently markets to developers and property managers in the booming Singapore real estate market. Unlike other smart home management systems built around hardware, Philip Tang focused specifically on the app. Its key differentiator? The Habitap user experience, which serves as a universal control for all smart home features compared to most offerings that employ unique systems for control over smart appliances, lights, or heating and cooling systems.
"We cover almost every appliance -- you don't have to use the apps that come with any of the smart products," Tang said. "We're a universal control app for the smart home branded or customized for specific apartment projects."
Habitap offers three main capabilities: universal smart home controls; single app access to community services, like booking common rooms or spa appointments; and an open API capability which allows for integration to other apps -- for example, the regional car-sharing service or a restaurant booking system.
"Habitap lets a condo project developer bring in partners to create unique apps and allows residents to get special discounts on concierge and other services," Tang explained.
Smart home management system finds its IoT platform
Greenwave Systems' Axon Platform for IoT was a natural fit for Habitap because of its support for open standards, enabling it to easily serve as a gateway to control a range of devices and systems -- from smart lighting systems to high-end sound systems such as Bose or Sonos, Tang said. Greenwave Systems' Axon platform was also more robust than the consumer smart home platforms Philip Tang had experimented with, providing the firm with the requisite functionality without having to build its own back-end system.
"We wanted to be very focused on building the front-end user interface, not on building the back-end device connectivity," he said. "Axon enables us to work with lots of different devices and protocols and lets us leverage Greenwave Systems' expertise for scaling up. There was nothing like that available in Asia."
Greenwave's existing relationship with partners was also a huge benefit. For example, the IoT provider had a partnership with Fibaro, a supplier of smart home automation gear, which Philip Tang was able to use to its own advantage. "In this business, the ability to leverage existing partnerships is really important," Tang explained.
In addition to using the Axon platform, Philip Tang also adopted Greenwave Systems' managed services offering. It white labels the IoT device management capabilities to resell as smart home management services to its property management customers. Philip Tang installs and supports the IoT-enabled smart home capabilities and mans a 24/7 call center to handle user problems.
Since Philip Tang began testing its own version of the Habitap smart home management system in 2015, the IoT-enabled smart home platform is now deployed in 3,000 homes as part of eight developer projects. Tang expects there to be more activity as the Singapore construction industry comes up to speed on the value of IoT and smart home technologies.
"There's been a lot of coordination and work to educate builders on IoT benefits and why a switch to smart homes makes sense," Tang said. "In the last 12 months, we've managed to make it known. Now, every eight out of 10 new buildings built in Singapore have some sort of IoT capability specified in their requirements."