Good news for control freaks

British Gas is updating and expanding its smart homes service Hive to offer a wide range of connected devices, as Stephen Cousins explains

A new Hive app has been developed to make using Hive Active Heating 2 as easy to use as possible.
A new Hive app has been developed to make using Hive Active Heating 2 as easy to use as possible.

If you have ever longed to be able control your curtains via your watch, or for your heating system to talk to your front door, then plans by British Gas to expand its smart homes service, Hive, should get you all a-quiver.

Hive launched its first product, an active heating thermostat controlled via a smartphone app using Internet of Things technology, in September 2013. It has since signed up over 200,000 users across the UK, making it the largest connected home provider in the country.

Last week the company launched an update to the service, Hive Active Heating 2, and announced that in the autumn a full range of connected devices will go on sale, including motion sensors, a door and windows sensor, Active Plugs and Active Lights, all designed by hotshot Swiss designer Yves Béhar.

The devices will be built on the Hive Honeycomb platform, and integrate with the Hive app to give people new ways of controlling their homes when they’re not there.

  • Hive, a British Gas innovation, is launching Hive Active Heating 2.
    Hive, a British Gas innovation, is launching Hive Active Heating 2.
  • Hive Active Heating 2 has a family of complementary home products.
    Hive Active Heating 2 has a family of complementary home products.
  • Hive has partnered with design entrepreneur Yves Behar to create Hive Active Heating 2.
    Hive has partnered with design entrepreneur Yves Behar to create Hive Active Heating 2.

Seb Chakraborty, IT director for connected homes at British Gas, says: ‘The move into this adjacent market is largely being driven by our customers who asked us to bring out more products that will help them in the home… However, we don't want to create a walled garden and the only way we are going to be successful is to partner with other companies and developers to enable them to add other products to the platform.’

British Gas’s smart homes push follows a lot of activity in the market. Apple announced its smart homes platform, HomeKit, in 2014 and Google’s service, Nest, now runs connected devices including a smart camera and a smart thermostat.

So, how far away is the sci-fi vision of widespread, fully automated UK homes? That’s open to debate, Chakraborty says. ‘Mass adoption, meaning over 50% of the population having a complete smart home experience, is hard to gauge when you consider that fixed lines took 100 years, mobiles 20 years, and broadband and smartphone technologies much less. The key ingredient for success is building a truly great product that also solves consumers’ everyday problems.’