I spoke with Gil Rosen the President and GM of Amdocs:next about Doxi and Doxi HomeOS (not to be confused with the Microsoft product HomeOS), two products aimed at reinvigorating the home broadband market. Amdocs Next in itself is quite interesting. Its aim is to consolidate all the development work that is focused on its clients’ potential growth areas. The choice of areas says a lot about where Amdocs thinks the telco space is going in the next decade: IoT, cybersecurity, payments, data intelligence and AI, and Doxi. I should note that Amdocs also supports other sectors but realistically telco is its bread and butter.
It’s hard to argue with Amdocs’ underlying view that Amazon and Google have elbowed aside fixed broadband providers to stake a strong claim for dominance over the connected home by virtue of having ‘lovable devices’. In contrast CSPs’ CPE has been more-or-less awful, consisting of little more than an anonymous box with some flashing lights that users needed to visit a website to translate. Not only were the CSPs missing out on an opportunity to add stickiness to their service, but a poor user experience has led to several problems. Firstly, more customer care calls, which subsequently has led to more frequent replacement of hardware as a way to resolve problems often simply because it’s cheaper and easier to replace the hardware than it is to help customers resolve basic configuration problems. Secondly it forced users to adopt an overly simplistic approach to resolving problems, i.e. resetting the router, which may create additional problems with connected devices.
At this point in the conversation I was really worried that Gil would unveil for me a ‘next-generation router’ with a touch-screen interface. That’s not it, although there is hardware. The Doxi router has a single light and is pretty attractive looking. The hope is that at least some of the issues with WiFi/broadband performance might be tackled if the damn thing wasn’t put in the cupboard because it was so hideously ugly. Everything relating to the functionality is handled via an app.
I have to confess to being a sceptic that anyone can shift the balance of the hardware market away from Amazon and Google (and Apple) towards a white-labelled new form of broadband router. Having said that, in other markets the technique of disassociating the user interface from the device has reaped rewards, as we discuss in our recent Human Machine Interface Technology Insight Report. But the interesting thing wasn’t the hardware, it was the underlying software, HomeOS, that provides some unique elements that may prove to be very valuable.
There are a couple of pieces of functionality that might prove useful if integrated into smart home applications. The HomeOS can detect home activities, for instance which devices are arriving and departing, and at what time. This type of presence and behaviour monitoring could easily be stitched into a smart home capability. The equivalent functionality is available via, for instance, a SmartThings keyring which triggers a change of status on arrival or departure. but the functionality is unreliable and requires additional hardware, whereas the HomeOS equivalent works based on the handset connecting to WiFi. There is also a low level AI capability which can detect anomalous behaviour. Broadly speaking, this is the route by which smart home technologies will become part of the fabric of daily life – they will arrive seamlessly pre-integrated into some other form of essential equipment. Putting this kind of functionality in a Wi-Fi router provides the anchor device which unlocks the benefits of network effects.
Equally interesting is the opportunity presented to customer care. Firstly, the user should be able to interrogate the router to find out what might be causing problems with availability on services. And secondly, HomeOS provided by a the network operator can have visibility all the way through to the server to determine whether a problem with Netflix or Fortnite might be down to problems at the server, the home network or some other element. I can actually see people yelling “Alexa, why has Netflix frozen?”
Other functionality includes the ability to show users when they’re suffering from cyber-attacks, and minimise attacks, using the anomaly detection I referred to earlier. Man-in-the-middle attacks should be easier to spot, for instance. There are also upsell opportunities for the network operator associated with having additional insight about household size, number of children, and behaviour (e.g. how many active gamers there are).
HomeOS provides a set of functionality related to home broadband usage which actually could be genuinely useful. It is accessible via an app, but probably more relevantly via smart speaker integration. Being able to quiz Alexa on who is home, what is causing problems with Netflix and so forth, without requiring anything other than regular fixed broadband CPE is reasonably compelling. Not least for the broadband providers to reduce some of the customer care calls associated with issues for which they are not responsible.
I can see why Amdocs has ventured into the world of hardware. But it’s the OS that will be the interesting capability. HomeOS can also be implemented on non-Doxi CPE. This kind of concept could be very successful, since it offers a potential differentiator for network operators in what is a tremendously commoditised market, and also has the additional benefit of potentially reducing customer care costs.