This week we sat down with D’Arcy Rossiter, the Head of Insight at Hive, a Centrica Connected Home company, to learn about the future of the connected home and how Centrica continues to innovate in the smart home market.
Firstly it would be great to learn more about you and your background? What was your path to taking on the innovation role at Centrica?
D’Arcy: My background is mainly insight and strategy in telecoms, media and technology. I’ve worked for brands like AOL, TalkTalk and Sky in the UK since moving to London from Canada in 2001.
Centrica is known as a traditional gas and utility company and developed Hive internally with the acquisition of Alertme in 2015. How has Centrica adapted to the digital and “connected” needs of the modern homeowner?
D’Arcy: The core of the Centrica consumer business in the UK (British Gas) and North America (Direct Energy) is about providing products and services that make our customers homes run smoothly. The products and services from Hive are a logical next step to offer to customers, allowing them to better manage their homes from anywhere. We also sell our products to consumers who don’t take other products from British Gas or Direct Energy.
What is the role of innovation within Centrica and the Hive team?
D’Arcy: Centrica is investing in innovation throughout its business. Developing Hive is one example but there are others including the team developing our innovative Boiler diagnostics product, BoilerIQ, as well as the work we are doing to identifying, incubating and accelerating new technologies within Centrica Innovations.
What do you see as the roles of strategy and leadership in the delivery of innovation?
D’Arcy: It helps to have a leadership team that is supportive of innovation. Ensuring that we are looking to solve real customer problems, that we can test and learn as we go and that failure is something to learn from, rather than be afraid of.
How do you use Catalyst to spark ideas and collaborate around the latest insights?
D’Arcy: The connected home market is global so we have to keep an eye on what is happening not only in the UK and North America but in other markets. Catalyst ensures that we keep up to date on what key players in the market are doing so our leadership and teams are well informed.
What companies or brands do you most admire for their approach to innovation?
D’Arcy: Amazon is an impressive company. They are active in our market from a number of perspectives as a channel (Amazon.com), a supplier (Amazon Web Services), an investor (Alexa Investment Fund) and a partner (Amazon Echo and Alexa). Wherever they are involved, they challenge business models and create new ones.
What’s been your favourite technology or innovation in the last few years and why?
D’Arcy: Amazon Echo and the voice assistant Alexa is a personal favourite. From a personal perspective, voice is a great interface for interacting with my connected home and is a great addition on top of the Hive app. As someone working in the connected home market, Amazon’s involvement adds to the credibility and awareness of use cases in the market.
Finally, we’ve seen a lot of interest around connected devices such as Hive Active Heating but also smart lighting and voice-activated assistants. What do you think comes next for the smart home market?
D’Arcy: A couple of areas. Adding more artificial intelligence to the connected home is the next obvious place. We need to be automating more of what we do for our customers. As an industry we also need to explain the benefits of the connected home better and follow that up with better propositions and ways to the products into consumers’ homes.
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