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Spark’s growing digital empire expands into smarthome security

The telco—a descriptor that’s becoming increasingly inaccurate—will beta launch the product called Morepork before the end of the week, enabling users to control and monitor their homes remotely via their smartphones.

And while the name of the company seemingly alludes to an insatiable desire for bacon, newly appointed general manager Gemma Croombs explains in a release that the moniker is borrowed from a native New Zealand owl.

“When we were looking at what to call the product, we learnt about the role the morepork, or r?r?, plays as the watchful guardian. This seemed the perfect symbol for a service that gives people peace of mind by watching over their homes when they are away.”

The Morepork product is being PR’ed as “an alternative to traditional security and alarm systems”, but further details on what the product actually does are being kept under wraps until the completion of the beta phase.

In other markets, smarthome security systems remove the need for standard alarm systems by allowing users to access a live stream of their homes remotely (in most instances, some hardware is still required). In addition, simply motion detectors can also alert homeowners via a push notification in the event of an intrusion. However, it’s yet to be seen whether Morepork will offer these services. 

Spark sees this product as the first step of many in terms of branching out into smarthome technology, with Croombs saying that international trends show that most consumers first show interest in a security product when it comes to adopting smarthome technology. 

“We’re looking at how this market is developing globally and, as a digital services company, Spark naturally sits at the heart of a smarthome because we have the mobile technology and the network to connect consumers to the things they love.”

The Morepork app follows on from Spark Digital’s trial of smarthome technology that was conducted last year under the Digilife brand. The trial saw the Digilife team monitor 20 to 30 Kiwi homes using smarthome technology to gauge if it was a viable space for Spark to move into. 

At the time, Will Farrell-Green, who headed the Digilife trial, said that the process was being used to determine the efficacy of the system in terms of the main areas of utility for SmartHome systems. 

“We’ve defined three macro groups or areas of focus that we will consider during the trial,” he said. “The first is security and monitoring in terms of cameras and motion sensors. In this regard, we aren’t interested in professional systems. It’s more just a case of basic video being streamed or a still image being sent to a mobile phone. And the other two areas we will be investigating are home automation and energy management.”

Farrell-Green, who specialises in testing concepts and bringing products to market, has now handed the reins to Croombs and is currently finalising the details on a new project that he will be starting within the next week (he was asked for further details on this project, but said that he could not reveal any additional information at this stage).  

“It’s been great to see something that was an idea on a whiteboard only a year ago turn into a real business,” Farrell-Green tells StopPress. “It’s always tough to leave your babies behind, but It’s been put in safe hands.”    

The launch of Morepork confirms that the first stage of the trial phase delivered results promising enough for Spark to officially launch a product in the security space. And the transition from the trial phase to official commercial launch has also been reflected on the Digilife Facebook page, which is set to be rebranded as Morepork.   

A study by the Consumer Electronics Association projects that US sales of ‘smart energy’ and ‘smart security’ systems alone will total $574 million this year, up 23 percent from 2014, making it profitable and fast-growing category to be in.

“We know we are living in a world where it’s disrupt or be disrupted, so we’re developing a range of smart, useful products that make life easier for our customers,” says Croombs.

“More than 70 per cent of our customers now own a smartphone and this is estimated to grow to around 80-90 percent within a few years. New Zealanders are using their smartphones as the ‘remote control for life’, so it makes sense they will want to use an app to look after their homes. The smarthome took centre stage this year at both the Mobile World Congress and the Consumer Electronics Show, where 2015 was dubbed: ’The year to raise your home’s IQ’. 

This article originally published on Stoppress

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