Every day, various aspects of our lives are becoming easier Ã¢Â€Â” and more connected Ã¢Â€Â” through the Internet of Things and smart home technology.
We are constantly generating data, receiving information, and in real-time communication with our devices and each other Ã¢Â€Â“ from anywhere, at any time. And this connectedness is only increasing. By 2020, the number of smart home devices willÃ‚Â more than double.
So what big leaps are these industries taking in 2016?
Data will undergo a huge makeover
When smart home companies first launched, they didnÃ¢Â€Â™t have access to nearly as much user data as they have today.
Now, flooded with an abundant amount of information on user activity, preferences and goals, IoT companies like SmartThings,Ã‚Â Notion,Ã‚Â HomeSeerÃ‚Â andÃ‚Â CanaryÃ‚Â are turning this data into notifications to give users as many insightful tips as possible.
TodayÃ¢Â€Â™s users are more informed and in-the-know on their smart home activity, but itÃ¢Â€Â™s coming at a cost as the pendulum has swung from few notifications to information overload.
To avoid overwhelming users with a deluge of alerts from their smart devices, IoT companies will need to organize, prioritize and streamline data Ã¢Â€Â“ and then present it properly. Some may want only life-altering alerts Ã¢Â€Â”Ã‚Â like an alarm to alert users of a gas leakÃ‚Â Ã¢Â€Â“ while others will find incredible value inÃ‚Â inactivity alerts, such asÃ‚Â when a user didnÃ¢Â€Â™t schedule his coffee to brew.
What alerts are most important? When should they be shared? How should they be shared? These are questions IoT companies need to ask themselves to ensure a pleasant user experience and balance of informed and happy users.
Companies will become household brands, not luxury items
Early adopters of smart home products are a small group of tech fanatics. However, the demographic of smart home users is vastly expandingÃ‚Â beyond just 30 to 40-year-olds in single family homes.
In 2015, smart home companies tackled many refinements, extensions and upgrades to make their products more accessible and valuable to homeowners than ever before. Because of this, in 2016, smart home companies likeÃ‚Â Nest,Ã‚Â Ecobee,Ã‚Â AugustÃ‚Â andÃ‚Â RingÃ‚Â Ã¢Â€Â” to name a few Ã¢Â€Â” will become household brands versusÃ‚Â being seen as cool-but-not-necessary luxury tech products.
In fact,Ã‚Â 68 percentÃ‚Â of Americans are confident smart homes will be as commonplace as smartphones within 10 years.
The cost of owning a house is the biggest expense in a homeownerÃ¢Â€Â™s life. Housing eats up most of the average personÃ¢Â€Â™s budget, accounting forÃ‚Â 33 percent of their annual expenses.
Smart home products promise to save time, energy and money for homeowners, withÃ‚Â 45 percentof smart home product users saying these products have saved them $1,100 per year, andÃ‚Â 87 percentÃ‚Â saying they have made their lives easier. As a result,smart home products will become standard household brands in the coming year.
Software features will expand beyond the hardware
Hardware has always been the backbone of household products.Ã‚Â Once you owned a product, you were stuck with it until you bought a new version.
Want the new refrigerator? Upgrade to the sleeker, silver edition with freezer drawers and crushed ice. Want a better thermostat? Buy the new black edition with a touch screen.
You could tell how well a product functioned by looking at the hardware in front of you Ã¢Â€Â” and new hardware meant a better product. However, now that IoT companies have mastered hardware, 2016 will be the year of sophisticated, forward-thinking software.
TheÃ‚Â ChillHubÃ‚Â smart refrigerator is a great example. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s a smart refrigerator with USB capabilities and WiFi that provides features like a butter softener, food scale, auto-fill water pitcher and more Ã¢Â€Â” using software to make a refrigerator smarter and more advanced than ever before.
Smart home products in 2016 will offer unprecedented technology Ã¢Â€Â” so much more than the physical product you see in front of you. IoT companies will start to broaden the value of their hardware platforms with the addition of advanced upgrades and integrations with professional software services tied to their markets.
Through these integrations, users will gain better features, more possibilities and more value from the same hardware they already own. Impressive hardware will simply not be enough Ã¢Â€Â“ innovative software will be a must.
IoT products will be forced to focus on security
Seventy-one percentÃ‚Â of consumers fear their personal information may get stolen by using smart home products. In fact, consumers say they are more worried about this than they are about the cost of the technology.
As IoT products continue to connect more and more aspects of our lives, it means more and more of our private information is being entrusted into the hands of IoT companies.Ã‚Â In 2016, IoT companies will be forced to increase security features to ensure usersÃ¢Â€Â™ private information is safer than ever before.
OortÃ‚Â founder and CEOÃ‚Â Radek TadajewskiÃ‚Â recommends that consumers should look for devices that feature 128-bit encryption or higher. Consumers should also enable encryption on all their devices, including communication between devices. By doing this, it would take Ã¢Â€Âœhackers with supercomputers longer thanÃ‚Â the current age of the universe to crack a deviceÃ¢Â€Â™s encryption,Ã¢Â€Â says Tadajewski.
Once IoT companies have implemented these security features, it will be essential to effectively communicate how secure their products are, to convert nervous consumers into buyers. Providing clear details on how their products are secure and why users donÃ¢Â€Â™t need to worry about the safety of their information will be absolutely key in 2016.
As 2015 comes to an end, I know weÃ¢Â€Â™ve only begun to see the possibilities of the IoT and smart home industries. And as I look ahead to 2016 Ã¢Â€Â“ between streamlined alerts, software integrations, improved security measures and product refinements and extensions Ã¢Â€Â“ I know smart homes are only going to become more insightful and more connected than ever before. And I canÃ¢Â€Â™t wait.
Read next:Ã‚Â Why the DIY smart home revolution wonÃ¢Â€Â™t work