A panel of experts discussed those challenges at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn on June 10. Their main conclusion: People are still wrapping the minds around the idea of connecting everything in their home to the Internet–and they’re going to do it one simpleÂ device at a time.Â
“What we ask is:Â How do we give someone the smallest entry point?” says Jon Troutman, co-founder and chief creative officer ofÂ home security startup Canary.Â “It’s about baby steps. If you give people technology that’s too complex too soon, then they get disillusioned by the idea of the smart home, and they step back from wanting to adopt new products.” Canary, a New York-basedÂ startup that has raised over $40 millionÂ in venture capital, makes a home security device that captures video and audio and sendsÂ alerts to its owner via an app.
At one end of the spectrum areÂ $150,000 sound systems with invisible speakers in every roomÂ and subwoofers hidden behind the walls, says Matt Emmi, co-founder of smart home startupÂ OneButton–which designs work and home environments for clients looking for these kinds of innovations.Â
But the core technology, Emmi says, is the same as that ofÂ a SonosÂ PlayÂ smart speaker, which can be had for $200–and is far less intimidating.
Only 26 percent of people with smart home devices have more than three of them, Troutman says. “There areÂ barriers to entry, then barriers to continued use.Â If you can deliver that good first experience, you can get people on board with the idea of aÂ connected home.”Â
This is why much of the innovation so far has been on this lower, more affordableÂ end. Devices like the Nest thermostat,Â Amazon Echo, and the SonosÂ speakers give consumers some of the features of a smart home productÂ with a low commitment factor.Â Products like these, the panel says, are the ones that will lead the charge into fully connected smart homes–and are the logical starting point for any startup looking to get into the industry.
Eventually, the panel predicts, smart home products will expand.Â Windows that shade themselves when the sun comes up and smartphone-controlledÂ lighting systems will become the standard, and any new home will be expected to have them.Â
ButÂ don’t expect to see people adopting smart products simply because they exist. “There are lots of crazy things this industry is doing that consumers don’t really need yet,” Troutman says. Smart fridges and smart umbrellas might sound cool and futuristic, but consumers see them as things “builtÂ by geeks, for geeks.”
Also on thatÂ not-likely-to-be-adoptedÂ list:Â anything that’s showy orÂ intrusive, or that createsÂ a near-human presence within the house. “That’s where ‘The Jetsons’ had it all wrong,”Â Emmi says. “I don’t want a robot cleaning my home;Â I just want a clean home.”