Smart Homes Are The Future, But Devices Need To Be Cheaper – ARC


At some point in the future, the majority of people will live in smart homes. Lights will come on when they are programmed to, floors will be heated so that we don’t need slippers, our entertainment systems will know what we want to watch and our fridge will keep beer at the correct temperature.

That is the dream. A connected utopia that is less Jetsons and more Blade Runner—without the rain—and one that has been on the edge of our reality for quite some time.

Smart devices and hubs are, it seems, everywhere. Revenue from connected homes is expected to be in the billions within two to five years and reach stratospheric levels in the relatively near future. Depending on which research report you read, smart homes are not only the way we will live but also the way we should be living now.

The problem that smart home advocates are finding is that the early adopters are, basically, the only adopters. Providing people with intelligent thermostats, smart locks and app-enabled means to open your garage door or turn off the lights is one thing … making the masses aware of the possibilities is something completely different.

Removing Mass Confusion Is A Start

A recent survey of 2,225 American adults by The Harris Poll said that only 7% of respondents had a smart device in their homes while 64% of U.S. residents knew very little about smart homes. A similar study by German telecommunications company Deutsche Telecom, cited by Forbes, said that 72% of European households knew nothing about the technology involved.

This is to be expected with nascent and rapidly evolving tech. Where the confusion arises is when people are asked more specific questions about what smart devices they already own.

For example, 17% of respondents to the Harris Poll have wireless speaker systems and 11% have smart thermostats. Around 8% have domestic robots (likely a Roomba), 6% have smart lighting and 9% have smart security and monitoring systems. What is interesting is when you consider that 34% of those surveyed already have one or more devices in their home, a figure that rises to 38% among Millennials and 59% for early adopters.

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Source: The Harris Poll, cited by Forbes

Naturally, the sample size is a tiny proportion of the country, but the signs are encouraging. The key to mass adoption, however, will not come from those that have already invested—it is the ones that might.

Bringing Together Awareness And ROI

Increased adoption comes when awareness and value dovetail and make consumer aware of the bigger picture. Smart thermostats, for example, were of interest to 40% of respondents to the Harris survey and only 11% had never heard of the technology. Home energy use monitors would be purchased by 31% of respondents and smart lighting was on the list for 37% of interviewees.

Those numbers are edging slowly towards mainstream adoption. Granted, there are still barriers to climb in certain areas—51% of respondents had never heard of smart water detectors and 32% didn’t know what a smart refrigerator was—but the study revealed one factor that is limiting adoption … the cost of doing so.

See also: Apps Developers Are Building Smart Homes Solutions For Themselves

An average of 88% of respondents said that devices were too expensive. This is a major stumbling block and one that—for the moment, anyway—is likely to inhibit adoption. Around 87% of Millennials, 88% of Generation X and 89% of Baby Boomers all cited that as the main reason for not investing in smart devices, with even 79% of early adopters seeing the cost of purchase as too high.

There are also concerns over how connected we want to be, with 71% of those surveyed saying that smart homes make it easier for hackers to steal data or personal information. Functionality is also a worry—70% of respondents didn’t believe that connected devices would perform basic tasks as well as non-connected devices.

Getting Through The Land Of Confusion

Bearing these numbers in mind, it is little wonder that the smart home landscape appears confused. Much of that can be attributed to how fragmented it appears to be to the average person, with the prevalence of different technologies and a multitude of apps being overshadowed by questions over how it makes life better.

For example, Gartner’s 2015 Hype Cycle for Connected Homes shows many of the devices currently being pushed towards consumers by tech companies and app developers are still in the Peak of Inflated Expectations, although at least connected homes themselves are still waiting for the innovation trigger. And a key word here is hype.

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Consumers have been expecting smart homes for so long that it seems that anything we get now is not what we really wanted. Think about the utopian worlds of science fiction—tech companies and innovators have learned from them and introduced devices that fit perfectly into how people envisioned the future. Successful devices enhance lives when adopted by the masses, but smart homes remain a niche market.

The waters don’t get any clearer when we start thinking about what smart homes could actually do. The Harris Poll does highlight some of the smart device perks that people believe can improve their lives—saving money (91%), conserving energy (90%), safety (89%)—but the reality is that only 50% of respondents think that current devices actually save money. The same goes for energy conservation and safety; 59% say smart homes are energy efficient and 55% feel safe.

So the question is, what is the likelihood of smart homes becoming the de-facto residences of the future? The answer is that, at this precise moment in time, we don’t actually know.

Leveraging What We Already Have

The technology is there and tech companies are keen to tap into a consumer market that has experienced some growth in the last few years but it is not increasing at the same rate that devices are coming on to the market.

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Google, for example, has spent a lot of money in betting that the winds of change are coming to smart home adoption with Nest and now its Weave communication protocol and Google rarely bets on projects that it doesn’t think make life better for the majority of people. If a company as innovative as Google sees a future in smart homes, then it is likely that it will happen … when it happens is an ongoing discussion.

As we said above, the problem is not with the available technology but the willingness of people to use it. Smart homes are coming and more people will accept the potential benefits they bring to the table. The challenge for developers and smart home advocates is now to make sure that increased value is the defining factor in raising awareness.

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