The smart home movement is upon us and has been for some time, but when, and how, will it become the norm for every household? With an increasing number of manufacturers embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and the smart home, the technology is developing at a rapid rate making it now possible to 'connect' nearly all aspects of home life.
The concept is a great one and could drastically transform our daily lives. Over the past 2-3 years this has led to incredibly high forecasts for growth in the sector and recent reports reveal that interest really is high amongst the general public, with over two thirds stating that they will purchase at least one connected home device within the next 5 years, but does this intrigue guarantee an increase in sales and what is the best way to take advantage of this?
Interest in IoT grows
Smart home companies must first concentrate on areas the public truly cares about. A recent iControl study has revealed that 90% of current smart home product owners listed 'Security' as the main reason for their smart home purchase. Products like connected kettles and fridges may be easy for the general public to understand and operate, however these products provide very limited benefit to their everyday lives. The aim for manufacturers should therefore be to generate the same level of public understanding, in terms of operation and installation, in products with much more significant day to day benefits like connected security and home automation systems.
Smart security is an example of what can be one of the simpler smart home technologies that has real, tangible benefits - deterring theft, remote access and convenience to name just a few. With users having the ability to adapt their smart security system to suit them with simple additions, such as having the outside light switch on when someone walks near the front door, it's possible that these small starting points can serve as a gradual introduction to a fully connected home.
A stepping stone approach
The opportunity to start with one product, rather than a whole connected home system naturally makes the entry price point into smart home much lower and is more suited to those that live in smaller homes, both of which make it more attractive to a younger audience. Also, by starting with a product that solves a direct problem for the user, such as a small indoor camera for easy monitoring of a pet or small child on a smart phone, manufacturers can quell the fear that the technology is 'too smart' and show it is accessible and approachable, further closing the gap between availability and accessibility. This modular approach will also reassure potential customers that their system is future proof as they can add to or upgrade it when new products are launched and as their needs change - if they get pets, expand the family, or move to a larger home.
As this stepping stone approach is designed so that consumers can add new products as and when they need to, the installation process must be straightforward and noninvasive to the home. If someone was to buy a complete home security or automation system that is difficult to install then a one-off professional installation, although expensive, won't be too intrusive or time consuming. However, if the products in a modular system were to require the same professional or technical installation, it would be incredibly off-putting for the consumer. Products such as those in the Smart-Series system from home security experts Swann can all be installed by the non-technically minded, with few wires or drilled holes.
For this stepping stone approach to truly take off in the mass market, it must be possible for products from one manufacturer to 'talk' to those from another. This way, users won't feel tied into one manufacturer, making the initial purchase of a smart home product easier. This open platform, and the use of open source protocols like ZigBee, will benefit the industry as whole, with users able to benefit from connecting products from specialist manufacturers together in one system. This is already in place, for example with the Hue products from connected lighting manufacturer Philips and the connected locks from trusted home locks manufacturer Yale, able to connect directly to the Smart-Series systems and other Swann DIY HD video surveillance products.
The benefits of the IoT and the smart home are huge and developments in the sector are shifting the way users interact with their surroundings. However for mass adoption to occur, a scalable, stepping-stone approach is needed from manufacturers in the industry to ensure that the products and services that they offer are the most accessible that they can be.