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Alexa: “We Have a Problem” with Smart Home Tech in 2019

Reportlinker first surveyed American consumers about their adoption of smart home devices in 2017. Two years later, a large percentage of Americans have still not made smart automation a part of their homes.

Similarly to 2017, Reportlinker surveyed 508 respondents, representative of the general US population and found that more than half of the respondents (63%, compared to 45% in 2017) mentioned not owning a smart home solution at all. Among those who do, they opted for connected appliances (11%), smart thermostats (8%), and smart security systems (7%).It may be that a majority of American homeowners still think of smart home technology as something just for the wealthy (who spare no expense to automate their homes to the greatest extent possible). It could also be, that middle class American homeowners don’t realize how affordable smart home technology has become for them, or feel overwhelmed by all of the options out there and are uncertain what to buy first. Whatever the case may be, the 2019 survey found that, statistically, American homeowners own 2.9 smart home devices per home on average, compared with an average of 3.4 devices per home two years ago.

It’s also true that smart home devices still comprise a new trend and seem to many more like science fiction than real fact. More than 75% of Americans who own smart home devices have had them for less than three years, and many of those respondents (42%) have owned their devices for only less than one year, while another 38% have owned them for one to three years. Overall, the trending for smart home technology ownership is downward in the last two years. We have to wonder if more consumers a couple of years ago were buying mainly because of novelty and ended up with buyer’s remorse.

Among those respondents who do own smart home devices, they often have an interface which is used to control all devices in a home. For nearly half of them (45%), a mobile phone application is used, while more than a fifth opt for a wall-mounted terminal (22%). Smart home hubs such as Echo or Google Home are only used by a tenth of Americans recently interviewed.

Overall, the main benefits respondents associated with smart home automation solutions are that the technology makes daily home life easier (34%) and that it helps the home become far more energy efficient (19%). However, the leading concern about the technology is that it can easily and frequently be used to invade a family’s privacy (32%), such as by way of eavesdropping or recording private actions and conversations which can be used for intrusive (and illicit) government surveillance. Moreover, worries about the security of collected personal data constituted the main reason for not buying among nearly one-third (29%) of respondents. Just about one-third mentioned that they simply don’t see any significant advantage to the technology (32%), and 23% responded that it’s not worth the perceived high cost. This concern over privacy is another possible reason why so many American homeowners aren’t enthusiastic over outfitting their homes with smart home automation. In fact, more than two-thirds of Americans interviewed (73%) said that it’s “unlikely” that they’ll purchase a home automation solution in a near future, with 52% of them being “very unlikely” to do so. This reluctance is up by 9% compared with two years ago.In spite of the rising popularity of smart voice assistants and smart speakers such as Alexa and Echo, nearly 75% of Americans interviewed recently mentioned not owning the technology at all. Only 13% own an Alexa speaker and only 9% own a Google Home speaker. Once again, deep concerns over privacy are likely driving a lot of the reluctance to buy.

Indeed, in the last two years American homeowners have grown less interested in buying a smart speaker (79% are “unlikely” to buy a voice assistant in a near future, 12% higher than in 2017), with more than half of respondents being “very unlikely” to do so. For those who do own a smart speaker such as Alexa or Google Home, they predominantly utilise it to play music or videos (29% of mentions), to know about the weather (21%), or merely to find information about a service or a product (14%). Furthermore, they don’t even use it all that often: the vast majority (81%) use their voice assistant or smart speaker fewer than three times a day on average, with 45% saying they use it less than once a day. This goes to show that the producers of smart speakers or voice assistants haven’t yet justified their existence or value to the minds of a strong majority of Americans, and they’ve justified their role in smart home automation technology to an even lesser extent.

In the end, the objections to smart home technology—threat to privacy, not worth the cost to implement, vulnerability to hackers, and so forth—need to be overcome before tech-savvy, tech-hungry Americans are going to embrace it on a mass scale.