“Alexa, Please Turn on the Lights at 7 pm:” Smart Automation Comes Home
One major impact of smart home solutions is that they are swiftly changing the way we interact with computers.
When Bill Gates built his smart house, “Xanadu 2.0,” in the mid-90s, it was viewed as futuristic and out of reach for most consumers. After all, Gates could change artwork on the walls with the touch of a button and adjust each room’s lighting, music, and temperature with a touchpad. Many likely believed the technology wouldn’t make it into ordinary homes for decades – or at least, not at a price they could afford.
Fast forward 20 years, and technology is catching up to the Microsoft founder’s vision. Today, there are smart light bulbs that memorize your living patterns and turn on, off or change to a different color automatically. Smart locks enable you to share virtual keys with visitors to your home, while smart cameras allow you to see who is knocking on your door, even when you’re away.
But it’s not just lighting and security. A rich field of startups is dedicated to developing new types of smart home devices. These solutions will monitor your baby and your pets, play your music, water your garden, clean your home, and make sure you take your medicine. For example, French hardware company Netatmo recently partnered with Velux on connected windows that, using sensors, will open or shut depending on the weather.
Tech companies big and small are recognizing that the market for smart home solutions is promising. Nearly half of Americans consider themselves to be tech-savvy, according a new survey by ReportLinker, with the rate of Millennials who say they’re adept at it even higher, at 58%. What’s more, consumers of smart home solutions tend to own more than one device – 3.4 on average. Half say they have one to two automation devices installed at home, while a third say they have five or more. These may include connected appliances (20% of mentions), smart thermostats (16% of mentions), smart security systems (12% of mentions) and smart lighting solutions (10% of mentions).
Even so, entrepreneurs may have to wait for some consumers to catch up with the technology. Although prices of the devices are now within reach for most consumers, a third of Americans in the ReportLinker survey say they’re not comfortable with smart technology, which could hinder adoption. Older generations are especially reluctant, with 39% saying they consider themselves technology novices or beginners, potentially hindering their adoption of smart home solutions. This may explain why nearly six in 10 respondents still don’t have any automation devices for the home.
Smart home companies still have a large untapped market for the devices. For one thing, we’re still in the early stages of adoption. ReportLinker found that 54% of users had only owned their smart home devices between one and three years, while 19% had them for less than a year.
Among those not yet using smart home solutions, 63% say they have no plans to do so. They cite cost (29%) and privacy (25%) as reasons they’re not interested, and a third don’t see any benefits to having the solutions. To increase adoption, developers of smart home solutions will need to do a better job of marketing the benefits of the smart home.
Fortunately, they’ve a lot to talk about. Users of the solutions say there are numerous benefits. More than a third said it makes life easier, while 27% said the solutions help to reduce the energy bill at the end of the month, according to ReportLinker. Others say the main benefits are ease of use and the positive impact on the re-sale value of their home. Thus, manufacturers could increase adoption among non-users by more heavily promoting the ways in which the solutions create more energy efficient and secure homes.
For users of smart home solutions, the most popular way to interact with their devices is through an app, ReportLinker found. Almost half (48%) manage their solutions this way, ReportLinker found, compared to 17% who use a wall-mounted terminal.
Consumers also have the option of managing devices through smart home hubs such as those offered by Samsung SmartThings, Amazon Echo, and Google Home, which allow owners to monitor any type of connected device through a single interface. However, ReportLinker found that few respondents – just 9% – say they use such hubs. This could change, however, if it becomes more convenient to control home devices from your smartphone. Both Google and Apple have developed all-in-one apps that enable consumers to operate multiple smart devices right from a single app on a smartphone or tablet.
“The future involves talking to your tech, and your lights are the first part of your home ready to make the leap,” writes Geoffrey A. Fowler in the Wall Street Journal, and, in fact, one major impact of smart home solutions is that they are swiftly changing the way we interact with computers. For many consumers, the first step in adopting smart home technology is a voice assistant.
Both Google and Amazon promoted their voice assistants heavily over the holiday season, so it’s not surprising that the adoption rate of these devices is relatively high. More than a third of respondents to the ReportLinker survey have purchased a voice assistant, and the most popular uses are playing music or videos (63% of mentions), getting the weather report (47% of mentions), or listening to the news (32% of mentions). But the devices are also used to control smart home devices (28% of mentions) when available, and to find information about a service or a product (26% of mentions).
Yet despite their success over the holidays, Google, Amazon and other manufacturers still have quite a bit of work to do to convince consumers to purchase a voice assistant. Similar to those who are reluctant to buy a smart home solution, 66% of consumers told ReportLinker they’re unlikely to buy a voice assistant in the near future. However, women are far more interested than men, with 42% saying they are likely to buy one, compared to 76% of men who say they are not interested. Thus, one way to increase sales and adoption is to target women in marketing and advertising campaigns.
Eventually, asking our voice assistant to track down a fact or order more cat food will become a normal, everyday interaction – the same as asking it to dim the lights. Today, however, even among those who keep their devices continually connected to the Internet, 71% use their voice assistants fewer than three times a day. However, tech-addicted respondents tend to use them more intensively – more than six times daily.
While it may take some time for consumers to become comfortable with the smart home, it’s clear that the concept is no longer futuristic or unaffordable. As manufacturers sharpen their marketing pitch, more consumers are likely to embrace smart home technology for its convenience and cost savings.
This survey conducted by ReportLinker reached 508 online respondents representative of the US population. Interviews were conducted on May, 4th 2017.