What is the future of the smart home?

by Olga Alexandru

Smart Technology talk at the Soho Hotel

We were invited to talk on the smart home by TimeInc. TimeInc presented their consumer research about people’s knowledge regarding the smart connected home which held some interesting results. Using a test group of 1000 people (evenly split between male and female) they wanted to see how familiar people are with smart technology for their home and for those that are familiar with it what the extent of their knowledge is. It’s an interesting question at time where smart technology in the home feels like it’s on the brink of becoming mainstream. Most of us are familiar with apps that allow us to control our heating from our smart phone or record our favourite tv show when we’re not at home. But research shows that people are skeptical about the types of products that are already available. When shown a variety of potential smart tech gadgets, besides the robotic cleaner, most people didn’t believe the other options were real. To be fair as part of the audience listening we were’t much better. I was surprised to find out that the smart fork, toothbrush, toilet and piggy bank are already products that exist!

Chris Walsh, the head of technology and telecommunications for TimeInc, talked passionately about the role of smart technology and how it can improve and enrich people’s lives. The devices should make life easier for the people using them to the point where everything is seamless and fades into the background according to Chris. This is the dream for the future. Functionality, while important, is not the only consideration for people interested in a smart connected home. According to the research by TimeInc, 43% of people said that the design of the smart home product is very important. People want the appliance or mechanism to integrate into the design of their home. They want it to match their aesthetic and so people are looking for products that can also be used as decor. This will create an interesting challenge for product developers as it will mean that new products have to be design led while also remaining functional.

Evan Kypreos, content director for TimeInc brands Trusted Reviews and IdealHome, shared some interesting insights from Google search. According to Google there was a massive spike in searches for smart lighting, smart thermostat and smart home. The other interesting thing mentioned was that people are already aware of smart brands. For example people were searching for Philips Hue which is a smart lighting product so rather than searching the generic term they went straight to what they were familiar them. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with competition in the smart home field in the future. Evan also discussed the current barriers to taking smart products to the next level and making them mainstream.

Current barriers in the Smart Home field
  • Companies are too focused on the technology side wanting to show every feature. This is confusing and offputting to people who aren’t sure if this is the right product for them.
  • Smart products don’t talk to each other. Every company or product has it’s own app that doesn’t talk to any other companies or apps causing people to spend extra time navigating the different apps.
  • Strong WiFi is essential and not every place has the capacity for this.

Panel discussion talking about smart technology at the Soho Hotel

Richard Stevenson, home appliance expert and TrustedReviews contributor, talked about how smart technology needs to offer a tangible consumer benefit if it’s going to stick around. He mentioned two main challenges that  manufacturers need to overcome.

Challenges to manufacturers
  • Making the products simple enough to use for the everyday person.
  • Providing a tangible benefit that will make people choose smart appliances over regular ones.

The talk was a great introduction to the world of smart technology in the home and what issues are facing both the consumers and manufacturers. It seems that the smart tech wave is just starting so it’ll be great to see over the next few years how companies solve these problems and how this will benefit the consumer by providing excellent products for a truly connected home. Thanks to Chris, Evan and Richard for a great talk!

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