Making connections: adopters catch on to the benefits of using smart-home devices

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Your alarm rings. You hit the snooze button, triggering your coffee pot to start brewing and the lights to turn on gradually. Your mattress senses that you didn’t sleep well, and messages your coffee pot to select espresso. After a shower, you dress in an outfit recommended by your closet, based on the day’s weather forecast. And, as you sip that coffee, the fridge reminds you to pick up eggs, and that the chicken you bought is close to its use-by date. Meanwhile, preset music in the teenager’s bedroom motivates them to get going.

What’s not to love about internet of things devices that make home life easier, and take the stress out of rush hour? Professional services firm PwC paints the above picture of an intuitive connected home in a recent report – Smart home, seamless life. And an independent survey recently commissioned by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) identified the smart home as among the next big trends.

More than 850 buyers and exhibitors were surveyed at the HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair (spring edition) that has just wrapped up, and some 70 per cent of them said, in terms of smart home technology, they expected wireless-system items connecting housing systems or appliances to the internet or mobile networks to have the best prospects. Yet, according to market research company Gartner, consumers in mature markets aren’t overly keen on the devices offered so far. Its survey of nearly 10,000 respondents in the United States, Britain and Australia found that, despite a willingness to embrace connected home solutions, only about 10 per cent of households have them.

In order to win consumers over, says Amanda Sabia, principal research analyst at Gartner, manufacturers must push beyond early adopter use. “If they are to successfully widen the appeal of the connected home, providers will need to identify what really motivates current users to inspire additional purchases,” she says.

So, what do people want? According to Gartner’s research, home security alarm systems have nearly doubled the adoption rates (18 per cent) of newer connected home solutions, such as home monitoring (11 per cent), home automation or energy management (9 per cent), and wellness management (11 per cent). Perhaps users just need time to warm to these devices: in the US, where such products were first marketed, overall adoption rates were 5 per cent to 6 per cent higher. Yet, the idea of having devices, appliances and applications fully connected to the smart home ecosystem has not yet hit the mark. Three-quarters of respondents indicated they are happy to set temperature and lighting controls manually, versus only one-quarter who expressed an interest in having household devices anticipate their needs.

However, respondents are starting to see the value of one app integrating their connected home devices. A majority also noted the importance of hardware and services being certified by a specific brand. Bottom line? “Messaging needs to be focused on the real value proposition that the complete connected home ecosystem provides, encompassing devices, service and experience,” says Jessica Ekholm, research director at Gartner. “The emphasis needs to be on how the connected home can help solve daily tasks rather than just being a novelty collection of devices and apps.”

PwC’s market intelligence sheds further light. For more than half (57 per cent) of consumers surveyed in the US, the high cost of smart-home devices would deter them from buying. However, half of those agreed they’d be more likely to buy such devices if a payment plan was offered.
Asked about which additional smart home features they’d be willing to pay for, privacy protection was the most popular: 75 per cent of consumers said they’d be willing to subscribe – per month or per year – for extra security.

But maybe manufacturers should really be reaching out to women, who value smart home convenience above all. According to PwC’s report, female respondents said that, for them, a smart device “represents another set of hands, one less thing to remember on a long list of family responsibilities”. Some 60 per cent also said they’d pay extra for personalised customer service, which ranked second behind security among add-on features at additional cost.

 

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