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Smart home is on the up but still too complicated – EY

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It certainly has been a slow burner, but according to research from EY the smart home revolution is about to catch fire.

Sci-fi films have been stacked to the ceiling with intelligent, connected devices, but in reality adoption has been pretty ordinary, some might even say woeful. We have seemingly been talking about the connected revolution for years, but it’s only been in the last couple of months, thanks to some aggressive advertising campaigns from Amazon and Google, that it has started to catch-on. Smart speakers have put the smart home into the mainstream and it looks like it is only going to get better.

“Our survey shows that UK consumers are warming to a new wave of smart products and services that help redefine home living,” said Adrian Baschnonga, Lead Telecommunications Analyst at EY. “Looking ahead, smart security and energy services boast the fastest take-up rates, underlining the importance of convenience, control and efficiency as drivers of demand.”

Adoption rates are certainly heading in the right direction as the research shows 26% of households own at least one smart device (speaker, heating device, security etc.) but this figure is expected to rise to 59% by 2022. Smart heating devices look to be the most promising area, with 38% of households planning to purchase over the next five years, while 32% plan to buy some sort of smart security product, and both digital home assistants and smart lighting devices are expected to be in 31% of households.

Penetration for each of these devices are still very low right now, but it does appear users are put off by the complications of installing the hardware or managing the software. This is hardly an usual trend, it is the same before the mass adoption of every technology evident in the bell curve, but perhaps the slow start to the smart home has been down to a lack of education. The digital era is taking over, but it is only now the millennials, those who would be considered more comfortable with new technology, are starting to become the most influential purchasers in the market.

Another concern is perhaps the value proposition, although it is not addressed in the research. You have to wonder whether the price/hassle/benefit ratio is actually worth it right now. Your correspondent bought a Google smart home device for his parents at Christmas, functionality is pretty limited for the moment. This is expected as it is still early days, but considering the technology is very good at promising your world will be rocked here and now, it is a bit of a dampener.

Gradual improvement are being made to ease the consumer into the connected experience and Google has released an update to what we think is a really useful feature. Routines is a feature on the Google Home device which allows users to customise a routine for different times of the day. For example, the ‘Good Morning’ routine can be configured to take your phone off silent, adjust lighting and heating in the house, tell the user about their day (meetings, weather, traffic conditions on the way to work) and then a pre-selected radio channel or playlist can be started. All you have to do is say ‘Hey Google, good morning’. Similar routines can be set up for the commute, getting home from work or going to bed.

The Routine feature is what we would expect from smart devices; default processes which offer benefits to the consumer without them having to do too much. It eases the consumer into the swing of things and gets them comfortable with the technology. As it stands there are too many device manufacturers or software developers which are creating a fantastic offering but leaving too much work for the consumer to do. The first steps on the way to the digital life need to be simple; the user needs help.

“Our survey findings highlight many positives that product and service providers can draw on as they formulate their smart home strategies,” said Praveen Shankar, EY’s Telecommunications Sector Leader. “However, looking ahead, they must position the customer at the heart of their approach and provide a compelling and consistent story about the value they can offer them. Customer concerns regarding installation and security should not be treated as an afterthought, and clear communications should exist before, during and after the point of sale.”

Perhaps the issue is technologists have focused too much on making this big wonderful world where everything works in sync and ticks like clockwork. The vision is big and brilliant, but maybe these companies are forgetting change is scaring for the majority. No-one likes to feel overwhelmed when treading onto unwalked paths, and maybe the industry is just asking a little bit too much of the user right now.

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