The Internet of Things has arrived with more of our everyday becoming connected. While many have high hopes for smart cities and driverless cars, it looks like the smart home will be one of the more practical and plausible upshots of our newly connected world.
We have just launched a report into the smart home that polled the views, opinions and purchasing intentions of 1,500 people in the UK, Germany and France. For many consumers it is the promise of greater convenience, cost savings and security that drives their smart home aspirations. The idea of having your home ready for you when you return resonates strongly, as does being able to shut down the house in the evening when it’s time for bed.
We were also really encouraged by the respondents’ open-minded attitude to the smart home concept. Nearly half of consumers (46%) in the UK, France and Germany expect to be living in a smart home within the next three to five years. In Germany, where manufacturers have been pushing the smart home concept for a number of years, nearly a quarter (22%) believes that smarter living will be a reality within a year. Whilst many question the timing of a smart home breakthrough, we should be encouraged by these positive responses, which are a leading indicator of change.
The Germans also appear to have a more positive outlook for the smart home. In the UK, 56% said they just weren’t interested in buying smart home products. In France this was 43%, but in Germany this fell significantly to 18%, highlighting the importance of driving consumer awareness. When we look at the retail level, again Germany led the way, with four in ten consumers surveyed finding out about smart home products through retail stores, compared to only 22% in France.
Yet despite this optimism, we still find the sector in its infancy. Even with all the buzz around tech shows, media excitement, and big-budget TV ad spend on products like Nest and Hive, consumer awareness is relatively low. Over six in ten of those we talked to hadn’t heard of the term smart home, so much remains to be done to educate consumers on the benefits of automating the home.
This appears to be the key to unlocking the potential of the smart home. We found that consumers focus on individual products like smart light bulbs or thermostats in isolation, instead of joining the dots to see how they can connect their entire home together. For retailers there exists a real opportunity to drive revenue in this new category by showcasing the smart home as a whole, bringing products from lighting, electrical and home furnishings departments together for the first time. And for device manufacturers, this is a signal that it’s time to think collaboratively, so products are inter-operable straight out the box.
As consumers remain unaware of these wider benefits, price becomes somewhat of a blocker to widespread adoption. Over a third feels that smart home products are currently too expensive, with the current ceiling for the majority of consumers around the £150 mark.
The smart home is rapidly becoming tangible as retailers, utility companies and telecoms operators jostle for consumer attention. From here standards need to be set so products work with each other regardless of manufacturer. This would remove the complexity of setting up a smart home, something that is undoubtedly stifling consumer buy-in. The prospects for the smart home market appear to be very bright, and it will be fascinating to see if the German optimism reflected in our research translates to the rest of Europe, and is converted into higher sales volumes.
For more information or to obtain a copy of the CONTEXT Smart Home Consumer Survey, please click here.