If I asked you to guess what TIME magazine has called ‘Microsoft’s big secret Windows 10 feature’, your mind might not leap to the smart home. Nevertheless, Windows 10’s support for smart device protocol AllJoyn could well be the tech giant’s hidden weapon; and one with the potential to revolutionise how retailers and consumers view the smart home.
AllJoyn is a framework that allows all of your smart devices to connect to all others on the network, irrespective of the manufacturer. This means that from the moment Windows 10 launched, the number of devices that AllJoyn has the potential to connect jumped multiple times to the tens of millions. Microsoft has set itself a lofty goal of having one billion users by 2018, by which point smart home technology could be much more prevalent.
The appeal of AllJoyn is that it promises both vendors and consumers the ease of plug and play. Whether you’re running Windows 10 on a smartphone, tablet, or PC, you can now control all of your smart home devices from one device. This is vital for European consumers, who according to our research prioritise ease of access, smartphone control, and automatic installation above other considerations when purchasing a smart home product.
With Microsoft’s endorsement, AllJoyn now has a vast potential user base that smart home developers can tap into. The framework is making a major push to establish itself as the leading Internet of Things (IoT) standard due to additional commitments from Sony, LG, HTC, Lenovo and Asus to create compatible end-user mobile and tablet devices.
However, Microsoft’s involvement is only the latest step on the journey to transforming consumer perception of the smart home. Consumers are still not connecting the dots between smart products and the smart home, something that retailers must work to resolve. While many people we surveyed confirmed that they knew of individual products such as smart TVs, smart thermostats, and smart smoke detectors, our research showed that 62% still hadn’t heard of the term ‘smart home’.
While Windows 10 has facilitated connecting and controlling a network of smart home devices with ease, it’s now time for retailers to educate the consumer. In-store displays should be encouraging consumers to think about the smart home as a whole; placing all smart devices and appliances together and educating consumers on how everything communicates with each other.
Knowledgeable staff who can demonstrate how devices can connect will also foster excitement, and consequently drive sales. In Germany, this is already underway, with around 40% of people having heard about the smart home while in a retail store.
Finally, stores should consider whether they want to be more than just a retailer, and help play the customer support role when customers need assistance with their smart home devices. Media providers and utility companies already provide this service, and it’s now up to retailers to decide whether to adapt their model to add value through after-sales support.
So while Windows 10’s support for AllJoyn makes the reality of a smart home closer than ever before, it’s now up to retailers to educate customers of its benefits, and persuade them to view the smart home as larger concept than being able to turn off the lights with your phone.