We’re a nation obsessed by smartphones, with 71 per cent of us owning at least one of these indispensable devices. So it will come as no surprise that our research shows that one of the most important factors when it comes to driving smart home adoption is how easy it is to control from our smartphones.
But as the sector develops, we must consider whether we want to use our smartphone to switch off the lights or turn on the TV. Consumers will crave a more natural and intuitive interface, and here we explore three ways the smartphone could be knocked off its throne as default remote of the connected home.
- Voice control
Speaking to inanimate objects might seem like an odd concept now, but in a few years the entire smart home could be running on voice biometrics. Online retail giant Amazon has put a lot of effort into its Amazon Echo: a speaker that you can ask about to play music, give you a morning traffic update, or even tell you the latest football score. Other smart products, such as Samsung Smart TVs now have voice recognition built in too. Yes, you can ask it to change channel and turn the volume up and down without touching the remote control, but it also builds a personal profile of you and every member of your family. It will learn what programmes you watch regularly so as soon as you ask it to ‘play the latest England game’, it knows you mean you want to see the latest goal from Sterling not the cricket or rugby.
- Actions and gestures
If the thought of having to ask your coffee machine to start brewing in the morning is too much to face, why not set it off with a simple smile? Intel’s RealSense 3D camera recognises hand and head movements, and even facial expressions. It’s currently targeted at video gamers who can control the on-screen action with their hand rather than the control pad. But it’s soon expected to become more common in our everyday lives with thermostats, TVs, or laptops that you control with a swipe of the hand, a nod of the head, or even a wink or smile.
- Mind control
It sounds like science-fiction but your thoughts alone could control the smart home of the future. The connected home will be full of devices able to monitor particular signals in your brain and see what you want to do before you’ve even had the chance to act upon it yourself. Incredibly, it’s already being developed, and in Eda Akman Aydin’s study at Gaza University all participants were able to learn to control a phone, light, TV and heater just by picking up signals from their brain activity. The technology might be slow to respond at the moment, but it’s a promising start. With our research showing that most European consumers expect to have a smart home in three or more years’ time, there’s still time for cutting edge tech like this to develop and grow.
Above all, what these three interfaces offer consumers is ease of use and what could be simpler than a few words, a gesture or even a thought? Retailers know that convenience wins over consumers and with such straightforward systems the question isn’t if the smartphone will be replaced in the smart home, but when.
 From Google Consumer Barometer 2015