Tag Archives: Smart Home Survey

Google and Amazon lay the foundations for a virtual assistant to run our homes

The dream of the smart home always seems just out of reach. Everyone knows how it should work. You buy a new connected device, plug it in, and it instantly syncs with all your other devices. Of course the reality is often markedly different—one poor man spent 11 hours trying to make a cup of tea with his new kettle. This is not an isolated experience as many tech reviewers and consumers have documented their own valiant battles to control their devices.

The root cause of the frustration stems from the multitude of technology standards, but Google and Amazon are both making great strides trying to address it. They have realised that convenience is the key to making the category a success. And what could be more convenient than telling someone, or in this case something, to do a job for you? The Amazon Echo, newly available in the UK, has won over industry experts for its ability to search online for information, and control the home’s connected devices using simple voice commands. But it is Google Home that has many in the industry excited.

Google has always been a data company, with a mission to organize the world’s information. If you have a Gmail account, it’s been reading your emails for years. If you use any of its services such as Android, Chrome, Maps or Search it knows pretty much everything about your habits. A few years ago, it launched Google Now that aimed to map out your life as a personal concierge you could speak to. With Google Home, this goes one step further.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence mean that you can now converse with Google Home. After you ask it what’s on at the cinema, you can then ask it to filter by age-certification or genre, and then to book tickets. It will wake you up and give you a morning briefing based on the papers you read. It will alert you to any delays on your commute, and remind you about appointments. Plus, it can connect to your smart home devices—though not as many as the Amazon Echo—and operate them all by voice. Initial reviews have been very positive, and while there are discussions to be had about privacy and security, the promise is there for all to see.

We surveyed 2,500 European consumers about their hopes for the smart home, and only three per cent thought they needed a hub to control all their devices. But it’s looking more likely that a device like the Echo or Home will be the gateway to your home’s other devices, with users enticed by the ability to search and manage other aspects of their lives.

The price points are within consumer expectations, though they do not leave much room for purchase of additional smart home products. Thirty per cent said they’d pay up to £150 for smart home devices over the next year, exactly the price of the Echo, with Google Home set to retail in the U.S. at $129. Fifty per cent would pay more than £150, meaning these devices are accessible, and could well act as the catalyst for people to buy more smart home devices. Indeed, Google is pushing its Nest thermostats and IP cameras anew on the back of the Home launch.

By choosing voice as the input method, Amazon and Google have removed the cumbersome user-experience of finding the relevant app on your smartphone for the lights, and then navigating to another app for speaks. It is choice that could usher in mainstream acceptance for having a virtual assistant in our homes.

by AS

Leave a comment

Filed under Connectivity, Smart Home, Smart Technology

Intel makes landgrab for wearables and gaming but cedes space to Qualcomm in the smart home

Intel has the power to make us dream – there were truly gasps in the packed audience when Brian Krzanich CEO of Intel presented their new offerings based round gaming, health & wellness and creativity. We saw the Yuneec Typhoon H drone dodge cactuses and bushes in the Mexican desert, we jived inside to the sounds of Ar Rahman playing virtual instruments and updating his hit song Jai Ho (from Slumdog Millionaire) with the latest Intel technology, we watched 3 times IronMan champion Craig Alexander use his interactive sports and performance tracking device – he spoke to it and it responded intelligently – as an aside, why oh why can’t they sort out the voice interaction in Cortana? At the end we literally soared with a maestro performance of Beethoven’s 5th symphony lit up by a mass of drones flying in formation, breaking the Guinness book of records for the most drones controlled by one person. Watch out for it when it comes out on You Tube.

And then there is smart home which was not mentioned at all in the keynote. That was left to Qualcomm who announced at their media only press conference (yes I am griping however nicely they pushed back the industry analysts) the introduction of a Smart Home Reference Platform. It is according to their press release, “based upon the versatile Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 212 processor, that is designed to provide computing, voice recognition, audio, display, camera, connectivity, and control capabilities for home control hubs and smart speakers, extending to home appliances and multimedia devices as use cases evolve.”

The choice being made by Intel appears to be driven by the value that they can get from their silicon in devices which will be expensive and highly valued by end users – drones, advanced health devices, sporting equipment, segways, robots. There is not the same intrinsic value in the more modest household sensors which form the backbone of the smart home. Smart home only ticks two of the three big trends in computing cited by Brian Krzanich:

  • Everything is becoming smart and connected – yes
  • Sensification of computing – bringing depth and new perspective to the computing experience – no this is not a key priority for smart home
  • Computing as the “extension of you”. A big yes.

What was missing was Intel dreaming about how to make the house an extension of you. The top use case which has come out from both Smart Home surveys conducted by CONTEXT in August 2015 and December 2015 is that when I arrive home, the house is ready for me. The second is advanced security in the home and the third is a coordinated going to bed function. Imagine an Intel keynote where Mr Krzanich had showed technology where I walk into the home and talk to it, and it responds. That is the future and I suspect that others such as Qualcomm are developing the technology which will underpin that.

The results of CONTEXT’s 2nd Smart Home Survey will be previewed at the Retail CEO Breakfast at CES on 7th January. 2,500 consumers have been surveyed in France, Germany, UK and for the first time, Spain and Italy. The CONTEXT forecast for 3D printer activity in 2016 will also be presented.

CONTEXT is delighted to welcome Hans Carpels, President of Euronics, the 3rd largest ICT Retailer in the world, and Stéphane Bohbot, CEO of the innovative Lick stores based in Paris, as keynote speakers talking at the breakfast on new frontiers for ICT Retail in 2016.

by AS

Leave a comment

Filed under Connectivity, Home automation, Smart Technology, Wearables

Are attitudes a leading indicator for breakthrough in Smart Home sales?

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.

By AS

Leave a comment

Filed under Connectivity, Home automation, Retail in CONTEXT, Smart Technology