Despite all the buzz over technologies like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Nest, the market for smart home tech remains in the nascent stage. BI Intelligence places it in the “chasm” of technology adoption, having won over the early-adopters, but still not quite able to make it over the gulch into the mass-market.
Certainly device pricing, perceived complexity and technology fragmentation are significant barriers. In order to generate mass-market appeal, manufacturers must find ways to either lower prices without sacrificing quality, or justify pricing with the value their products deliver, which includes ease of use, interoperability and key benefits that simply can’t be achieved by any other means.
To that end, smart home brands must demonstrate that their products deliver on three primary consumer needs in order to gain enough momentum to traverse the chasm:
1) Awareness. Anecdotally at least, it feels like we’re spending less and less time at home. Between work, kids’ activities, errands, socializing and travel, it seems we’re always on the go. And, that means there’s no one at home to keep an eye on the people and things we love. Smart home products that provide a feeling of awareness—the ability to know what’s going on at home, even if you’re not there—deliver tremendous value to busy, on-the-go consumers. And, the more transparently they can do this, the better, to reduce that complexity barrier. For example, smart cameras with built-in facial recognition enable families to know what’s going on and who’s involved, at all times. By programming them to recognize familiar faces, these systems can send an alert to parents when the kids come home from school, or if a stranger comes to the door. They can be programmed to only issue an alert if something or someone unexpected is detected, which means consumers can actually spend less time using the device, and more time enjoying the value it brings—the product seamlessly blends in with day-to-day activities while delivering an intrinsic sense of awareness that makes consumers feel more at ease.
2) Peace of mind. Beyond just being aware of what’s going on, consumers also want to know that all is well. Peace of mind is often associated with security applications, but it can be much more than that. Peace of mind can also come from solving small, focused problems from well-understood pain points in a consumer’s everyday experience. How many of us have gotten halfway to work when mild panic kicked in: “Did I leave the curling iron plugged in?” “Did I turn the coffee pot off?” “Did I leave my charging cable on the counter?” “Did I put the dog in his crate?” Connected devices make it incredibly easy to know the answers instantly and have that peace of mind that all is well, without having to head back home.
3) Entertainment. Entertainment has always been a driver for home automation, from the days of the 6-disk CD changer to today’s wireless surround-sound systems built into lightbulbs. Google Home and Alexa are both primarily a music speaker with a host of other features that ratchet up the value proposition and ease of use. Accordingly, purely “just for fun” and convenience features offered at a reasonable price point will amplify the value of smart home technology. For example, Wi-Fi cameras that record and curate your pet’s daily activities to automatically create a highlight reel from the most interesting events of their day can give pet owners a unique “Secret Life of Pets”-style window into the world of their furry friends, and maybe explain a few of those unsolved mysteries—like how that bag of your favorite cookies kept on top of the fridge always seems to end up on the floor, empty, a feat which may prove entertaining in itself.
While security and efficiency are most often thought of as the primary drivers in smart home technology, the benefits can go far beyond these basics. The ability to keep tabs on the people and things that mean the most to us and have a sense of peace of mind that all is well while you’re away is a powerful incentive for consumers. It’s not just about preventing theft or being able to adjust your thermostat from your smartphone, but about making sure our children, elders and pets are safe, happy and comfortable. And, sometimes “efficiency” technology means it’s so efficient, we actually use it less. With added entertainment advantages layered on, smart home tech will quickly bridge the chasm to mass-market adoption.