Popular, Intelligent, Yet Still Unused: Smart Home
In many ways, the networked home is already a reality. Those who use it tend to be happy with it. Yet the smart home is struggling with an image problem and is thus advancing at a slow pace. Why is this the case?
The first generation of “smart home natives” is currently emerging – families who use intelligent devices in their apartments or houses in order to be connected to each other via smartphone or connected to the internet. This trend is also very important for many companies. The home is becoming increasingly important to reach out to customers – particularly if it is smart. One example of how smart homes and retail can grow together is the intelligent fridge, which makes sure it is restocked by using sensors to communicate with a food retailer’s delivery service. This form of intelligent networking between device and retailer demonstrates the enormous potential of smart homes. After all, 36 percent of all Germans already use smart home applications, and 40 percent are interested in them. Only one of every four Germans refuses to use them. This was revealed in a recent study by the market research institute Splendid Research.
Growth is currently slowing, however. According to the study, the reason for this is the confusing market situation. A lack of communication from smart home device manufacturers is part of the problem, as well as the fact that they still do not allow for enough different user profiles. Furthermore, a third of users still fear attacks by hackers. And just as many complain that the installation of the applications was too demanding. In light of these results, the industry must undertake more in the future to tackle worries and fears on the one side and, on the other side, to simplify installation and operation. Only then can the enormous potential of smart homes be used by even more industries as the new point of customer contact.
Camilla Rando has had positive experiences with her smart home. She is one of Germany’s most famous mothers, and she regularly writes about her family’s day-to-day life in her blog, “Mummy Mag.” Her child had only just been born when the journalist addressed the issue of safety and fitted her Berlin apartment out with smart home products. Together with her husband, she installed intelligent smoke detectors in every room; these set off a fire alarm on site and send a signal to your mobile phone to alert you of a fire in the apartment even if you are not at home. Camilla Rando also treasures her smart home system in terms of convenience. All the lamps in her apartment are linked with a controller. “When getting into bed at night, you don’t have to switch everything off by hand but can easily handle everything via the app,” says Rando. “It’s really simple. Even our four-year-old daughter can operate the remote app without trouble.”
Smart Home Products as Customer Channel
According to a consumer study conducted by Bitkom, the positive experiences with smart home products outweigh the negative ones. “Smart home device owners see and experience the advantages of intelligent networking every day. Smart living makes home life safer and more comfortable, and can also help in areas such as saving heat energy,” says Robert Spanheimer, Bitkom Expert, Smart Grids & Smart Home. The ability to control your heating centrally and to see energy usage in real time usually leads to a reduction in energy used.
More than half of smart home product owners are already planning the next purchase for their networked home. Smart heating is at the top of the wish list. This is a great opportunity for energy providers. They get a new channel to their customers and can improve their pool of data in order to get to know their customers and their needs better. Both sides benefit from this: there is no longer a need for meter reading, and the constant input of data enables the energy provider to better adjust its electricity production to peak demand. This will make the whole energy market more efficient in the future and will facilitate the energy revolution.
Another point is what is known as “predictive maintenance” within the Industry 4.0 field. In a networked factory, machines continually report their operating condition so that expendable parts can be replaced at the correct moment, before they break and cripple the manufacturing process. This machine-to-machine (M2M) technology has now become so cheap that soon every household device will be able to send notifications to its owner – and to the manufacturers directly. This makes it possible to order replacement parts and refills automatically, so that the beloved coffee machine never fails to complete its morning duties. The manufacturer’s development department also can create better products based on the combined usage data, since the weaknesses can be identified at an earlier stage.
The smart home is therefore more than just an increase in living standards. In the end, it will transform the whole of society and bring lasting improvements to the relationship and communication between companies and customers, thus resulting in a win–win situation for everyone involved. After all, the Rando family isn’t the only household that recognizes the overwhelming advantages of a smart home: the analysts from Statista estimate that there will be at least 720,000 networked households in Germany in the coming year; by 2020, there could be up to 1.45 million.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer. Image: AdobeStock