Smart technology has long been a staple of high end luxury home; but 2016 saw smart homes, connected devices and the Internet-of-things take a big step forward into the mass market with products such as 4K connected TVs, smart home assistants and smart security all becoming mainstream devices. From the weird and wacky to the eminently practical and consumer focused, we are seeing the development and introduction of new in home smart and connected devices on a near weekly basis . With both Mobile World Congress and the Consumer Electronics Show for 2017 under our belts, what will be the developments and trends we should expect to see in smart home technology through the rest of 2017 and on into 2018?
Whilst for the internet-of-things is still in its infancy for the general consumer it is starting to build a decent level of momentum. This has been helped in large part by products and services such as Amazon and Google offering smart home hubs (more on these later) which have made connected devices feel warm, consumer friendly and are becoming household names. There is no shortage of options for things you can do with the internet of things. Imagine a fridge which auto orders food from the supermarket as you start to run low. Devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home can share news with you whilst you are cleaning or talk you through a recipe whilst you are cooking. Smart home internet-of-things devices will also help households reduce energy costs as well as conserving energy. Smart controls (such as temperatures and lighting controls) can be used to ensure your home is at a comfortable temperature when you get home, switching off heating, air conditioning and lighting when you are not using a room or when you are out. Combined with smart meters this can lower your energy usage and bills.
Smart hubs, such as Alexa from Amazon, are becoming household names. Whilst Amazon’s digital assistant launched towards the end of 2016, Google Home was launched in early 2017 to critical acclaim. Apple have taken a different route with their home hub, iOS Home. This is a software based package which users control from their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. There are then a family of HomeKit accessories to control everything from lighting to switches, powerpoints, heating and cooling, security and cameras. Through 2017 and 2018 these heavy hitters will be joined by a plethora of smaller businesses who will be competing to be your smart home hub solution. All of these products can be used to control various parts of your home, digital life and digital library via simple and intuitive voice commands. Google’s Home has taken an early lead, thanks to their large search database which it is linked to.
Which hub will end up the winner with consumers will depend a lot on compatibility and usability. Will consumers want to rebuy many household items if home hubs require a closed ecosystem?
If we look at what consumers have tended to prefer over the past few years, the trend is towards being able to carry everything in their pocket. Whilst your home used to feature CD players, a camera, phone and calendar to name just a few tools, these have all been integrated into or replaced by your smart phone. That trend suggests consumers are more inclined to choose a simple device which is always within arms reach.
As homes become more interconnected with hub’s controlling various parts of our homes and digital lives, homes will require increased levels of internet and web security to prevent internet-of-things and connected devices from being hacked. As new opportunities for hackers develop you can be sure that there will be hackers looking to exploit these new devices. Expect to start seeing more smart home security devices hitting the market through 2017 and 2018 with big brand names launching products and services to protect and secure from attacks on things like smart locks on your doors. Keeping your expanded home network secure will require strong passwords and frequent software updates.
As people get more comfortable with smart technology we will see an increasingly integrated level of smart technology around the home from everyday useful applications to those which will seem a little strange. Fancy a WiFi enabled sofa with touch controlled seat warmers and a built in massage? It’ll be coming down the line! Whilst voice control has been pushed heavily over the past few years, gesture control is going to be brought to the forefront and developed more with the application of intuitive actions.