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Are Homes Getting Smarter?

By Jim Romeo | Mar 15, 2016
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Imagine a home where security cameras can distinguish between a dog, person and car and then alert you on your smartphone. Or, envision cameras in your refrigerator that enable you to check food inventory while grocery shopping. 


These are real, available technologies shaping new “smart” homes. Driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), and using cloud-based technology to transmit information remotely to inhabitants by computer or smartphone, smart-home technology is on the rise.


Realty firm Coldwell Banker polled more than 4,000 Americans about smart homes and smart-home technology. Of the respondents, 45 percent said they would own some smart-home technology in the immediate future. About 36 percent said they plan to acquire such technology for their home, though they also said they don’t consider themselves to be very tech savvy. Just over half believe smart-home technology will help sell their home, and 65 percent responded that they would pay $1,500 or more to install smart-home technology. Some 43 percent said they are willing to pay a one-time fee for professional installation. 


“Homeowners have the ability to control almost every aspect of their home through smart-home technology,” said Joel Worthington, president of Mr. Electric, an electrical services provider. “Through technologies such as smart locks, wireless lighting controls, smart open and close sensors, and smart outlets, you can wirelessly set schedules and keep your home safe no matter where you are.”


The adoption of smart-home technology is likely linked to a growing practice of connecting devices with the Internet to control things in our busy lives.


Bob Zeidman, president of Zeidman Technologies, maker of operating software used by many IoT-connected devices, said that the technologies we will see gain popularity in the consumer IoT space over the next few years will primarily include existing, everyday consumer appliances.


“Refrigerators are a nice example of an appliance that can be quite valuable when connected to the Internet,” Zeidman said. “A smart refrigerator can notify you remotely when it’s broken, when temperature thresholds are exceeded, when the door is left open, and when it’s not receiving power. Other smart-home devices that will gain popularity are important safety devices and systems such as smoke detectors and home alarm systems.”


Zeidman sees existing lower end consumer products, such as light bulbs, as valuable to both commercial and industrial applications. For example, industrial monitoring of general service lamps could be useful for a manufacturing plant. There can be soft switches that enable users to remotely control lights across multiple offices from one control center.


“While low-end items like light bulbs will initially be popular in industrial spaces due to cost, manufacturers will continue working to bring down the costs, until an Internet-connected bulb is only slightly more expensive than a regular bulb,” Zeidman said. “Once that happens, consumers will also make the switch, so to speak.”


Consumers’ technology adoption will depend on its ease of use. If it’s overly complicated or unreliable, its value to consumers will diminish, and the product may not survive. 


“Technology integration matters and is paramount to delivering new forms of consumer value,” said Mike Watson, vice president, product strategy for Cree. “If the consumer has to be smart to use a smart device, then the device is dumb.”


User-friendly technology is one component of adoption. Another is the technology’s integration with other systems and processes of their home and their life—how does it work with other devices and systems we use everyday? Watson said that the direction of the smart-home market is for interoperability. It will come when consumers need little action to create that smart-home experience that integrates into their life and brings tangible and intangible value greater than not buying smart devices.


If Coldwell Banker’s research is accurate, we can expect a growing infusion of technology to make homes even smarter. This will mean a robust opportunity for installation and long-term maintenance of the smart home.


“These underlying technologies continue to become smaller and more efficient over the next three to five years,” said Derek Halliday, product manager of HOVER, a San Francisco-based IT solution. “[We] can expect a massive proliferation of sensors throughout the home that monitor everything from home security to energy efficiency to regular wear and tear, both on the interior and exterior of the home.”

About The Author

ROMEO is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Va. He focuses on business and technology topics. Find him at www.JimRomeo.net.

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