“The Connected Home is finally — finally — becoming a real thing,” proclaimed CNET at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas in January.The Connected Home is Finally a Reality I was incredulous when I read CNET’s proclamation. I didn’t think that the connected home was anywhere near becoming a reality. I certainly wouldn’t describe the products that have hit the market in the past couple of years – or the products that were shown at CES 2014 – as “connected home” products. Smart devices, yes, because they are Internet-enabled and controlled by smart phones. But Connected Home products? No, because they don’t communicate with one another. My idea of a connected home is one where all the devices and tools talk to each other …  when my alarm clock sounds in the morning, it will tell the thermostat to turn on, the blinds to go up, the light to gradually turn on, and the coffee maker to start.  Based on that notion of what a connected home should be, the connected home is nowhere near becoming an affordable reality.

Is the Connected Home Finally Becoming a Real Thing?

The best description of the current state of the connected home came from the ReadWriteHome web site.  

In reality, the connected home remains an elusive ideal, with no clear breakout hit present in our lives or even clear on the horizon.”

“The concept of the connected home is not easy to understand. At first blush, it seems simple: devices and tools connected to each other in an automated way to save labor and effort in the home. But in reality, the connected home remains an elusive ideal, with no clear breakout hit present in our lives or even clear on the horizon.

With the near-ubiquity of Internet access in the home and the onset of Internet-connected devices of all shapes and sizes, it seems a foregone conclusion that the connected home is right around the corner. Wire up a coffee maker and toaster to the Internet, and you’ve got breakfast ready in the morning with a touch of an app.

But that gastronomically satisfying vision of the future has not come about yet. Nor has another vision of the connected home: the automated home-entertainment system that has your music follow you from room to room. While this aspect of the connected home has been installed in various homes, the cost and complexity has kept it out of reach of all but the wealthiest and most determined audiophiles.

That’s just one definition. Ask one connected-home advocate what the connected home is, and you might get an answer that a connected home aligns everything from computers, smartphones, TVs and set-top boxes to systems such as lighting, appliances and heating/air conditioning systems and makes them controllable through a single interface. But a connected-home expert more interested in media systems might promote the idea of content over home automation, emphasizing an entertainment experience enhanced by data and social context available over the Internet.

Still another advocate of the idea will argue that it’s automation that will drive the push for smart homes. The smart appliances that can suggest what to have for dinner and automatically scan the pantry and refrigerator for ingredients and schedule delivery of groceries is a foodie’s dream. That, too, hasn’t come to fruition.”

The Connected Home IS a Reality

If the connected home “remains an elusive ideal“, why did CNET proclaim that the connected home is finally becoming a real thing at CES 2014? According to Patrick Oliphant at ConnectedHomeWorldThe vision of the connected home has been broadened to include the “internet of things” …  this is what will define most of the technologies we use over the next decade and further. The internet of things simply put is seamlessly integrating technologies into our lives that are internet aware. Therefore, there will be no obstacles stopping the different technologies/devices from communicating with each other.” According to Craig Barratt, President of Qualcomm Atheros, the networking and connectivity subsidiary of Qualcomm, not only is the connected home a reality; we are actually entering the third phase of the connected home.  

Within the next three to five years, I envision literally hundreds of devices in the home will be connected.”

 In January 2014, he wrote this in Huffington Post:

“Until recently, the typical home might have had just one or two PCs connected to the Internet. Think of this as Connected Home 1.0.

Today, that’s evolved to include a rich multimedia experience and social networking across many more devices — such as streaming movies on Hulu or Netflix, connected gaming consoles, in addition to smartphones, eReaders, tablets, TVs, cameras and other devices. This is your Connected Home 2.0.

However, as people become increasingly sophisticated with their technology use and device consumption increases, there is a driving need to advance to seamless connectivity across all devices, beyond just entertainment. Within the next three to five years, I envision literally hundreds of devices in the home will be connected: multimedia, thermostats, light switches, security systems, irrigation systems, white goods (such as refrigerators and washing machines) and automobiles. There will also be health applications including monitoring. All operated from your mobile phone or tablet. This will be your Connected Home 3.0, a key part of the so-called ‘Internet of Everything’.”

Are Consumers Interested in Connected Home Products?

The widespread adoption of smart phones and tablets and the success of the Roku and Chromecast streaming media players certainly suggests that consumers are embracing what Craig Barrett would call Connected Home 2.0 devices.   But how connected do consumers want to be?  Do they want hundreds of devices in their home to be connected and operated from their smart  phone or tablet?  What do they want in a connected home?  For that matter, do they even know what a connected home is? I surveyed members of my HomeTrend Influentials Panel to get answers to these questions.   HomeTrend Influentials (HIPsters) are early adopters of new technologies.  For example, 89% of HomeTrend Influentials own smart phones and 77% own an iPad or other tablet device. (In comparison, 56% of adult Americans own smart phones and 35% of Americans ages 16 and older own a tablet device.)  Because they are early adopters of new technologies, they are more likely to be aware of what’s going on in the connected home products market than the mainstream population.  They are also more likely to be among the first to embrace new connected home products, as evidenced by their adoption of the Nest thermostat.  8% of HomeTrend Influentials own the Nest thermostat compared to less than 1% of total U.S. households. First I asked them an open-ended question to find out what, if anything, they knew about the connected home.  

A house that has a lot of appliances or things like a furnace, air conditioner, or alarm system connected to the owner through Wi Fi, Internet, etc.”

  • 41% of the respondents to the survey think a connected home means being able to control and access appliances and devices in the home remotely via the Internet or smartphone.
  • 10% think the connected home is the “computerized system”, “control panel”, or device that controls all the smart appliances and devices in the home.
  • 10% of respondents have a “Jetson-esque” concept of the connected home where all the devices and appliances talk to each other.

Is seems that the majority of HomeTrend Influentials have a pretty good grasp on what the connected home is. But how interested are they in having a connected home?  

The answer to that question is “pretty interested.”

My survey of HomeTrend Influentials revealed that 57% of HomeTrend Influentials would be interested in having a connected home.  

I think being able to control the environment of one’s home without being there would be a good way to save on heat or air conditioning. Being able to control an alarm system and see activity in the house from elsewhere could be comforting. And being able to turn on an oven, microwave, etc. from work so dinner is ready when one gets home would be useful.”

 

57% of HomeTrend Influentials are interested are you in having a Connected Home

Why are they interested in having a connected home?

  • 29% of the HomeTrend Influentials who are interested in having a connected home said that they would like to be able to control devices and appliances remotely.
  • 19% are interested in having a connected home so they can monitor what is going on in their home.
  • 10% want to do both. They want to be able to control devices remotely and monitor or check on the devices and appliances in their home.

Should Your Company Get into the Connected Home Products Market?

It depends.  

Just because you can connect something to the Internet doesn’t mean you should.”

 What you don’t want to do is throw smart technology on to your existing products without any regard as to what benefits the smart technology is going to deliver to the consumer.  As Andrew Couts, Staff Writer for Digital Trends product review web site, put it, “Just because you can connect something to the Internet doesn’t mean you should, or that it will make the average person’s life any better.  The industry needs to start thinking long and hard about what’s actually an improvement, and what’s just novelty.” Major appliance manufacturers like LG, GE, Jarden, and Samsung came under fire at CES 2014 for adding what blogger Dylan Tweney, Editor-in-Chief at VentureBeat called “useless features to gadgets that are perfectly fine without them.” Andrew Couts also criticized products like Internet-connected refrigerators and washing machines.  In his January 11, 2014 write-up of CES 2014, he wrote, We’ve been seeing some version of these devices for years and years. And they still seem a bit … unnecessary.”   You can bet that if journalists are critical of products with “useless features to gadgets that are perfectly fine without them’, consumers are going to be even more critical. Take for example, the GE Wall Oven with Brillion™ technology.  The key benefit of GE’s Brillion™ technology is that you can control your oven from anywhere using a smartphone app. According to the research I conducted with the HomeTrend Influentials Panel, being able to turn your oven on and off remotely is not a meaningful benefit.   

I don’t see this product as necessary. Pulling up an app on my phone to turn on my oven is not easier than just turning on the appliance.”

50% of HomeTrend Influentials had a negative initial reaction to the oven concept, 43% had a positive reaction, and 7% were not sure.  30% specifically mentioned the remote control feature; fully 70% of those who mentioned the feature did not like it. Not surprisingly, 55% of  respondents said they would not be interested in purchasing the GE wall oven.  24% or respondents would be interested.55% of HomeTrend Influentials are not interested would you be in buying the GE Wall Oven with Brillion technology

Free Guide to the Connected Home