From checking the use-by-dates of food in the fridge to vacuuming the lounge carpet while you’re out, smart technology is taking over today’s home.
The global market for smart goods is booming and is expected to be worth more than £100 billion by 2022. In fact, nearly a quarter (23%) of people in the UK now have a smart home device, with smart speakers (11%) leading the way.
But with so much technology available, what do you buy and how will it all integrate?
Rather than adding new technology to an existing dwelling, the drive now is to design and build connected homes — with the aim of delivering unrivaled levels of smart tech in an efficient and cost effective package.
Everyone can see the benefits of a connected home, but there are plenty of challenges along the way. One of the biggest questions is how will the systems look and operate? From Android mobile devices to wi-fi printers, there are already a wide array of interfaces in the home which, in the future, will need to talk to each other via a central hub.
According to YouGov, the most common reason for people wanting to own smart devices is because they make life easier (38%), and compatibility with other devices is considered one of the most important features (at 24%).
However, a lack of understanding around smart devices could prevent buyers making a purchase. Three quarters (75%) of non-owners say they are aware of smart devices but don’t know much about them. Strangely, more than half (56%) of people who do own smart devices say they don’t know much about them either.
Getting rival technology to talk to each other is going to be tricky and costly, not to mention the genuine fears over cyber security and privacy. Setting up and maintaining the system also needs to be simple enough for tech trainees to understand.
The answer seems to lie with the tech industry itself setting common specifications and protocols around integration and data sharing. Having system standards will speed up manufacturing, reduce costs and solve the headache of integration.
Whenever you mention smart technology, the issues of privacy and data security quickly follow. Proving to consumers that their connected home is cyber safe is one of the biggest challenges facing both the tech boffins and the marketing departments.
Everyone knows that data is money, so connected homes offer endless opportunities for the giants of Silicon Valley to harvest an endless crop of information about our daily lives, which they can then monetise with targeted advertising every time we run out of milk.
Following recent data breaches and the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the onus is on tech companies and advertisers to ensure that connected homes do not become targets for spam senders and nuisance calls.
The potential dangers and technological challenges are, of course, only half of the story as a connected home has huge potential. Imagine never worrying about the shopping again or having real-time control over the energy efficiency of your home, even when you are on the other side of the world.
The industry surrounding smart homes will also be a boon for the building industry, creating jobs and opportunities for businesses. As well as the bricks and mortar, homeowners will be able to take advantage of new time-saving innovations created by the data.
When it comes to energy and utilities, the addition of smart metering offers energy providers the opportunity to get real-time data, while offering higher levels of customer service via instant messaging and alerts. All this helps to make energy metering and billing more transparent, enabling consumers to make informed decisions to lower their bills.
For building owners and managers, debt management becomes simpler, cheaper and the amount of money owed by consumers will inevitably reduce as they can view their account in real-time. Technology will also aid compliance with the latest energy regulations.
There can be no doubt that smart technology is here to stay, but the challenge now is for manufacturers to create devices which are both easy to use and widely compatible. House builders also need to look ahead and design smart homes which are capable of keeping up with the technology of tomorrow.