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On November 18, Ovum chaired the Smart Home & Wearables stream at the Apps World conference in London. Talk focused on enabling mass-market adoption and the fact that product design has to evolve, with simplicity at the center.

Simplicity is key to stretching beyond the early-adopter market

According to Ovum forecasts, smart home solutions such as smart security and smart energy will see mass-market adoption in developed countries over the next five years. Security and energy control are just the start though; smart home opportunities stretch far beyond these two verticals. However, we don’t know what these new opportunities are yet because nobody knows how consumers will use such technologies and therefore what they will ultimately pay for. All developers can currently do is experiment and see what sticks.

One thing is clear though: If you want the mass residential market to adopt your solution, it must be simple to set up and use. Ideally, this means no drilling, no wires, zero touch set-up, and a great user interface.

Simple can be dangerous though. Hiding technology from consumers by running functionality in the background can mean a reduction in customer engagement – they become cut out of the loop. It can also raise security and trust concerns because the consumer is less aware of what is happening in their home. Developing simple solutions for the smart home therefore is no simple task. However, there are some good examples starting to enter the market from small innovative companies such as BeON and Blink. Ovum expects to see an increase in such products hitting the market in the next 12 months.

Many still believe the smart home will never be a DIY domain. There will be just too much technology entering the home, some of which can’t possibly be wire free: You can’t install a smart thermostat without connecting it to the heating system, for example. Telcos and utility companies that already have an engineering workforce believe they can play the assistant role – and of course charge money for it. They also see it is a way of differentiating their smart home solution over those proposed by the large CE/Internet players such as Apple and Google which are unlikely to want to fill such a role.

When developing smart home propositions, players need to be mindful of the balance between personalization and basic privacy. Smart home technology will become capable of doing anything from ensuring energy efficiency to informing you when your wine collection is not at the right temperature. However, this means that an awful lot of data will be collected on all members of the household. Players need to be mindful of how this information is stored, controlled, and used. Relying on 50 pages of T&Cs and well-paid lawyers won’t cut it. The smart home will be about trust, and if you don’t have the consumer’s trust then success will be short-lived.


Further reading

On the Radar: BeON integrates the smart home into everyday objects, TE0003-00085 (November 2015)


Michael Philpott, Practice Leader, Consumer Services

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