A little over a year ago, we wrote an article about the future of furniture and what we can realistically expect from the eventual marriage between home furniture and modern technology. Though still a fairly new concept, adopted only by those on the cutting edge with the money to spend on such super-modern luxuries, “smart furniture” and “smart appliances” (much like your smart phone, smart TV and smart watch to their respective predecessors) seems to be the next logical step in home design.
However, according to a recent survey of over 2000 adults who either rent, have a mortgage or own their home outright (conducted by PwC, dated 31 May 2016), it seems that British homeowners are not so ready to embrace smart appliances and furniture, connected by the Internet of Things (IoT, for short). There is generally a lack of consumer interest in smart home tech, and this may be attributed to a lack of awareness and understanding.
The head of digital utilities at PwC, Richard Hepworth, has said in response to the results of the survey:
“While people have been quick to embrace smart tech lifestyle products such as phones and tablets, many still don’t really understand the range of smart energy products on offer and the potential they have to ease their busy lives in a practical way or even reduce their energy bills. And therein lies the challenge – how can companies change this lack of knowledge into real know-how?
“In many cases, when data driven disrupters have hit other sectors, such as the mobile phone or home entertainment sectors, we’ve seen a change in market leader as the tipping point is reached. To date, the ‘big 6’ energy firms have managed to weather market storms, bring new technologies like Hive and Nest thermostats to market. With the respondents to our survey stating they would be just as happy to deal with retailers, telecom firms and smart tech developers, the gauntlet has certainly been thrown down.
“With real opportunities around smart thermostats, for example – a potential entry level to other smart energy tech for households – energy suppliers have clear ground they can build on in this market. How they react now could define their success as this growing smart energy revolution takes hold.”
72% of participants surveyed expressed no interest in introducing smart technology into their homes, and will not be buying automated or smart appliances or renewable energy devices in the next two to five years. However, if such technology posed financial incentives, such as reduced energy bills, then they may be more easily convinced. 35% say that they may be swayed if they were to benefit from a reduction in energy bills from using smart technology, and 37% say that free supply or installation would incentivise them to adopt smart tech in their home.
Less than 10% didn’t feel pressured to keep up with tech trends or tech-savvy friends, and were unimpressed by basic smart home technology such as controlling devices and lights in various rooms of the house from a mobile app.
81% of people who have used smart heating devices in their home have noticed a positive impact in the daily running of their homes, and 95% who use smart appliances such as internet-connected ovens and fridges are already seeing the benefits. This indicates that the majority of consumers who have first-hand experience with using smart technology in their homes are satisfied, and those who are still resistant to using them may just be unaccustomed to the benefits of using them under the illusion that they are unnecessary or over-complicated. Only 29% of those surveyed are confident that they would be able to set up or install the devices themselves should they eventually be persuaded to invest in the tech. The perceived difficulty of using or installing the devices in itself could be a massive deterrent for those who believe that they aren’t quite ready for smart technology in their homes.
UK Power and Utilities leader of PwC, Steve Jennings, has said:
“Momentum is continuing to build in the connected home market and we believe smart energy will have a key role to play. However, it’s clear from our survey that if suppliers and new market entrants are to win over consumers, they will need to develop propositions that not only cut through what appears to be a perceived complex technology challenge but address the reluctance of consumers to fund the introduction of many of these smart energy tech products into their homes.
“Companies which can swiftly adapt their offers and marketing to meet the needs of this market, recognising the range of demographics and buyer behaviours, will be the front runners – not the also rans – as smart energy tech becomes significantly more commonplace over the next six to eight years.”
Smart Home Technology
Many smart home technology products are already available on the high streets, and are being used by regular consumers who may not even be aware that the products they are using are considered “smart home technology”. Such products include smart plugs, smart lighting and smart heating systems that are able to be controlled via an external app or control panel and connect to the internet and/or their home network.
Similar to how no one really thought that they needed a smartphone until everyone had one in their pocket and realised that they now couldn’t do without, smart home technology will most probably go the same way. It will take the early-adopters to sell the “lifestyle” to the rest, until it eventually becomes the norm and we didn’t even pay notice to the transition. In just a few years time, we’ll be wondering how we ever did the grocery shopping before our smart kitchen automatically sent shopping lists to our phone based on what we’ve run out of. Or how we were ever okay with charging our numerous devices via cables rather than simply placing the phone on the armrest of our sofa, or on our bedside table.