Over the past few years, consumers have started to latch on to one word in the tech industry: “Smart”. Smartphones, Smart TV, Smart Watches and now Smart Homes are becoming every day necessities, as opposed to luxuries.
And in today’s world, “Smart” also has to mean easy for it to catch on with consumers, which is why the Smart Home trend may be moving a little slower. Currently, it’s too overwhelming for most consumers to control so many different devices at once, so brands are working to streamline a simpler process. At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas, LG discussed their new technology that lets users control their devices simply by sending a text message. Forgot your grocery list? Text your refrigerator and it will tell you what it’s missing.
The Smart Home concept is a completely new space for brands to target consumers. With people connecting with their home devices through mobile, brands can analyze what they’re buying, using and needing as consumers. It’s not unrealistic to think that in the near future your refrigerator could tell you that you need apple juice and send you a Mott’s coupon, for example, when you enter your local grocery store. So brands are not only racing to create the latest and greatest technologies, but they are racing to own this consumer data and all data around a space where consumers truly feel “at home.”
Other companies like Samsung are creating apps that let you control every Smart Home device from one centralized location. Not only will cameras allow you to see what’s going on in your home, the technology will also tell you when certain things need to be serviced. Again, the data from those touch points will be invaluable to brands, and everyone is trying to get their hands on it as quickly as they can. Imagine Samsung pointing you to specific mechanics or software companies to help update software or fix bugs.
But do people really care about these Smart Home appliances? I for one don’t necessarily think I need a fully stocked Smart Home (maybe it’s because I still live in a tiny New York apartment) but I definitely would be interested in picking and choosing amongst the appliances. If I could text my refrigerator to see what I needed to pick up for dinner instead of my roommate, it would definitely make my life a lot easier. On top of that, if one grocery store sent me lower prices than the one I usually stop in, I’d be changing my walk home and visiting the cheaper location. If that became my new routine, multiple brands would be able to track my typical walk home with ease, every day. Knowledge is power in today’s day and age, and Smart Homes are bringing information to the consumer, instead of them having to go out and seek it for themselves. And then they’re storing that same information in their database.
Since Smart Homes are one of the last spaces to be digitized (the Internet has invaded almost every other aspect of our lives – mobile, social, accessories, etc.), companies focused on these devices will need to be quick and flexible when responding to consumer needs. In addition to being flexible, they will also need to work together to make the Smart Home a reality for consumers in the next few years. Until appliances from different companies are able to communicate with one another (instead of Samsung only communicating with Samsung products, or LG only with LG) it won’t be a realistic experience for consumers. And for consumers like me who want to pick and choose from different companies, there needs to be one operating system for it to work.
As we mentioned, Samsung has started to do this with their Smart Home software protocol, but we haven’t seen too many other big brands playing nice on the playground. For the most part, it’s third party labs that are trying to connect the dots. SmartThings Lab was one of the main names in CES this year as an open platform, and they’ve already signed on brands such as Belkin, Sonos and Philips, with Jawbone and the August Smart Lock set to join them in the coming months. Staples is also in the mix, partnering with Zonoff technology to create a Smart Home platform for different devices. With their strong retail presence, and additional partnering with brands like Philips, Honeywell, GE and Linksys, we may see Staples go from home office supplier, to Smart Home controller. Other brands are partnering through purchase, such as the Google / Nest acquisition that just occurred for $3 billion.
Even with the few brands who have started partnering with each other, we’re not sure if companies will be satisfied without being number 1. Smart Homes are a very dynamic and interesting space, and it is still a mystery how this data-filled space will be occupied in the future. For now brands are partnering, acquiring and fighting against each other, but only time will tell who will be the top Smart Home appliance contenders in the future.