With the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) becoming more popular, Australians have a plethora of new ‘smart’ home technology at their fingertips. From televisions and fridges, to lawn mowers and lighting systems; the connected home is now a reality.
As we begin to invest more in these products, brands should question whether capitalising on automated home technology is enough to make our homes smart and connected. To date, there has been an over-emphasis on the introduction of smart household objects, which has resulted in the connected home becoming increasingly commoditised. This is however combined with a lack of focus on how connectivity can address the changing nature of the home and the different needs of individual household members. The outcome of this disconnect can be seen in the 11 hours, on average, needed to set up a connected kettle, the fact that connected fridges won’t talk to a digital shopping list and the need for five different apps to turn five different devices on and off.
These issues were reflected in consumers’ responses to Accenture’s recent 2017 Digital Consumer Survey. According to the survey, sales forecasts project a rise in connected devices like smartphones, however the same does not hold true for other connected gadgets. Respondents maintain a long-term interest in smart home devices, but will not be making the investment in the short term. Only 10% said they plan to buy a home connected surveillance camera in the next year compared to nearly half of respondents (46% who plan to buy one within the next five years. Additionally, only 8% said they are keen to purchase a smart home thermostat this year, compared to 42% who will make the purchase decision over the next five years.
In 2017 and beyond, focus must shift onto how best to smooth out single connected experiences into helpful – and, increasingly, integrated – ones. Brands should look beyond device-centric strategies and put the spotlight on designing and serving tailored home experiences. This will, in turn, improve the experience of multi person, shared-household living.
Brands will need to embrace real areas of value if innovators are to maintain a differentiated position in the market and attract the average homeowner (not just the technology-seduced) to buy into their propositions. They can begin this shift by keeping in mind three key learnings:
1. Be super smart:
In order for a brand to move forward with a smart product they need to think beyond automation and connectivity. To determine the best course of action, brands need to consider the impact on people, their relationships, preferences and environment.
2. Don’t design for device:
Too much emphasis has been placed on connecting objects, and too little on creating home experiences that add real value by capitalising on connectivity. Brands must design services for the user, not the device. This will involve getting “hyperpersonal” to harmonise shared living; as personalisation will increasingly take place at both a household and individual level.
3. Think outside the box:
Technology is extending homes beyond their traditional physical confines – stretching the benefits of safety and comfort. Brands should seek to extend the benefits they can deliver, as people transition between different environments.
Australian homeowners want technology to make life safer, easier, more enjoyable and more personal – not just more connected. If successful, the implications of the helpful home are wide. It could be a big opportunity (or threat) for the hospitality industry, commerce giants, platform companies, ride-sharing and AV industries, energy companies, consumer electronics firms and insurance.
By Fjord MD Bronwyn van der Merwe
Fjord is the design and innovation unit of Accenture Interactive, for Australia and New Zealand.