3 Things Scaring Consumers Away from Smart-home Technology

Filed in Business Management, Technology by on January 14, 2016 0 Comments

House icon with white brainLast week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas put on an impressive parade of today’s newest technology, and a glimpse of tomorrow’s can’t-live-without gadgets. And once again, smart-home technology was on full display.

If CES taught its attendees anything, it’s that there are very few things left in the home that can’t be automated or controlled by a smartphone. The technology is certainly remarkable, but it remains to be seen when it will really take hold with the general public.

Motion-activated lights and enhanced security systems controlled by a single button from a smartphone are among the most popular requests received by Ric Johnson, CAPS, DHTI, president of Right at Home Technologies, Ltd. in northwest Ohio. But he says the smart home is a long ways from becoming mainstream.

“We’re light-years ahead of where we were just five years ago, but we’re nowhere near building the kind of home George Jetson lived in,” Johnson joked. “There’s a lot of cool things coming out now, but half of these new vendors won’t be in business next year because their goal is primarily to attract an investor like Google, and not on developing a comprehensive business model.

“There’s a lot of great ideas floating around, but not a lot of traction in selling them,” Johnson said.

Many consumers are still wary of smart-home technology, largely due to concerns regarding price, compatibility and above all, security.

Price

Depending on one’s definition of “smart homes,” the techy dwellings have existed for years. But these homes—with their automated lights, heat, A/C, water, electronics, appliances, and security systems—have predominantly been custom builds that appeal only to the most affluent buyers.

These days, the technology is becoming slightly more accessible and seemingly essential to the middle-class consumer. But the prices for such items are still out of reach for the large majority of home owners.

Integration

When it comes to integration, especially for those who invest in one smart-home gadget at a time, the device’s ability to communicate with all of the other technology is key to smart living. Each device needs to communicate using a compatible platform, of which several exist, including HomeKit (Apple), Smart Things (Samsung), Brillo (Google) and Z-Wave, among others.

Some devices will work with multiple platforms, but many others won’t. Buyers must either commit to one home-tech ecosystem, or use different controls for different devices (uncharacteristic of a smart home).

Privacy

Perhaps the biggest consumer concern is the unwanted communication. Smart-home technology most often relies on Wi-Fi connectivity, and having so many things—especially door locks, garage door openers and security cameras—all connected to a wireless source raises concerns about security.

Along those same lines, privacy comes into question when using products that can monitor the owner’s in-home behavior and possibly share that information with a parent company like Google. Any potential invasion of privacy could be enough to dissuade many buyers.

The smart home is a reality for many current home owners, but to most people, it still seems more like science fiction. That may soon change, but only with further advancements in security and more viable price points to reach the middle class.

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