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Written by Amit Jay Shah

Why consumers shouldn’t be worried about the future of the smart home

And what brands need to consider for their products to become part of the family

When smart home concepts started being developed into real life products a few years ago, the idea of a fully-connected home still seemed much more sci-fi than ‘average family abode. But fast-forward to 2017 and most industry pundits would agree that the smart home is gone well and truly went mainstream.

For starters, the range of products on the market that are designed to connect up to your home and then to each other are vast. And not only are there a huge variety of brands getting in on the smart home game, but there’s also a huge variety of product categories being catered for. From smart kettles to voice-activated assistants, WiFi-enabled security systems and even air quality detection hubs; all bases are being covered.

As one of the first well-known smart home brands, Nest continues to innovate within the space, but more household names, such as Dyson, are now entering the market and pairing what they know about consumers with the latest technology.

Of course, more recently, Amazon and Apple have launched their Alexa and HomePod voice-activated assistants.This shows a continued investment in the smart home from some of the biggest tech players in the world, whose massive ecosystems can help create increasingly intuitive and ‘knowledgeable’ devices.

Understanding consumer concerns

As you’d expect, the more our homes becomes connected and reliant on tech, the more many are concerned about the implications of an ‘always-on’ household.

For most of us, our homes are private spaces where we sleep, spend time with our families and relax. Adding technology into the mix can feel intrusive on many levels, whether that’s simply because there’s a new device in the home learning from our habits, a voice like Amazon’s Alexa piping us when you weren’t expecting it, or a concern about data and privacy.

Over time, it’s possible that the continued acceleration of home tech will lead to these worries increasing, especially as brands like Amazon look to launch new devices with cameras. The new Alexa will have a camera built-in and will no doubt trigger the creation of more connected devices that have cameras too. Although the data is kept just as safe as the voice data Alexa already collects, there’s something that feels more intrusive with a camera – many may fear there’s a ‘spy’ within their home, worry about glitches or unfortunately timed recordings.

Building trust and designing better experiences

So, what’s the answer? Brands can’t redefine the experiences we have with our homes overnight, so it’s a better strategy to fit into current consumer behaviour. And as you’d expect, the biggest thing to address is trust. Companies need to build trust through commitments to privacy and security, and be seen to address any problems or glitches quickly and effectively, if they are to make people feel safer in the long-run.

For example, whilst the camera is something everyone will feel cautious about, it’s something easily solved by the brand’s product design. It should be no different to having an in-built webcam on your laptop or TV. Most likely, it seems more intrusive because it’s new and seemingly more sophisticated. We’re collectively not used to smart home products yet – but just like our phones and our computers, soon they’ll become commonplace and our anxieties tend to diminish as new products become firm fixtures in our lives.

Creating a better home

It’s easy to focus on the things that give us cause for concern. This happens whenever new tech emerges; TVs, phones, VR – it’s not a new phenomenon. But all too often people get swept up in these concerns and lose sight of the enormous benefits.

For starters, the smart home is infinitely more convenient. From controlling the temperature in your home whilst on your commute to allowing you to pre-order household items at the push of a button. Both are examples of how increased convenience can also help save you money on bills. Additionally, the influx of smart security devices will keep you and your family safer.

Let’s also not forget the emotional impact of the smart home. Depending on the way it’s used, it can free people from domestic tasks and provide them with more time with their families and, somewhat counterintuitively, more opportunities to connect.

Of course, that doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t feel the need to keep up their game. As the smart home increases in popularity, companies will need to create both hardware and user experiences that are innovative and at the cutting-edge of tech, whilst simultaneously being designed with the home in mind. The challenge is creating devices that feel new and exciting but sit naturally within our family structures. Otherwise, they’ll be shown the door.

 

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