The Art of Smart

After a rough start, consumers slowly are coming around to the idea of smart. Tech companies are battling to become the sole leader of the industry, but when will smart tech become mainstream? The general consensus is that people are still suspicious. In the mind of the consumer: does smart mean sacrificing security for efficiency?

A quarter of Brits now live in smart homes, according to The Memo, despite the fact that 55% “don’t fully understand it.” Perhaps this is down to too many companies fighting for attention in the smart world and information just isn’t being communicated clearly enough. The main worry is that devices will know when homes are empty, which makes the consumer feel incredibly vulnerable. How much should they leave in the hands of machines?

Understandably, consumers are approaching smart home devices with a certain amount of trepidation as they’re nervous about their privacy and security. Resistance to the technology really stems from fears of being listened to and watched, like a Big Brother style horror story. According to a survey by Deloitte, “40% are concerned about connected-home devices tracking their usage. More than 40% said they were worried that such gadgets would expose too much about their daily lives.”

In order to ease these worries, and ultimately make the whole smart experience feel more human, Maplin have created the UK’s first smart home consultation service, and it’s free. A cheery home expert pops in, talks to the customer about their reasons for wanting to go smart, then sells products and installs at an extra fee. This is useful for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by the smart offerings out there, as Maplin can explain which device is compatible with which system. Their most popular product is a plug that automatically switches off when it’s not being used (a classic oversight that we’re all guilty of).

From locks to light switches, thermostats, blenders, toothbrushes and alarms, the initial lump sum required to set up a home as 100% smart is daunting. Brands must hammer home the message that, in the long run, this investment will make lives easier, free up time and save consumers money on bills. However, the tech isn’t quite perfect yet and there have been a few mishaps leaving consumers furious and disillusioned. This summer, Lockstate locked people out of their homes due to a software fault. Not great when smart companies are desperately trying to build trust among homeowners…

Amazon’s friendly AI voice assistant, Alexa, has proved extremely popular. This may be because in the context of the home, voice command does seem a more pleasurable, relaxed and even sociable experience compared to tapping away on a device. Robots in the home still seem a long way off (unless you’re counting humble Henry the Hoover) but there are some exciting developments coming our way. Kuri ‘the robot butler’ is a voice-command-activated security camera and LG’s Hub bot can preheat an oven, turn on a vacuum, and control a lawnmower.

So what’s next on the agenda? Apparently laundry tech – Whirlpool is adding Alexa capability to their washers and Foldimate folds piles of clothes for busy consumers. People want to spend time with their loved ones rather faffing around with washing, so this seems like a natural step. Are we looking at a future where smart homes are as common as smart phones? There are still problems to be solved and smart technology is far from being welcomed into every home. We think too many companies want in on the action and the smart tech story has become muddled – we need one streamlined offer from one solid leader. The race is on.

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