According to Statista, the year 2018 has brought US$23m to the American smart home market. Although household penetration was pretty high (27.6%), smart home solutions are neither faultless nor risk free. How to make sure a to-be system will be user-friendly, reliable and warmly welcomed by the market? See our overview of potential flops in the smart home market.
Home automation is reshaping real estate. 81% of buyers state that they’d rather buy a house with a smart home product preinstalled. Regular users of smart appliances admit that smart system save them at least 30 minutes per day (182 hours = a week and a half per year) and almost $100 per month. Established products are more than welcome by the public: some Amazon’s Alexa-enabled speakers were sold out before 2018 year-end and will be out of stock until January 10th. However, apart from high-tech items of furniture, a truly smart home implies interconnection of multiple complex nodes such as lightning, water and drainage system, HVAC and security system, which are not easy to incorporate and utilize, unfortunately.
Actually, even limited smart home capacities may be a painful experience to the homeowners. British Government gave a firm ‘yes’ to smart meters in every home in 2009. Introducing a nationwide scheme was aimed to increase awareness of energy use and reduce consumption, as a result. Yet, compatibility issues and concerns regarding the readings accuracy ‘helped’ downgrade this demand to a subtle recommendation or ‘offer’, to be more precise.
So, are the producers able to create a 100% reliable smart home system highly responsive to real people’s needs? Let’s view this hypothetical situation we preparefd for you to get a better comprehension of the problem.
The user’s perspective: what can go wrong?!
Meet Jacob, an average homeowner from the suburbs of Wonder town. Jacob is married, has two kids and a dog. He is an office worker and drives to work every day.
Jacob installs a smart home system in his house to hit three objectives. First goes security, as Jacob wants to be sure his family and property are safe 24/7. Next goal is convenience, as he believes installing a smart home system will allow him to control devices in his house easily and efficiently and receive maximum value from their operation. Third goes entertainment. Jacob has always been so much into tech and is very excited to see a network of smart devices in action.
Now that we are clear about the intentions, let’s see which hi-techs Jacob chooses to create a perfect living place.
Smart outdoor surveillance cameras and smart locks
Expectations: To be sure his family and property are safe, Jacob installs smart CCTV. He opts for a wireless option which doesn’t require professional installation and a powerful outlet to run. The camera starts recording only when it detects a movement which saves the battery. The owner gets notified about the surveillance footage on his mobile.
Reality: Jacob saves time and money as he opts for DIY installation instead of hiring a professional to install a wired CCTV. However, he has to check periodically the charge level of his cameras. It also turned out that wireless cameras provide a less clear image as compared to the wired options. Receiving footage and alerts as well as using cloud-based features require monthly or yearly payments which add up to the total amount Jacob already paid for the system.
Expectations: Jacob isn’t happy about constantly checking the battery level of his CCTV. Now as he installs smart locks in his house, he opts for a Bluetooth option to connect the lock to the mobile. It saves him a lot of trouble, as lock’s battery lasts a year or even longer. As Jacob decided on the newest version of the lock, it has a voice-control. Moreover, the lock is integrated into a smart home system, so the LEDs turn on as Jacob opens the door and switch off as he leaves.
Reality: Jacob won the war against low battery but was defeated by the short range army. Bluetooth coverage doesn’t exceed 90 meters in the best-case scenario, so Jacob often cannot check his locks out of his bedroom or sitting in his kitchen. A remote control is also a bonus Jacob has limited access to, that is why checking locks or giving passcodes to other people while on vacation is impossible.
Smart water and drainage system
Expectations: Jacob installs smart water metering system to better control his family’s water consumption. The ultrasonic smart meters provide real time reports on the amount, location and time of water consumption in the house. The meters recognize water consuming devices in the house and can be taught to keep track of water consumption by each of the devices which help prevent malfunctions or the leakage.
Reality: Air bubbles resulted to be a main cause of troubles: they interfere with the ultrasonic waves, which causes malfunctions to the ultrasonic flow meter. Additionally, Jacob notices certain measurement errors that are caused by irregular water flow (flow velocity becomes irregular due to bends in the piping or changes in the pipe diameter). Only after the meters are installed, Jacob finds out that they must be placed on long straight piping sections.
Expectations: Jacob finds a sustainable watering solution for his garden, which is a smart garden sprinkler. It has extensive Wi-Fi coverage and differentiates between 16 zones of Jacob’s garden with distinct watering patterns. Water schedule can be reprogrammed for each separate zone from the app. The app also considers local weather forecast so the sprinkler won’t waste his water if rain is coming within hours.
Reality: Not so easy to install; however, the functionality gave Jacob a durable wow effect!
To summarize the above, technical upgrade of his house gave Jacob a generally positive impression, although he certainly expected easier installation and higher efficiency of his smart devices.
The producer’s perspective: what went wrong?
Jacob’s case illustrates only minor issues that a user may face. Who’ s to blame for the failed expectations? If only installation caused the trouble, we’d take the producer’s side (as Jacob was unwilling to overpay for professional installation services). However, the problems were multiple. So what were the mistakes the producer could envisage to make user’s life simpler?
- Heavy costs made Jacob reject a wired CCTV due to the associated services;
- Connectivity and energy consumption were blockers for a dream lock;
- Structural incompatibility resulted in inaccurate operation of smart meters;
- Complex implementation was a frustrating factor for an almost perfect smart garden sprinkler.
Facing the challenges is the first step to finding the solutions. The issues mentioned above lie on the surface and are quite easy to detect. However, many others are not so obvious. Hardware-software junction opens up the list. Software incompatibility may be another devastating factor. Lack of intuitive control will surely block the way of a smart system to the user’s heart, however sophisticated a tech piece can be.