The future is smart: How connect tech is evolving in our homes

The global market for smart home devices is expected to grow 23.5% year-over-year in 2019, according to the latest research by IDC. That equates to nearly 815 million device shipments.

Couple this with a report from Go Compare that shows one in four UK households are turning to smart tech to secure their homes, and it’s easy to see why so many companies in the channel are getting in on the action.
“Driving the market’s growth over the next few years is a combination of downward pressure on prices from intensifying competition, rising adoption of smart assistants, and rising consumer awareness of the conveniences, costs savings, and energy reductions that smart home devices provide,” says Adam Wight, senior research analyst of consumer IoT at IDC.

So, what are some of the most exciting advancements in the smart home sector at the moment? PCR spoke to distributor Exertis and smart security brand EZVIZ to find out.

“In this industry we experienced an initial period where technology was launched with little market demand or understanding. Now the smart home sector is one of the fastest growing markets in the consumer electronics world,” Simon Buckingham, brand and marketing manager at EZVIZ, tells PCR. “Subsequently, the most significant development is now happening after the launch of each hardware. The real advances are in software iterations where true benefits are derived in things like our smartphone interfaces.”

“Much of smart tech’s exciting future comes from government legislation and consumer engagement” Rod Slater, Exertis

Buckingham believes that the next big step in development will come from artificial intelligence (AI).

“The products we showcased at IFA 2019 demonstrated how a camera can differentiate between humans and cars, whilst not being distracted by irrelevant environmental factors, such as leaves or birds. This improves the camera efficiency as well as giving the end user a more accurate experience, meaning you have less notifications and only focus on the things that matter. This further improves your piece of mind that your property or office is safely and efficiently guarded,” he explains.

“Accuracy and reliability are key to winning the minds of consumers. For this reason, I think the many uses of AI in smart homes will become the key driver and development for the immediate future.”

Rod Slater, head of smart tech and IoT at Exertis, believes that the ongoing development of smart voice-control capabilities, such as Alexa, Google and Apple’s Homekit, are key to driving acceptance of smart tech products in homes today.

“The core smart home product sets are well defined: heating, security, lighting, power. They make up over 90% of smart tech sales. Consumers are voting with their wallets, for simple, hassle free, low-cost products that just work. A smart light bulb, a smart plug, a smart camera or a smart thermostat make up the vast majority of sales volumes. We are about to see the next level of smart integration take off even further as usage models are expanded with voice-enabled televisions launching this year, Echo Auto for in-car automation and smart speaker market growth with Ikea’s Symonfisk, Sonos One, Lenovo and other Tier 1 brands releasing their own voice assistants,” explains Slater.

“Mesh wireless will become even more important as smart voice capabilities are being built into the mesh access points with products like Netgear’s Orbi Voice. These products combine a smart speaker and a Mesh Wi-Fi access point in a single device that only requires a single power socket. Reducing complexity and simplifying the proposition is a key feature for consumers and manufacturers need to capitalise on the growth opportunity presented by our desire for convenient and helpful smart products. The more complex the proposition, the greater the consumer friction and the less units sell,” he says.

Securing the future

Looking ahead to 2023, and IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Smart Home Device Tracker forecasts more than 1.39 billion devices will be shipped out. As technology rapidly advances, tomorrow’s smart home products may look vastly different to what’s on offer today. So, what new developments are we in store for? And how big can the smart home market conceivably get?

“Accuracy and reliability are key to winning the minds of consumers. I think AI in smart homes will become the key driver and development for the immediate future” Simon Buckingham, EZVIZ

EZVIZ’s Buckingham notes the innovations showcased at this year’s IFA indicate where the market is heading.
“At IFA, it was clear to see the adaptations of smart home moving into other lifestyle and activity areas, such as smart vacuums, pet feeders, curtains, and door locks,’ he says.

“Some of these technologies have been developing for a while, but now we are beginning to see signs of critical mass adoption. Consumers are beginning to appreciate purpose which has been driven by live demonstrations with clear explanation of how they work and why you might need one. In simple terms, they have become relevant for consumers.”

Buckingham also saw some applications for care and health, which he says will benefit from the progression of 5G in the near future, as well as the ever improving connectivity to Wi-Fi.

Smart tech is even making its way into the garden. “One thing that caught my eye recently are the smart garden pods to help grow herbs and other plants in any environment. I love growing my own food, so I see this as a game changer,” he enthuses.

“Our lives will be so different in 10 or 20 years where many things will be automated and robotic, improving the lifestyle and potentially health of people. Quite frankly, with all of the integrations and adaptations, I cannot see a limit to the market, but what I do know is this market is growing and it is accelerating fast! Personally, it’s great to be involved in some capacity and certainly with a company that is leading within the market.”

With a focus on the more immediate future, Exertis’ Slater says we’re in store for “more devices, lower costs, homogenisation of the technology to simplify the proposition, and the rapid switch to renewable energy”.

He explains: “Consumer engagement increases exponentially when the proposition engages around an area the consumer is already familiar with. Much of smart tech’s exciting future come from government legislation and consumer engagement. Government legislation is driving the adoption of EV chargers on new home builds, the move away from gas central heating towards electrical heating, and smart meters are all contributing to a growing awareness of consumers’ energy needs and usage. Products that tap into a desire to control energy costs are already successful delivering voice driven convenience to consumers.”

Slater concludes: “The changing energy landscape in the UK driven by legislation, increasing consumer engagement with smart voice assistants and our desire for simpler more beautiful homes are collectively creating a fast growing, vibrant smart tech market category. These changes will be embraced by consumers and manufacturers and as ever, we at Exertis are keeping our finger on the pulse, looking for new smart tech brands and products that tap into these changes.”

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