Move over, smart phones. There’s a new player in the “smart” game, and it’s hitting consumers where they live. Literally. We’re talking about smart home technology, of course, and its rapid journey from fantasy fodder to a neighborhood near you. Wondering if smart homes are all they’re cracked up to be, and to what degree they’re likely to change the way we live in the days, weeks, months and year ahead? Let’s take a closer look.

The State of Smart

According to a report from BI Intelligence, there are now 1.9 billion connected-home devices, including smart appliances, safety and security systems, and energy-related equipment. This figure will skyrocket to nine billion by 2018 — equivalent to the current number of  smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, wearable computers, and PCs combined. Revenue, meanwhile, is predicted to climb by from $61 billion in 2014 to $490 billion in 2019.

 

In other words, “smart” is about to blow up in a very big way.

 

Real Problems, Real Solutions

Icontrol Networks’ second annual State of the Smart Home report reveals some useful insights into what consumers are looking for when it comes to home automation. And as it turns out, innovation for the sake of innovation is not part of the equation. (Pneumatic tube food delivery, we hardly knew ‘ya.) Rather, homeowners are looking for ease of use and applicability above all else, with the following topping the list of desired smart home devices:

 

  • Self-adjusting thermostats (72 percent)
  • Doors which can be remotely locked and unlocked (71 percent)
  • A master remote from which to control all household preferences (68 percent)
  • Adjustable, automatic outdoor lighting (65 percent)
  • Home monitoring camera’s (65 percent)

 

A quick glance at this list reveals one particular area rising above the rest: home security. In fact, for the second year running, a whopping 90 percent of consumers cited security as one of their primary reasons for considering smart home technology adoption. But it’s not the only one.

 

Other factors expected to motivate consumer home automation purchases in the year ahead include:

 

  • Cost savings from energy efficiency and monitoring (70 percent)
  • Increased convenience offered by programmable home settings and maintenance (48 percent)
  • Environmental benefits of greater energy efficiency (47 percent)

 

Holding up the bottom of the list of in terms of enticing consumers to the smart side? Greater productivity and enhanced work-life balance (23 percent); the ability to anticipate homeowner needs (18 percent); and interactive, connective features (13 percent).

 

Who’s Buying Into It?

It’s not exactly surprising that Millennials (79 percent) and parents (76 percent) lead the pack when it comes to home automation love. The overall population, meanwhile, hovers right around the 50 percent mark in terms of both excitement level and intent to actually make a purchase in the year ahead.

 

But not only do the different generations diverge in terms of level of excitement, they’re also getting excited about very different things. For example, the Baby Boomers are largely about cost savings,  while the 25-34 set is more likely to factor in lifestyle issues, such enhanced productivity, media access, and interactivity.

 

In addition to these perceived benefits, however, there are also some barriers to adoption. According to an International Data Corporation (IDC) survey commissioned by the  Internet of Things Consortium (IoTC), 61 percent of people have concerns about privacy, while 51 percent thought the costs might outweigh the advantages.

 

In two particularly telling twists (not to mention potential leverage point for savvy businesses), a full third of respondents said they wouldn’t oppose commercial advertising on connected devices if it meant trimmed costs, while a significant portion insisted on smartphone controllability as a prerequisite to purchasing.

 

Marketing Home Automation

consumers are most open to smart home technology when already making home improvements or upgrades. Household moves and life changes also increase the inclination toward smart homes.  But what about everyone else?

 

According to Icontrol Networks’ findings, “The more people know about this technology, the more interested and excited they become about incorporating it into their everyday connected lifestyles.” So what’s the best way to get from here (not knowing) to there (knowing)?

 

Perhaps the most influential factor of all in determining whether a consumer will make the leap? Seeing the technology in action for themselves. In fact, State of the Smart Home determined that people who experienced smart home technology in action — either through in-store displays or online demos — were much more likely to buy a home automation product in the next year.

 

Additionally, people who knew other people with smart homes were more likely to get on board with the trend.

 

Furthermore, 71 percent of people said they’d be influenced by referrals and recommendations from others.

 

What is all of this telling us? In short: the path to adoption involves a combination of awareness and engagement.

 

While the realm of the smartphone may still seem more Jetsons than Joneses, the landscape is quickly changing. Companies which commit to delivering useful and user-friendly smart home solutions are likely to live long and prosper while those which innovate without educating may find themselves going the way of the Flintstone’s pet, Dino.