Rafi Zauer, Head of Marketing at Essence, discusses the development of connected home technology and why the term “Internet of Things” may already be outdated.
The connected home industry is still very young, and like any teenager, it has made some mistakes on its way to finding its own identity.
One of these was to get a little carried away with all the innovation that new technologies (IoT and cloud services) have made possible – and turn all the opportunities technology offered into the coolest device ever. Remember Google Glass?
“Smartening” almost every single piece of furniture within the home
Developers did this with varying degrees of success — just because they could. The future began to look like a sci-fi movie, with smart floors and talking microwaves. This Ericsson video (“The Social Web of Things”) from 2011 illustrates where the industry thought it was headed.
In those early days there was a lot of hype about the “internet of everything.” The goal was for absolutely everything within and outside the home to be permanently connected to the internet — from baby monitors to fridges to streetlamps. Then reality struck: There were communication incompatibilities, lack of standardization, privacy issues, security breaches and many hacked devices.
Also, consumers were not buying these gadgets at the expected rate because they just seemed like unreliable expensive toys that did not answer their real, everyday needs. A talking carpet? Sounds like fun, but most people would deem it too pricey and not really useful. Such a product would probably never reach the mass market, and reaching mass adoption is required for it to truly take off.
The industry began to understand that it had totally missed the point
The idea wasn’t so much about making everything “smart,” but about helping people connect to their homes and to each other. The industry had failed in the most basic marketing principle: Offer people what they want. Don’t get carried away by futuristic utopias; stop and listen to people’s needs, and then address those needs. Consumers don’t need a talking couch or a smart umbrella; they need to keep their home and family safe, reduce energy waste, make everyday life more comfortable and convenient.
These early mistakes have taken their toll among consumers
Although awareness is still low, average users remain cynical. For them, connected devices are not really a must-have, but a whim for the wealthy. They won’t invest money in complex, hard-to-manage solutions that may soon become obsolete, or won’t speak to other smart devices they may add later. They are also increasingly concerned about data security and privacy issues. All these fears are a direct consequence of those first few years since the original IoT market introduction.
Now, although still young, the connected home is a much more mature market
It has learned from its mistakes and has finally begun to listen to, and address, consumers’ real needs. Partnerships have emerged that have challenged traditional business models in a fragmented industry where many players cover the different stages of the process: vendors, dealers, providers, installers. Bridges are being built to unify the various parts of the platform, so that consumers can enjoy a truly seamless experience – a connected ecosystem of different devices that speak to each other and function in a non-obstructive manner.
Devices should be useful, reliable, safe and easy to use – not just show off the latest tech
They provide an answer to very specific user needs, either as stand-alone units or as part of a system that can learn patterns and adapt over time to meet each household’s requirements. In fact, maybe even the name “Internet of Things” is already outdated, and will soon be replaced with a more accurate term referring to this new, constantly evolving market that continues to learn from and build upon its early mistakes.
After some years of uncertainty, of probing and testing, the connected home industry has realized that the old home automation concept was not the example to follow. Now, it has reinvented itself. It has created a completely new market – one with endless potential. Comprised of many different players, but with enough space to contain them all, it aims to offer a great customer experience while making people’s lives much easier, safer and more comfortable.