When will smart home automation products hit the mainstream?

According to a new report, consumer interest in connected home devices has fallen by 15 per cent. But as more companies release these products, will this be the year the smart home really takes off? Jade Burke finds out…

After Apple announced the release of its HomeKit earlier this year, the vendor has since started to roll out its line-up of smart accessories for homes.

Now that one of the largest tech vendors has jumped on board, could this mean that the smart home will hit the mainstream this year? More and more companies are tapping into the up and coming market.

Analyst Context estimates that there are over 240 million homes in Europe, and around one million of those feature smart home solutions. In addition, IDC reports that the Internet of Things (IoT) will nearly triple to $1.7 billion (£1.9 million) by 2020. And it doesn’t seem like the industry is slowing down any time soon, with more large IT companies getting involved in the market.

For example, last year Google acquired smart home company Nest, famous for its smart thermostat, in a deal worth $3.2 million (£2 million), while British Gas also bought AlertMe for £44 million.

This shows the market has scope, but even though companies have been focusing on the smart sector for well over a year, consumers are still reluctant to embrace it.

Sebastian James, CEO of Dixons Carphone, tells PCR: “I don’t think there will suddenly be a year when it happens, I think increasingly we’re just going to realise that everything in our home is automated and we’re going to do it piece by piece.

“It will soon be very normal to control your heating and lighting with connected devices, but it’s not going to happen in one go.”

On the other hand, according to analyst Argus Insights, the overall connected home device market is shrinking, with new research revealing that consumer interest in connected home devices has fallen 15 per cent year-on-year.

But Matthew Broadway, chief operating officer at Netatmo, believes that the smart home will take off as customers are interested in the benefits connected devices can bring. He adds: “Customers aren’t interested in a concept of IoT and the connected home, what they’re interested in is really useful features and benefits that they weren’t able to get from unconnected devices.

“So it’s all down to the quality and the disruptiveness of the technology that different IoT companies bring to the market."

Netatmo also recently announced its smart home camera called Welcome, the first home security camera to feature facial recognition. Users can sync up the device with a smartphone and receive notifications when someone enters their home.

“We’re so excited about the home camera, the first and only home camera to have true facial recognition technology,” adds Broadway.

Computers Unlimited’s CEO James Sanson, believes the smart home will only take off once certain standards are put in place.

Sanson explains: “I think a lot of the rest of it is waiting for the standards to settle down, and then the products to come out that match those standards. I think that when it and one or two other standards – like Google’s – fall into place, and the developers have a year or two to make their products better, then I would say 2016 or 2017 is more likely.”

Smart home products are also starting to get recognition for their functionalities, and during trade show Computex 2015, the Smanos K1 SmartHome DIY Kit which can connect up to 50 wireless accessories at once, scooped a prestigious Gold Award.

But Billy Knowles, sales manager for the UK, Ireland and Nordics at Synology, thinks that the market still has a way to go.

He adds: “Until someone comes out with a range of products for the whole home that is easy to set up and is cost effective, I think that’s when it will kick off. I think it’s on the brink and it’s just waiting for that extra push.”

With more smart home products, such as sensors, thermostats and even plugs coming to market, it seems possible that this year could be the year that the smart home hits mainstream.

Broadway concurs: “For face recognition cameras and domestic security, I think this is absolutely the year that the IoT will take off, because there’s a company, in this case us, that has brought a disruptive innovative product and technology to market.”

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