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Smart Home Products Resonate with Consumers, and Utilities Should Take Note

Neil Strother
May 09, 2016


American consumers are ready for the next wave of connected products—or the Internet of Things (IoT)—for their homes. Their awareness is growing about how these products can bring benefits to their lives, according to research sponsored by Alphabet subsidiary Nest Labs. While this is encouraging news for hardware vendors and utilities aiming to capture the energy management component, the road ahead has some bumps (more on that in a moment).

First, the results from the two Nest-sponsored studies provide a positive outlook: 81% of respondents either own or are interested in buying a connected home product in the next year. They see the major benefits as increased convenience (54%), increased security (44%), reduced energy bills (38%), and boosted home values (21%). Enthusiasm for these products is on the rise as well, with 38% of respondents more interested today than they were 6 months ago. Asked which brands come to mind in the connected or smart home space, the respondents ranked them in this order: Nest (21%), Apple (12%), and Samsung (8%).

Increasing Awareness

The growing awareness is being felt and fueled at the retail level and among broadband service providers as well. Connected home products are among the fastest growing categories in the retail environment, according to one Home Depot executive. Sears recently introduced the first of a growing assortment of smart home products to be marketed under its Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard brands; each of these five first products is Wi-Fi-enabled.

Likewise, a new partnership between Comcast and Earth Networks’ WeatherBug Home highlights the growth in smart home technology and an increasing focus on energy efficiency. “The smart home is quickly becoming a reality, and when it comes to energy efficiency, knowledge is power,” says Bob Marshall, CEO of Earth Networks. “We are excited to partner with Comcast to extend the benefits of our unique home energy insights to Xfinity Home customers and the utilities that provide their energy services.”

Addressing Glitches

But looking beyond the smart-IoT-home hype, there is some reality to consider. Samsung has had to contend with some glitches with its SmartThings technology for the home. Nest has also been called out for problems with its thermostat. Consumers have issues, too. The vast majority (82%) are concerned about keeping personal information secure online, and nearly half (43%) worry that new home technologies will quickly become outdated, according to Nest-sponsored research.

For utilities and other smart home market stakeholders targeting energy efficiency products, the overall upward trend is still encouraging. In my research, I’ve found the market for these products to be growing, and they will likely go mainstream in coming years. Nonetheless, shrewd players will develop a strategy for getting beyond those pesky speedbumps.