Picture this: you’re lying in bed in the middle of the night and your phone or control panel beeps to let you know you have an intruder, or you’re sitting in an important meeting and your phone beeps to inform you your home is filling with water - this is information I, personally, could do without. On the other hand, I do quite fancy the fridge letting me know what ingredients I have and what Nigel Slater might do with them.
The connected home is yet another manifestation of digital action translating into real world action. The concept is nothing new. We had glimpses of the potential and promise of the technology as far back as 1962 when the Jetsons beamed onto screens. There have been many false dawns but now the connected home is finally becoming a reality. By 2017, Berg Insights predict smart home installations in North America and Europe will reach 21.5 million while Cisco reckon the internet of things will have grown to 50 billion objects hooked online.
The predicted growth is due to a number of factors - falling prices, advancing technology, increasing commercial interest and the proliferation of apps to address single functions within the home. We are also becoming far more comfortable using our smart phones for multiple actions and activities - it’s fast developing into a remote control for our lives.
Up until now the real spanner in the works has been the lack of a dominant operating system to bind all of this together. Without this, companies need to invest a great deal to build their own, which just does not make commercial sense without promise of scale, audience and interest. Much like the battle between VHS and Beta over three decades ago, Google’s project Tungsten and AT&T’s Digital Life are at the forefront of building widely accepted platforms to make the connected home viable.
We can talk all day about technologies such as August (Locks), Nest (Thermostat), Hue (Phillips lighting), Tungsten or Digital Life. But what interests us is the implication of greater connectedness in our homes, particularly for the millennials - those most adept at auditing the pros and cons and those most likely to benefit from the democratisation of this technology with regards to access and cost.
As with all transactions there is a balance of risk and reward and what will most likely happen is that even the most reluctant among us will approach with an á la carte attitude. It is essential for brands to put the consumer at the core of their thinking about this new home front. You’re thinking “you would say that” but those designing, developing and marketing these new technologies must continually ask themselves “Why are we doing this?” and “Who are we doing this for?” or risk leaving the consumer behind. This is particularly pertinent for the millennial audience, those most exposed to the impact of technology on their lives and, consequently, the most critical and cautious consumers of it.
Make it safe and attractive for them and the rest will follow.
Who wants to hear actors talk?
proclaimed H. M. Warner, Chairman of Warner Bros., in 1927.
Don't find yourself in a similar uncomfortable position of being the lone voice that shouts
"The connected home will never catch on!" Here is our chic-mag-pop-quiz to determine how you might embrace or resist the potential of all things connected.
- The “efficiency” argument - Having my home connected and being able to “Turn it on” an hour before I get home means that:
a) My ambitions for a seamless convenient life have been fully realised. Yahoo!
b) The cost implication of my house being “on” when I'm not there seems like a waste of money.
- The “leap of trust” argument - There are big names behind this such as AT&T and Google to name but a few.
a) It’s great that someone is doing it. This is just progress and some company has to own the operating system. I applaud it and want to be a part of it.
b) I’m all for progress but I want to protect myself too. Can I trust these big names and what do I surrender in the transaction?
- The “human connectedness” argument - What will this mean for the most primal, and arguably most important interchange of all, human connection?
a) Picture the scene: Middle of the night, baby cries (insert life stage appropriate example). The mat under the baby activates the bottle warmer downstairs and the under-floor heating in the kitchen so, when you get there, your “piggies” are warm, the bottle is ready to go and the baby gets fed in a timely manner and back to sleep. Utopia – right?
b) The exchange over whose turn it is to warm the bottle and or feed the baby may become obsolete. Things are so seamless that even little interactions, positive or blemished, get photo-shopped out of our lives and we lose some of the texture of our personal relationships. A bridge too far?
If you answered:
mostly a) - you will be a Brave Evangelist for the Connected Home.
mostly b) - you will be a Progressive Pragmatist for the Connected Home.
Both are progressively minded. The biggest difference between the two perhaps being the pace at which you will find yourself adopting the technologies.
(Image courtesy of Digital Trends)
Amy Mitchell is Head of Planning
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