The smart home skills gap

Thomas Kruse of reichelt elektronik

For smart homes to truly take off in the way they are predicted to, we need to get smarter. Some analysts and experts have argued that reality of living in smart homes with more connected devices than ever before hasn’t come to fruition as quickly as anticipated. But that’s not through lack of enthusiasm or interest from the person on the street, nor was it just hype, says Thomas Kruse, product manager for network technologies of reichelt elektronik.

The interest in state-of-the-art technology in the home is apparent with systems like Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Microsoft Cortana, developed by the tech giants. Research from reichelt elektronik showed that over half of Brits are already using or would consider using voice-controlled connected devices at home. 6% already using this smart tech.

Smart home technology is currently being used for:

    • Heating and light operations – 15%
    • Alarms/camera surveillance – 13%
    • Kitchen and household appliances – 10%

In the case of voice-controlled home automation solutions specifically, operating heating and lighting either automatically or remotely is the first priority (74%), with camera surveillance/alarm systems ranked second (48%) and operating kitchen and household appliances was the third most important option (40%).

Bridging the consumer barrier

However, 71% don’t currently use any form of smart tech in the home and the biggest barrier is simply not knowing how to install it. Over half (55%) of UK adults said they don’t know how to install these and would need professional help. This highlights a major knowledge and skills gap in IoT technology installation.

The tech giants and IoT companies should consider the ease of implementation before we see a real rise in adoption of smart home technology. Perhaps as technology continues to develop as it has done over recent years, at a rate of knots, homes will be built with the technology already installed.

Another barrier for consumers is the privacy issue. Surprisingly, millennials have become more concerned with privacy in regard to smart home technology. This is the digital native generation where smart tech is most likely to generate a foothold.

Despite being the age group with the most tech devices and using multiple devices daily, 37% choose not to use smart home tech and 67% say this is because they are concerned about data protection. 28% feel strongly against this. Recent big-name data breaches have clearly made an impact and caused concern. 

Home first, not mobile

Furthermore, whilst we may be happy to use our mobile phones for pretty much every other need (ONS recently released results showing how much we surf online, shop and do most things but make phone calls on our devices), voice assistants are however not something UK adults are keen to use them for.

The likes of Alexa and Google Home are generally well received by the majority of Britons but this is very different picture when it comes to mobile. Only 29% use the voice assistant on their smartphone regularly (at least every other day) while 60% never use it or do not have a mobile phone with a voice assistant. 

How does this compare to Europe?

The enthusiasm for smart homes continues across Europe – reichelt’s research found that most German (70%) and French (63%) people surveyed were the same as the Brits.

The same barrier of lack of knowledge on the other hand is not a common trend: Germans and the French are more confident than Brits to install systems. 49% of Germans would feel confident enough to install systems without professional help, this rises to 60% amongst men.

In France, at least 16% believe that they can design and install their own system with electronic components and a further 50% would consider it too. 21% use a voice assistant every other day in France as well.

So smart home tech isn’t just talk, there is a desire to use it more and the prediction that we will live in connected homes in the future is likely to come true. But the technology for installation and knowledge of how to implement and use these devices needs to catch up first.

The tech companies need to catch the enthusiasm whilst it is there and capitalise on the desire to use technology for heating, cameras and appliances. Making products that are affordable and easier to install will provide companies with a great chance to meet customer needs and be a step ahead of the competition. Otherwise Britons are in danger of falling behind European neighbours in the adoption and usage of smart home technology.

The author of this blog is Thomas Kruse, product manager for network technologies of reichelt elektronik

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