Industry must get better at selling smart-home benefits, urges TechUK

Consumer electronics trade association techUK has called on the industry to “do a far better job of conveying the benefits of the connected home”.

In its second annual report, The State of the Connected Home, which was based on a survey of 1,000 UK consumers conducted by analyst GfK, one of the key findings was that there is a need for consumers to be better educated about the benefits of the smart home.

TechUK, which represents around 950 technology firms around the country, said there was a clear need to develop compelling examples of how the connected home will make life easier for consumers and to convey these through bricks-and-mortar stores and digital offerings.

The report found that connected device ownership is growing, but the market appears to be “one of evolution rather than revolution”.

UK households now own double the number of smart speakers and home assistants than a year ago, according to the survey.

At the moment, growth in the smart-home market is mostly down to the steady appeal of smart entertainment. However, it seems the overall appeal of the connected home seems to have stagnated.

TechUK acknowledged work needed to be done to alleviate fears over the opportunities for data theft that connectivity enables.

The report highlighted that a key barrier to consumers embracing the connected home is cost – critically, cost versus perceived value.

More than 40 per cent of respondents – mostly millennials – said they were put off by cost, but the survey also found that fears of personal privacy being compromised (23 per cent), and the risks associated with a cyber-attack (16 per cent) were also getting in the way of wider take-up of connected-home appliances.

Yet, it’s clear that ownership is on the rise. The number of households with more than three “smart” products have grown by more than a quarter over the past year.

The report says that this is overwhelmingly driven by the smart-entertainment sector, smart speakers and smart TVs, but it seems smart-meter adoption is growing as the energy suppliers roll out the technology.

The survey showed that the smart-thermostat category has grown 10 per cent compared with eight per cent in 2017 and smart-home monitoring, which includes smart-alarm systems, motion sensors and smart locks, gaining interest.

The techUK 2018 report said data from large energy suppliers suggests that nearly 11 million smart meters had been installed in homes around the UK, while about 1m smart and advanced meters had been installed in smaller non-domestic sites by both large and small energy suppliers.

But it added: “Significant barriers remain which prevent wider adoption of connected-home products. By far the greatest of these is the value that consumers attribute to the connected-home products and services.”

“Clearly, industry needs to do a far better job of conveying the benefits of the connected home. For us, the benefits are clear – greater control over our most personal environments, cost savings, and that most valuable of commodities, peace of mind.

“But we do need to develop compelling examples of how the connected home will deliver these and find new ways to educate and communicate to consumers – be that digitally or through more innovative offerings in brick-and-mortar stores.”

TechUK said it supported the Government in its efforts to develop a code of practice for retailers, internet-of-things (IoT) manufacturers and service providers that would see the embedding of stringent security measures in consumer-facing smart devices in the design process. This, the organisation believes, “should drive out the worst practices in the market”.

Commenting on the report, Matthew Evans,  head of techUK’s IoT programme,  said:  “The connected home can deliver real productivity and cost savings to consumers, as well as that elusive prize of peace of mind.

“However,  our report demonstrates that privacy and security concerns are real barriers to the adoption of connected-home technologies.  If industry is to deliver these benefits,  then we need to work doubly hard to address these justified concerns and continue to demonstrate the value that these new products and services can deliver.”