Smart technology is ‘game-changer’ for home safety, say experts

The smart home concept could represent a leap forward in domestic electrical safety, according to experts.

The views came as part of a panel discussion on the smart home at the Electrical Product Safety Conference held last week in London and organised by charity Electrical Safety First.

The panel outlined that connected products opened up numerous opportunities to improve, predict and prevent safety issues with electrical products.

“In the next five years, most products will have some level of connectivity, and that’s fantastic – the safety benefits those products will provide will be a game-changer in my view,” said Martyn Allen, head of electrotechnical division at Electrical Safety First.

“[If we can] use technology to facilitate the product registration process and take the burden away from the consumer, as well as use that technology to know where those products are and send alerts when they’re going wrong, it will radically change the outlook.”

Charlotte Semp, director of strategy and investment at Notting Hill Housing, said that smart technology could allow them to communicate with residents and more easily monitor the elements of the home that the trust is responsible for.

“We are really keen, in particular, to look at monitoring heating and energy use and being able to pre-empt failure, or even reset them remotely, so we’re not constantly sending people in vans to go and fix them,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of legislative changes recently that are forcing us to make some serious cuts and that’s started us thinking seriously about this. The next few years in the housing sector, especially in London, will be a ripe opportunity for organisations to come up with more efficient ways of managing interaction with their customer, both from a maintenance and connectivity perspective.”

While safety may relate to the failure of products, for consumers it also means creating safe and secure homes, with security devices currently a major focus for consumers and manufacturers.

Simon Eves, Panasonic (pictured second from right)
Simon Eves, Panasonic (pictured second from right)

“Surveys have shown that there is a high level of awareness for the ‘connected home’ and what it means,” said Simon Eves, head of environmental and public affairs for Panasonic UK. “The top choice for what it can bring is in security and control, followed by energy and lighting. Security and peace of mind is one of the areas we’re focusing on as a company.”

He continued: “Do you know your children have come back from school safely? Do you know that your elderly relatives are safe? So when you pull together products like cameras, motion sensors – and even water leak sensors – you can have total solution for security and peace of mind, and that obviously links in with insurance premiums.”

On the retail side Tim Potter (pictured top, far left on panel), product innovation manager at Dixons Carphone, confirmed a shopfloor focus on security and heating. However, he also said that the use of smart technology to monitor and predict maintenance issues with products was a step forward in service levels and safety.

“I think [consumers] can see a lot of value in it from that perspective. We want to make sure that when we send a van out to someone, it has the right parts on it. So, being able to diagnose the problem remotely is immensely powerful.

“It makes us more efficient, so the satisfaction level rises. As it progresses, we can get into a pre-emptive state and be able to tell the customer that we’ve detected a problem and arrange the visit.”