‘Widespread confusion’ over smart appliances

The smart home automation and smart appliance markets are set for substantial growth, but this is being hindered by widespread confusion, new research has revealed.

According to research company Futuresource Consulting, which interviewed 4,000 people across the UK, France, Germany and the USA, 21 per cent stated that they owned a smart appliance. However, when asked more thorough questions, many classified their smartphones and smart TVs as a smart appliance, which highlights the need for consumer education, it said.

Futuresource’s study found that nearly half of respondents were ‘reasonably’, ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ likely to choose a smart washing machine on their next purchase. Refrigeration products received a similar response.

The majority (94 per cent) of current smart appliance owners said they would replace their existing smart appliance with another next time around. This demonstrates that, once consumers are immersed in the experience, they cannot imagine losing the functionality, said Futuresource.

“But it’s not all fanfares and feasting for the CE industry,” said Simon Bryant, associate director at Futuresource Consulting. “Although ownership of smart appliances is moving beyond the innovators, many consumers are still confused by what constitutes a smart appliance – and that’s a serious problem.

“To demonstrate the full extent of this confusion, 21 per cent of consumers told us that they owned a smart appliance. However, when we drilled down into the detail many people were classifying their smartphone or smart TV as a smart appliance. The concept of smart appliances does not yet resonate with the vast majority of consumers.”

By 2019, the value of the global household appliances industry is expected to exceed $300 billion (£245bn).

Futuresource argued that the industry would extend this market’s technology ‘roadmap’ if it were able to educate more people on the benefits of smart appliances. As well as providing customers with opportunities to save money and micromanage their homes, and offer vendors an additional revenue stream from value-added services and subscriptions.

The survey found that Samsung was the most popular brand in smart washing machines and refrigeration with 11 per cent market penetration. Its users had strong brand loyalty, with seven out of 10 Samsung owners saying they would most likely buy Samsung again. LG was not far behind with six out of 10 of its owners likely to buy the brand next time around.

Within the washing machine sector, Whirlpool takes the top spot with 12 per cent penetration among respondents. This was followed by Bosch at 10 per cent and Samsung and Hotpoint both at seven per cent.

Future brand loyalty is also strong in this segment, with seven out of 10 Bosch and Samsung owners saying they would buy the brands again.

When it came to the most trusted brand in the smart appliance and smart monitoring services market, Samsung won out again with just over one-in-five citing this brand. Bosch was the second most frequently mentioned brand at 10 per cent.

Beyond smart appliances, the report said that the smart home was being shaped through entertainment distribution and control, security, lighting and climate control.

Mr Bryant concluded: “With the scale of the opportunity, it’s not surprising that a vast array of companies from a diversity of sectors are getting involved. The smart home is becoming a strategic battleground where just over one-in-five respondents in our survey are using some type of smart home service, with security and remote monitoring leading the way, predominantly in the US.

“We believe that once the education gap is plugged, we’re going to see an influx of interest in the sector. Watch out for remote monitoring, house control systems and the rise of voice interaction. Amazon Echo, now launched into the UK market two years after its US debut, comes with intuitive voice technology and 3,000 apps or ‘skills’ that could prove to be the catalyst for the entire smart-home revolution. Google and Apple have since played their hand in this space and will add significant momentum.”