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Research & Trends What Is the Future of Smart Home Technology?


How do and how will builders and architects create better disciplines and practices around discovery of what people expect in their new homes?

By John McManus

Is the blurring of commercial and residential design an accident? That stark clean line, that mindfully day-lit expanse, that blend of stone, wood, glass, and metal that we’ve found new ways to warm and add drama to and engage with, directly or as a backdrop. Commercial design and architecture have taught residential spaces ways to eliminate the obvious to make room for the meaningful, like light, like flow of space, like physical and suggested linkages between in- and outdoors.

Home and office and hotel and bar and cafe are now a holistic orbit of user interfaces, user experiences, and user stories. That may have started with the modern era’s most macro of trends: women joining the workforce outside.

One could say that many of home design innovations trace back to that single profound trend, which brought with it whole new relationships with time, convenience, cost, and savings. The 401(k) plan, for instance, came in as a benefit in the late 1980s-early 1990s as companies shifted corporate pension plans to employee contribution programs, which gained scale and changed households from little engines of hand-to-mouth consumer spending to little businesses, which began to transform the way people looked at their investment in homeownership.

All this, by way of trying to get our minds around this issue of the “smart home,” or as Nest’s Tony Fadell chooses to call it, “the conscious home.” We believe it’s essential to give it thought, not because potential home buyers in surveys report that they’d prefer tech-enabled living in their homes, but because they’ll at some point soon be dismayed and appalled if it’s not been added as part of the basic value proposition.

The risk, of course, is that the potential cost involved in trying to figure out now what people will expect to have in their homes “sooner or later” can be daunting. Part of this is the “fad vs. trend” dynamic, which Seth Godin has covered recently here. He writes:

Confusion sets in because at the beginning, most trends gain energy with people who are happy to have fun with fads, and it’s only when the fad fans fade away (yes, I just wrote ‘fad fans fade’) that we get to see the underlying power of the trend that’s going on.

The IoT vectors at “nice to have” and “needs to have” and, in it’s still early stages, comes with product and service quality and durability challenges.

Home builders, architects, developers, designers, and engineers face multiple layers of challenge when it comes to seizing on the potential of technology–both in their own knowledge and production processes, as well as in the products and communities they create.

As regards “smart home” technologies, Safety & Security, Infotainment, Environment, and Appliances, appear to be the principle areas of focus for opportunity. Venturebeat draws on a Goldman Sachs rendering IoT’s ecosystem like this, with homes in the broad spectrum from people to industrial applications.

Have a look at Gartner’s 2015 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, which notes that connected-home solutions momentum has “introduced entirely new solutions and platforms enabled by new technology providers and existing manufacturers.

Looking at this, and taking note of the blurring line(s) between home and office, home and hospitality, home and recreational venue in the physical world, one might well surmise that the question of “fad or trend?” may be the wrong question.

The trend is clear, and people’s demand for technology to play a role in both basic human need and that which provides pleasure and joy is not moving backwards.

The challenge for large and small companies who provide people the service of building homes and communities is coming up with disciplined resource planning and allocation to get the investment of money and time on IoT solutions right.

Make no mistake though, we may think we need to ask people whether they want “smart home” technology as an option, but we really might need to understand that they expect it as a given.

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