According to Ofcom research in 2015, two-thirds of people owned smartphones last year. The actual number will now likely be much higher, but are we getting the best out of our devices or do we really understand how they can be used to make our lives easier?
Imagine asking the lights to switch on, running a bath or boiling your kettle from your smartphone before you’d even arrived home from your evening commute. Sounds a bit techy? Not at all – some of these conveniences are already in place and available. Others are coming to a home near you imminently. All are ways that connected home technology, controlled from a smartphone, is developing around us.
So where is the future of the smart home moving, and how can brands convince consumers that connected devices are worth purchasing?
The future of the smart home
The key focus of the connected home is the ability to reduce inefficiencies and waste in different ways, including both time and money. There are also broader waste saving opportunities in energy, water and even food through new, revolutionary products.
There are all kinds of inefficiencies in the way we run our homes and therefore in the way we live our lives. Overfilling your kettle, which wastes £68m a year in the UK, is just one example. But when combined with the time lost waiting for it to boil, this common activity is incredibly inefficient. We spend so much of our time at home that making small changes can have a big impact on our day-to-day experiences and on society at large.
Reducing food waste
Food waste is a huge problem in the UK – the average household throws away £470 per year in uneaten items, usually because of forgetfulness. Quite aside from the financial impact, this has a huge environmental impact as well – the benefit to the planet of eliminating the food we waste would be the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road, according to Love Food Hate Waste.
With the price of food constantly increasing, it is incumbent on the businesses that develop products and services to mitigate against waste and promote better usage of food in order to do so. A connected fridge camera, for example, a product we will release in January 2017, will allow users to know exactly what items are in their fridge through the smartphone app. This information will prevent us from buying more than we need and therefore save money, energy and prevent unnecessary food waste.
Another important area in which IoT can impact waste reduction is the energy market. For example, Nest claims their Learning Thermostat could save 20% on energy. Other innovations include smart lighting, smart doorbells and Hive Active Plugs. These let you switch off appliances from a smartphone. This ties in with the government’s objective of a smart meter in every home by 2020 to ensure energy use is monitored and, where possible, minimised.
Partnering with other industries
Partnerships between IoT devices and other brands will help to reduce inefficiencies by saving customers time and money, but perhaps more importantly, reduce the food and other items that are initially being produced at the partner’s level.
If we can control the over-production and over-use of resources at this stage, this could have a revolutionary impact on the food industry from the bottom up. For example, if a partner supermarket knows when to replenish your food as soon as it runs out, the supermarket can cut down on over-production in the first place. Gartner predicts that IoT innovations for the kitchen will save the food and beverage industry at least 15% by 2020.
Focus on excellent customer service
Partnerships between IoT devices and retailers are starting to emerge, but will only become more commonplace as the technology is adopted. Amazon launched Dash in the UK towards the end of August this year. This innovation means your customers do not have to think about replenishing your washing powder ever again as it will be automatically ordered when you are running low, but it isn’t that intuitive yet and means it will continue to order the exact same product and brand.
As time goes on, the partnerships IoT businesses develop with popular consumer brands will be wide-ranging and agnostic – the future will be personalisation and much improved customer service based on the access to new data and insight.
Demystifying the smart home
Recent reports by IDC suggest that the IoT market will be worth $2.2 trillion by 2022. But getting there requires brands to demystify the Internet of Things for the average consumer. It is not an abstract tech phenomenon but instead a very simple use of online communication which will make everyday life easier.
There are many technical elements to IoT, but its widest uses in the home simply aid the everyday things that we take for granted, such as making a cup of tea! What’s key to note is that the smart home is already developing all around us. Whether a connected whisk that knows when to stop spinning or an oven that knows what temperature to cook at, these devices are already in our homes and making changes in people’s day-to-day lives.
As IoT develops around us and becomes ever more present, we must make sure we are helping people to see the myriad ways in which connected devices can really change everyday lives. Brands must focus their communication on the time, energy and money-saving elements of the technology – a collective mission for all those businesses involved in making IoT devices, selling them and working to maximise their benefits.
By Christian Lane, CEO of Smarter