The Future of Smart Homes | PDD

The Future of Smart Homes

By Jamie

on September 25 2023

The home environment has morphed over time to align with our changing, and digitally-focused lifestyles. Once considered a humble dwelling for rest, nourishment, socialising and togetherness with loved ones, the role of our homes has expanded and they are now a place of work and entertainment, a place of fitness and wellbeing and more recently, a place where we look after our health and wellbeing.

Smart home technology has become commonplace over the last two years, as people spent significantly more time in their homes, carrying out tasks that would usually happen elsewhere. As a result, there is a shift in the relationship between people and their homes, the artefacts within them and the way in which they consume resources. People are increasingly demanding products, services and environments that support this new multi-modal living and allow them to seamlessly switch between modes.

The quantified-home

With technology now scattered to every corner of our home, data is everywhere. Our homes have become the ultimate monitoring hub, able to detect anything from sound pollution and air quality to resource consumption. Our smart homes can even understand our behavioural patterns and monitor things that happen on the periphery, through devices such as smart doorbells.

But what does all this data actually mean for people? We seem to be at the advent of the ‘quantified-home’, where our connected surroundings are constantly gathering, hungerly eating up information on every aspect of our lives. But just like we saw with the quantified-self some years ago, data on its own is meaningless. Devices and services gathering data from the home need to present it back to users in an accessible and tangible format, and provide suggestions for people to optimise aspects of their life.

Future of smart homes

Behaviour change for better living

The rising cost of living and predictions of astronomical household energy bills will place an even greater demand on smart home tech. Data collected by these devices will need to translate into knowledge for users; offering suggestions for managing and reducing energy and water consumption and helping to reduce costs through nudge behavioural change – while giving users an all-important sense of control.

And, it’s not just about the ability of smart home tech to encourage responsible resource consumption; the eco credentials of the smart home devices themselves will be under scrutiny too. Low-power devices will be high on the agenda for consumers, from smart speakers and fridges, to smart thermostats and doorbells. In an increasingly competitive market, these devices will need to work harder and smarter to compete for the attention of consumers.

Internet of Things Concept: Young Woman Using Smartphone in Kitchen. She controls her Kitchen Appliances with IOT. Graphics Showing Digitalization Visualization of Connected Home Electronics Devices

Interoperability is key

Interoperability across various devices and platforms will be key to the future of the smart home. The current smart home can be difficult and messy for users to navigate, requiring them to select the right peripheral devices to connect to the right hub, resulting in consumers being tied into specific device ecosystems.

A potential solution to this problem is MATTER, a new smart home interoperability protocol with standard data models, designed to ensure that smart home devices can work across different ecosystems. Conceived as a joint effort by some of big players in the industry, over 170 companies are currently involved, including Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Google and the Zigbee Alliance.

But, what does this mean for users? In theory, interoperability protocols such as MATTER would mean that an Amazon Echo Show display should be able to work as seamlessly with a Google Nest doorbell as it does with Google’s own Ring product offering. In some ways, connectivity would transcend the brand and its own ecosystem, enabling users to freely mix-and-match smart home devices, services and platforms. That level of interoperability would also allow the different systems or software to exchange and make use of information they would otherwise gather and act on individually. Getting our smart home devices to work together and understand each other poses numerous advantages for consumers and will go some way to relieve the confusion and frustration that many of us often experience from interacting with multiple interfaces.

Phishing, mobile phone hacker or cyber scam concept. Password and login pass code in smartphone. Online security threat and fraud. Female scammer with cellphone and laptop. Bank account security.

The tricky business of control

It would be wrong to focus solely on the benefits that the future smart home poses, without acknowledging a darker side that lurks in the periphery. Concerns around hacking, data privacy, systems-down, power outage, loss of control, and exclusivity driven by price or tech literacy are all legitimate and real. Given these immediate concerns, smart tech within our homes, our sanctuaries so to speak, will continue to divide opinion. Will it truly revolutionise our daily lives for the better or will it become a hinderance?

The scenario of smart homes ‘gone wrong’ certainly captures our imagination. From unnerving TV dramas, such as American techno-thriller Mr. Robot and, more recently, the British horror drama Red Rose, these dramatized portrayals of techno-dystopia continue to seed uncertainty and doubt. In that context, smart home devices and services need to address a deeper, more complex question – when are consumers going to have the confidence and trust needed to handover the control of their homes to smart technology?

What would it take to alleviate the fear of giving up full control?

These are not technology questions; they are human questions that remind us of the fine balance of control and trust between people and machines. Smart home brands need to look beyond technology and data and learn from other industries, such as mobility (autonomous vehicles) and medicine (robot-assisted surgery) to create experiences that people can trust.

If you would like to know more about how PDD can help your brand navigate the future smart home landscape, please get in touch.