Most consumers not being turned on by connected home, study finds

Connected homes aren’t yet sparking interest beyond the early adopter crowd, according to survey of nearly 10,000 consumers in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia conducted by Gartner.

Across the polled regions the analyst found that only about 10 percent of households currently have connected home solutions.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of respondents to the online poll indicated they are in fact happy to manually set temperature and lighting — versus just one-quarter who expressed interest in having devices anticipate their needs in the home.

A majority (58 percent) even indicated a preference for separate, independent, stand-alone devices — i.e. traditional knobs and dials whose operations can’t be linked together, nor remote-controlled via an app. The poll took place during the second half of 2016.

Just last week Apple outed a shiny new website aimed at promoting its HomeKit software and Home App, seeking to sell the benefits of living inside a mesh of connected gadgetry to iOS users. A video on the website shows a woman waking up and being informed that her home is “ready for the day”, and going on to use the app to do things like remotely raise/close blinds, switch on/off lights and brew coffee.

But as TC’s Sarah Perez pointed out, the value proposition for consumers of spending a lot of money on kitting out their homes with fancy connected gadgetry can be pretty underwhelming — given it’s not all that difficult to raise your own blinds or push the start button on a coffee machine. And who, srsly, wants to receive wake up messages from their house? That’s some next level spam.

Add to that, managing connected gadgets via an app can come across as more of a time-sink not less, given you’re asking users to spend time interfacing with/wrangling software to set-up and manage various profiles and device controls, instead of just flicking switches and pushing physical buttons at the point of use. Yet, as the Apple marketing video shows, connected homes continue to be marketed with the promise of increased convenience.

Gartner’s finding that a majority of consumers prefer the (manual) control of standalone, separate devices isn’t so surprising either when you factor in myriad other IoT-related concerns, whether it’s trust/privacy or security/safety…

As it stands, the ‘I’ in IoT also all too often appears to stand for ‘incompetence‘. (See, for example, the current glut of tweets demonstrating how the Google Home connected speaker is happily helping to spread fake news… )

Beyond performance problems with the tech itself, the people who tend to get most excited about remote-controlling their physical environment are typically nerds. And nerds are necessarily a sub-group of consumers — albeit, the same sub-group closely involved in coming up with tech concepts to market to consumers in the first place. (Which perhaps explains some other recent tech missteps — e.g. overestimated demand for smart watches/wearables.)

“Although households in the developed world are beginning to embrace connected home solutions, providers must push beyond early adopter use,” says Amanda Sabia, principal research analyst at Gartner, commenting on the research in a statement. “If they are to successfully widen the appeal of the connected home, providers will need to identify what will really motivates current users to inspire additional purchases.”

“The emphasis needs to be on how the connected home can help solve daily tasks rather than just being a novelty collection of devices and apps,” adds Jessica Ekholm, research director. “Messaging needs to be focused on the real value proposition that the complete connected home ecosystem provides, encompassing devices, service and experience.”

The analyst notes that home security alarm systems, which are relatively more established in the market vs other connected home propositions, have nearly double the adoption rates (18 percent) of newer systems — such as home monitoring (11 percent), home automation or energy management (9 percent), and health and wellness management (11 percent).

It also suggests that providers of connected home offerings may find it challenging to monetize the tech, with survey results finding that less than half of households currently pay for subscription-based home monitoring and automation/energy management solutions.

Again the more established home security alarm services stand apart — as typically involving a monthly fee. (In the U.S., for example, where Gartner notes the home monitoring industry is more developed, 59 percent of households with a home monitoring solution indicate they do pay a monthly fee.) But it argues subscriptions for home automation/energy management and health and wellness solutions are a tougher sell as more than half of current households are already using these services free of charge.

The challenge is even greater in the U.K., where few home automation services are subscription based and 58 percent of households with home automation get their services free of charge, according to Gartner’s analysis.

One bright spot in the research for Apple’s HomeKit/Home App approach is Gartner says respondents are starting to see the value of both having one app for integrating their connected home devices (hardly surprising, given that ‘one app per appliance’ was never going to scale), and the importance of brand certification for connected home devices and services. (Also not surprising if you don’t want your connected gas oven to be hackable, for example, or your connected security cam to spy on your family… )

Gartner found that more than half of respondents (55 per cent) rated 51 or higher for preferring one app integrating all connected home devices and services, while a slightly larger majority (58 per cent) rated 51 or more toward the importance of hardware and services being certified by a specific brand.