Why the Connected Home is the Next Wave of Innovation
(Verizon Note: Dani wrote this post for Verizon as part of our innovation meetup series)
Technology pervades every corner of life -- just ask the person texting while crossing the street or the numerous couples who met through online dating sites. But in a culture where everyone has a smartphone in hand, some of us sort of want an excuse to set the device down -- it is a small screen, after all, and you can only take the hunched-over posture for so long.
Yet this is not a desire to escape the digitally-driven reality, rather, it is a growing need to have digital capabilities better integrated into our lives. The home -- more specifically, the living room -- is a wide open frontier.
The connected home consists of both entertainment and automation capabilities. Some key examples and growing trends include second screen apps, over the top video content (OTT) and security or efficiency automation, such as the Nest thermostat which remotely adjusts the temperature in your home. Consumers are driven towards these technological advancements in part for cost savings, but also as a result of innovations that can improve daily life -- some of which haven't come to fruition quite yet. The following are five trends that spur innovation in the home.
1. The Connected Generation
In a survey by social TV app Zeebox, it was found that 40 percent of respondents are frequently on social media while watching TV. They might be chatting with friends during commercials but TV execs certainly want to get in on the action -- many now offer apps to interact with TV programming.
Similarly, the market for OTT video grew to $8 billion in 2012 and is expected to hit $20 billion by 2015, according to a study by ABI Research. A survey by Accenture shows nearly half of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. view video via OTT.
As OTT providers -- Amazon, Netflix and Hulu -- develop their offerings, they'll need to find new ways to make video watching not only accessible and affordable, but also social -- a nut nobody has cracked quite yet.
Most budget-minded folks have at some point looked at monthly bills and considered replacing cable service with an OTT provider such as Netflix. This is popularly known as cord-cutting. The old rationale of needing cable service to see a TV show when it first airs is losing relevance. Netflix recently aired its own original series -- House of Cards -- with more to follow, and reactions would suggest it is on par with the quality networks have to offer.
Of course, the need for efficiency applies, most of all, to the other utility bills, specifically temperature control. The Nest takes the guesswork out of programming climate control -- not only does it allow you to remotely control temperature, but it has sensors that know whether or not you are home. Other advancements that reduce regular costs of living will be eaten up by consumers.
3. Housing Market Recovery
With home prices gaining stability, the decision to invest in your home is less of a risk. Homeowners know they'll stay put for awhile -- and as mentioned, technology allows for greater efficiency in terms of utility costs. But when you're saving money in one arena, you realize you can spend in another. Home automation systems are one example. X10 is a company that provides a suite of upgrades, including the ability to remotely turn lights on and off and also control sprinkler systems.
4. Increased Security Needs
Another facet of automation is security systems. As living standards increase, so does the demand for better security -- plus, why not upgrade if better technology is out there? One company, Nabco, provides home owners the ability to remotely control alarm functions, lighting, thermostats and door locks. At an ongoing cost, the company will monitor these things for you.
A Consumer Electronics Association study found that installations of energy management solutions grew 12 percent in 2011 and in home automation, 10 percent -- both all time highs (compared to 7 percent and 5 percent in 2010, respectively).
5. We Want "Wow"
While the previous reasons show there's growing demand for a connected home, the simple fact that technology has improved is the most obvious. If a better home security system exists, it seems foolish to keep the lesser one. But consumer psychology goes deeper -- people hunger for innovation. The smartphone was one such innovation that changed everything; meanwhile, the tablet was just a new format of the same technology. This is why industry pundits will tell you they are itching for a "real" digital TV. What's on the market now doesn't seem to capture the possibilities. What would such a TV look like, or the ultimate home management device? It has yet to be seen.