As smart home device adoption increases, device manufacturers and service providers in the space seek to expand their product ecosystems and boost their presence in the industry. Building smart home ecosystems involves a combination of expanding the value proposition of current products as well as adding new products. Expansion strategies for smart home brands include adding intelligence to consumer electronic devices that solve real-world problems and drive convenience.
As device manufacturers develop these strategies, they consider moving smart home benefits beyond access points of the home like the front or garage door and centralized locations such as the living room. Now use cases are envisioned for other home areas. These new use cases and devices represent the next wave of smart home devices emerging in the home.
Ecosystem development around bedrooms has spurred the launch of smart beds and smart vents. Ecosystem development around the kitchen has spurred the development of a number of smart major appliances, including refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers. Adding intelligence to the bathroom has spawned the development of smart mirrors as well as smart toilets.
Smart vents take comfort in the home to a more granular level by allowing more precise room-by-room heating and cooling. Leading brands in the smart vent space are Keen Home, Ecovent, Flair, and Alea Labs. Generally, smart vent systems are differentiated by the level of sophistication of their accompanying sensors. This ultimately helps them manage the health of the HVAC system, which can be compromised if too many vents are closed off. The sensors also enable additional services such as HVAC system and air quality monitoring.
Smart vents in tandem with smart thermostats can maintain preferred temperatures already established for the smart thermostat. However, smart vents also have the potential to cannibalize the smart thermostat market, given their ability to independently maintain temperatures throughout the home more precisely than a smart thermostat. Smart vents are well positioned given that 84 percent of U.S. broadband households that intend to purchase a smart thermostat report that being responsive to weather in ways that maintain comfort and save money on heating and cooling is an important feature, and only 29 percent report that their thermostat has this capability.
Smart beds typically consist of a mattress with sensors that track sleep patterns and technology geared at improving sleep quality. Most also leverage wireless connectivity to enable a range of smart home functions. Companies in the space consist of both startup companies such as Eight Sleep, ReST, and WinkBed, as well as established mattress manufacturers such as Sleep Number. Ideally, smart mattresses are designed to make automatic adjustments that enhance the user’s comfort and sleep quality during sleep time and even improve the wake up experience.
The emergence of the smart bed is partly based on the premise that the amount and quality of sleep a person enjoys has a paramount impact on their daily alertness and long-term health. Yet, only 50 percent of consumers report that they obtain a good amount of sleep. Similarly, only 48 percent of U.S. broadband households perceive that their quality of sleep is good. This implies both opportunity and a strong market value for proven technology that helps consumers sleep well.
The mattress industry needs to continue to work on awareness. Only 24 percent of consumers report some level of awareness of mattresses with built-in sensors that track sleep. Awareness of sleep tracking devices associated with beds is generally low. Only 21 percent of US broadband households report awareness of sensors that can be placed on under their mattress to track sleep and only 22 percent report awareness of sensors that can be clipped to a pillow, or reside by a bed for the purpose of tracking sleep.
Smart Major Appliances
Major appliances (refrigerators, ovens/ranges, dishwashers, clothes washers, and clothes dryers) are staples in U.S. broadband households. According to the EIA, almost 100 percent of U.S. households have at least one refrigerator and cooking appliance. Smart major appliances have been available for more than five years, talked and written about since the 1960s, and hypothesized since the 1950s, but have experienced low adoption. In a cumulative way, combining smart major appliances under this report’s review, 12 percent of U.S. broadband households report owning one or more smart major appliances (smart refrigerators, smart ovens, smart dishwashers, smart clothes washers, and smart clothes dryers), up from 3 percent in 2014. This rate is significantly lower than the overall adoption rate (24 percent) for smart home devices.
Approximately 10 percent of U.S. broadband households report owning a smart refrigerator, smart oven, or smart dishwasher. Innovators, consumers who generally purchase technology-filled devices as soon as they become available, are early buyers, in general, of smart major appliances. The smart appliance market faces challenges in the following areas: limited product availability, long replacement cycles, high prices, and lack of perceived value. As the kitchen gradually becomes a bigger part of the smart home evolution, kitchen-centric connected appliances are evolving to include automation technologies geared at improving convenience and control in food preparation, food storage, and kitchen clean up. [See figure 1.]
Several conditions can negatively affect market growth of these emerging products, including low product awareness, a perception that products are too expensive and do not offer strong value, security and privacy concerns, and the long life cycle of major appliances. Moreover, consumers fear that these products are technically complex and will endure technical problems and glitches in the long run. For success, product manufacturers and channel partners must develop cost-effective strategies, including cross marketing efforts through various channel partners, developing products with flexible technology architecture, and integrate smart home devices wherever there is value.
This article is based on the Parks Associates report “Smart Home Adjacencies: Building the Ecosystem.” For more information, or to buy the full report, visit parksassociates.com/report/smart-home-adjacencies-ET.
Patrice Samuels is a senior analyst at Parks Associates.
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