It’s a smart, smart, smart, smart, smart home world, right? Well, it’s getting there. Every week there’s a new study revealing that some large percentage of households plan to get some internet-of-things device or other. There are nearly as many smart home hubs on the market now as there were netbooks in 2009 (remember netbooks?).
Anyway, Lowe’s commissioned Harris Poll to find out what Americans want when it comes to smart home products and systems. Harris talked to a little more than 2,000 adults and came back with some interesting insights into the minds of the potential smart home customer. Remember, Lowe’s sells its own smart home system, the Iris (and you can read our review of that system here).
First, we’ve pointed out before, that the primary driver for most new automation or smart home systems is security. People what to know what’s going on in their homes when no one’s home. They want to get alerts when a door or window opens. They want to spy on their dogs or their babysitters.
Harris reported that 62 percent of those surveyed listed security as an important reason to own a system. Energy savings only scored 40 percent, which is interesting considering all the hype over the Nest smart thermostat. That essentially confirms the suspicion I’ve had the people buy the Nest (owned by Google) because it’s trendy and looks cool, not necessarily because they think it will save them money. Simple programmable thermostats will also save money; they just look boring.
Lighting didn’t come up as a factor at all, but that may have been a result of how the question was posed and not a statement about the importance of lighting control.
Also not surprisingly, cost turned out to be a deterrent to buying a smart home system (even though today’s systems are pretty inexpensive, and getting cheaper). Most interesting was the fact that 31 percent (the highest number in that question) objected to monthly fees. What makes that problematic is that Lowe’s Iris is one of the few newer systems to require a monthly fee. While technically you can run the system for free, the functionality is severely limited. Only by paying $10 a month can you integrate your devices properly to make them work together as an automation system, rather than just a control system. Other popular DIY smart home systems, including SmartThings, Insteon, Revolv and Staples Connect do not require a monthly fee. The new Peq (pronounced: peek), which will be sold at Best Buy, also carries a $10 fee. The survey also found that women were more sensitive to the monthly fee than men were. I don’t know why. I’m a guy, and I don’t like the fee. At this time I’m told that Lowe’s doesn’t plan to reconsider it’s $10 monthly fee for Iris. though this survey suggests that they should.
Where does the public fall on DIY vs professional installation? Well, it’s interesting that the question was phrased as “smart home monitoring” not home automation or smart home control. Adding “monitoring” would likely make the respondent think of installed security systems such as those offered by ADT, Vivint and Honeywell, rather than other home automation companies or features. Anyway, the results showed that 50 percent preferred a DIY approach, 21 percent preferred a professional install (with a monthly fee—again, a strangely loaded question) and the other 29 percent… maybe they didn’t care.
When it comes to operating their systems, respondents like apps, but want a secondary control as well. This is something I’ve emphasized in other articles. Apps are wonderfully convenient ways to interact with a control system, but they shouldn’t be the only way. Keypads, in-wall dimmers, dedicated touchpanels and old-fashioned wand remote controls all have their place, and a well-designed system makes use of all of those where they’re best suited.
And finally, Midwesterners, what’ going on there? According to this survey, people in Midwestern states don’t worry much about security or monitor their children.
The graphics in this article were all supplied by Lowe’s
More on home automation:
Hands On: Insteon Hub Smart Home Kit
Timers and Schedules Put the Auto in Home Automation
It’s the Summer of the Smart Home: Is Your Home Ready?
How and Why of Smart Home Automation
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.