This is the fifth State of the Connected Home report and it covers what has been an extraordinary year. The events of spring 2020 onwards do not need to be introduced and just as COVID-19 has transformed how we live, socialise and work, it has had a dramatic impact on the tech in our homes.
Some statistics of note relating to different categories include:
- Mobiles are ubiquitous. Mobile phones remain the number one method to control other smart home devices.
- Smart speakers: tasks such as playing music, searching and news/weather updates are still the standout uses. 54% use these devices to tell jokes, while 43% of people use it to control other devices. This suggests more people are using smart speakers as a gateway to other smart speakers, though remains far behind mobiles as a gateway.
- Lighting and energy: The most advanced users of smart home tech are more likely to have smart lighting and energy control in order to make the most of smart meters and PV electricity generation.
- Smart appliances: smart appliances take up is still low, perhaps due to the higher costs and high percentage of renters who don’t purchase white goods.
2.4 Most popular devices and features – TV leading the way
Smart TVs have always been the most widely owned smart home device in the UK and 2021 has seen a strong rise in the proportion of consumers who say they have a smart TV at home. While TV sales have been strong through the pandemic, it is also very likely that increased use of streaming services through periods of lockdown triggered an increased understanding among consumers of the smart capabilities of their TV sets.
Smart speakers, the poster child of the smart home market in the last few years, have seen a further rise in ownership – up to 38% having been at 7% in 2017.
Other categories enjoying strong increases in ownership are fitness trackers – buoyed by the focus on maintaining physical and mental health through the pandemic – smart doorbells and smart lighting.
3. The wider ecosystem
The ecosystem for the delivery of connected home is essential for not only the backend delivery of the services, but the wider environment it will operate in, with policies, international supply chain disruption and challenges that has and will impact the adoption of this technology.
3.2 International supply chains and semi-conductor supply
With Asia-Europe shipping now costing over ten times what it did before COVID-19 and significant capacity constraints, moving product in and out the UK has become a lot more expensive. GfK data already shows that prices are increasing for consumers and it is reasonable to expect price rises to dampen demand.
The huge demand for electronics during the pandemic caused capacity constraints in manufacturing impacting smart home products. The well publicised shortage of semiconductors and processors has already resulted in factory stoppages and order delays, which will mean not everyone will be able to get the tech they want so easily.
While “smart home” is a familiar concept to consumers, tech firms and retailers should focus on communicating the tangible consumer benefits of smart and connected home devices and to reassure around ease of use, interoperability, and privacy.
With interoperability a mainstream concern for consumers, it needs to be a priority for manufacturers within the realm of usability and user experience. Failure to address these risks seeing reducing demand, increasing frustration and creating a perception that smart home tech does not meet expectations.
Regulation and policy on product safety, cyber security and net zero needs to be aligned. All the various policies and strategies need to complement each other and be trusted by stakeholders. With the UK developing so much policy post-Brexit, there needs to be real care and attention to consistent approaches and shared goals.
Government should promote smart appliance adoption in the UKs future product policy framework. Smart appliances that save energy and offer safety advantages should be seen as routes to meeting environmental and product safety targets so should be the same.
There needs to be a stronger understanding of how smart home tech can play a key role in delivering a fully flexible energy system.