CES finished less than a week ago, and the Connected Home featured large across the entire event. Connected homes promise a life of comfort, where we can control all our homes’ energy and appliances from a distance and secure our castles from unwanted visitors and accidents.
The hype is enormous, the business benefits claimed in the billions, the customer benefit… well, that’s a different story. As this econsultancy article describes, products such as connected fridges are getting a lot of press attention but I predict they’ll be getting precious little sales. The expensive selfie-taking fridge is no flying car.
At a recent round table on the Connected Home sponsored by Market Gravity me and the rest of the UK’s éminences grises of this incipient industry came together to discuss what the different companies involved believed are the opportunities, and, more importantly, the challenges, to mass market adoption of the connected home. The list of issues is long, but the one that came up universally was:
The connected home user experience is terrible.
Fragmented device ecosystems, too many apps, dire user interfaces, lack of automation and learning features, the odd wi-fi disconnection and a design mentality that prioritises functionality over problem-solving all combine to make the connected home a much less appealing proposition than it ought to be.
The technology is very much there: sensors, actuators and unlimited power and bandwidth all enable a possible future where the home appears sentient to our every whim. But the market is immature, the technologies incompatible and the incentives not yet in place to create an open ecosystem, empowered by new user interaction paradigms such as the zero user interface, with the user at the centre of it. Until such time, the Connected Home will remain largely irrelevant to most people.
The promise of the connected home is too important to ignore: it will bring nothing less than the next great wave of civilisation, comfort and ultimate freedom. It is imperative that all of us involved in making it a reality come together to break down the barriers and accelerate its arrival. The future has no space for selfie-taking fridges, but the home is about to get reinvented, unrecognisable so.