Source: The Times of India

It has been three decades since Home Automation technologies became integral to our lives. However, it still successfully ensures a sense of novelty for any average user. Developments and advancements in these technologies have been a constant priority for companies to fulfil the demands of the public imagination.

Although, while the penetration of smart home devices in India is far less than the western countries, the pandemic has surely accelerated the adoption of connected devices in the country.

However, home automation has a much larger gamut of offerings than just connected devices and smart assistants. Multi-component systems for one, help connect several smart devices and are most capable of communicating with the help of a smart home controller, as well as making smart decisions basis the past and real-time data. Therefore, a smart home essentially is one that can identify user actions and calculate the possibility of events basis the user’s past choices and provide the same on all connected devices available on the network to follow a set of actions or commands as applicable.

Why are people not adopting home automation solutions at a mass level?

Real-world applications of smart home services are yet to be explored to their full capacity, although they have been in the play since the early 2010s. Home automation is currently limited because of the enormous levels of fragmentation in the market primarily along with a very substandard integration due to the lack of common interoperability standards, issues in network connectivity, and challenges in synchronization. All of this ultimately leads to confusion amongst the consumers about the devices they can purchase and further adds to a lesser pleasing user experience.

Several concerns on privacy and security have further added to the issue for the people who look forward to making a “smart home” for themselves. The deficit in spatial sensing and data analytics solutions that could provide accurate situational awareness is another concern in the arena.

Consumers are hence, not interested to spend huge amounts of money on home automation services, as it is not perceived as a requirement but rather an addition to their lifestyle. Currently, there are nearly 13 million smart homes in India and by 2025, an additional 12.84% penetration of smart home solutions is expected in the country. This is far less when compared to a western economy. It is also observed that cost-conscious users are not willing to spend money on services going beyond the basic needs of security, utility or services that could provide a direct return on investment.

How is it affecting the smart home ecosystem and the service providers?

It is not always easy to measure the ROI of in-home services, as compared to industrial ones. For instance, while commercially there has been a shift towards the adoption of robots and drones for the delivery of services, smart home automation services have failed to match the expectations of consumers. While in developed markets where smart home solutions are already prevalent, the ROI is measured in terms of the added convenience and personalisation these solutions offer, in developing markets like India, it continues to be measured in cost terms. Here, a shift is necessary where people begin to understand the utility and the value of these solutions, for example how we can save energy thus reducing energy bills. For instance, they need to understand the benefits of a smart switch or a smart meter or a smart water delivery system that can automatically detect leakage and prevent water loss.

Hence, for a market like India, which is still on the growth curve and gradually adopting smart home solutions, it is not premium living that should be the focus. Rather, it is imperative to highlight the utility and the value it adds to daily life.

Paving the way for a mass appeal

Google recently in one of their reports stated that the adoption of smart home technologies has still not been achieved to the industry’s expectations but has become more relevant over time with the global pandemic-induced lockdown which forced people to stay back home. Consumers are, therefore, slowly switching to experience more IoT devices which allow them to have a unified experience as well as set up the technologies at their convenience. While these solutions may not aid in achieving sustainable, net-zero living, curiosity can be developed amongst the users if the providers explain how they can contribute to providing increased access to energy to those who don’t have it by minimizing wastage. Moreover, the recent rollout of 5G is expected to address some last-mile connectivity issues.

It would not be a false claim if we say that the business models are a significant aspect to make smart home solution providers encourage users to more mass adoption and therefore, there is a need amongst them to think beyond technology as a service. The providers need to engage various technologies and models catering to the region or model of the device with the end goal of providing a seamless experience to the users with a simplified interface.

The prevailing perceptions about complexity, cost, privacy, and security need to be solved by the service providers to foster a positive influence on users.