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The Connected Home: A Huge Opportunity But Slow to Catch On

January 8, 2014
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230692

LAS VEGAS -- Smart thermostats. Smart appliances. Motorized blinds and shades. Glass-break sensors. Asset-protection sensors. You name the task or function in the home and someone is bound to create an internet-connected version that you can control remotely from your smartphone.

Yesterday at the International CES, for example, home improvement giant Lowe's announced a new wave of products and services associated with Iris, the company's tool that allows you to customize and monitor your internet-connected home devices -- like, say, a water shut-off valve that cuts supply when a leak is detected -- from a single app on your smartphone or computer.

But while the number of smart home devices continues to grow, the industry still faces hurdles as it matures. "In the appliance market, the number of connected devices is still very small and we're still several years away from greater adoption," John Taylor, vice president for public affairs at tech company LG. Taylor spoke at a panel discussion hosted by Lowe's on the future of the smart home.

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"With smart devices, it's been an easier sell with entertainment products," he said. "Because of the higher prices, smart home devices are still considered a premium product."

"We've got to bring the prices down, but we're still on first base here," said Kevin Meagher, vice president and general manager of the Iris project from Lowe's. "We have to move the mindset [for customers] from 'Why should I pay a premium price?' to 'Why shouldn't I?'"

Besides the convenience many of the devices provide, extra security and safety should be major selling points, said Jay Yanko, a managing principal at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. "Say you have a family with children, and you don't want the oven turned on while you're not home," he said, referring to smart devices or appliances that can do things like that. "I don't think we've done a good enough job communicating that to customers."

Despite a slower adoption rate than other smart devices, Taylor is optimistic for significant growth in connected home devices. "But starting from such a small amount, you double what you have now and it's still relatively low," he warned, "but definitely growing."

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