There was a lot of buzz around the “connected home” at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. So what is a connected home exactly? In many ways it is a lot like “home automation,” a buzzword from the past. It is quite literally connecting smart devices, lights, appliances and more in one’s home; linking them together and controlling them from centralized interfaces. This year there has been even more interest in the “sustainable connected home,” which means not only linking the home together, but powering it with renewable energy.
So the ’2011: Year of the Connected Home?’ CES session panel had quite a lot to talk about. This discussion featured executives from GE, Best Buy, Broadcom, Comcast, and Control4, moderated by the editor of CE Pro Magazine & TecHome Builder Magazine. The focus was on whether or not the connected home would become a reality any time soon.
Though the International Consumer Electronics Show is based out of the United States, the US is not as technologically advanced as we might think. The session opened with a presentation on how the US fares quite poorly in terms of broadband connectivity and energy consumption. Check out this chart if you don’t believe me:
The panel agreed that once consumers are exposed to just how much money they can save, people will definitely turn to a smart, green, controlled home. Compact florescent light bulbs were a perfect example.
Soon people will use more forward-thinking products, like this Solar Powered Boombox by Eton
The ongoing theme is that people want to connect their homes, they want to realize energy savings, but they just don’t know where to look. Lighting controls are a good example of something that can provide immediate savings, but consumers aren’t buying it. This may open up opportunities for “electronics groundskeepers,” organizations who are able to recommend and install solutions to meet customers’ needs.
So what will it take for people to move to a connected home? Aside from those willing to pay an electronic groundskeeper, consumers would need technologies that they can easily install themselves, a relatively low cost up front, and no subscription fees. Giving more options, such as price bundles with add-ons, may also make it attractive to consumers. Finally, people simply aren’t aware of how much energy they use, so educating people with real-world examples of exactly what they can save will help.
Underneath the discussion about how and why consumers would move to smart homes and green technology is the knowledge that local utilities are running out of capacity, and solutions have to be found to reduce demand on them. David McCalpin, General Manager of GE, suggests that there are three parts of the process that will see energy consumption reduced. First of course is consumer wants/needs, primarily saving money. Utilities must also invest in and adopt green technologies. Finally, government policies must be enacted, such as requiring devices and appliances to meet the Energy Star standard.
So is 2011 the Year of the Connected Home? We’ll surely see slow strides towards this, such as consumers recognizing the benefits of compact florescents. However, we are unlikely to see sweeping adoption of smart technology during this year unless all three groups hold hands and make the step together. Are you still a consumer striving for digital connectedness? For now you can switch out your old products for less resource hogging devices and wait for the green light to go green for good.