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San Diego, California played host to the 2018 CEDIA Expo, an annual event connecting home technology installers with electronics and appliance manufacturers displaying their newest products and services. Exhibitors highlighted how their wares create a truly connected smart home, making it a great place to observe where home technology adoption stands and get a glimpse into the future of the average home. The Expo showed that there is much to be excited about within connected home technology, but what I found most interesting were the different approaches to home automation available to consumers.
Premium home automation system companies had some of the most impressive displays at the expo. The high-end systems allow users to control entertainment and other smart devices using smartphone apps, handheld remotes, in-wall touchscreens and voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Unsurprisingly, the voice control features appeared at almost every stall in CEDIA.
Premium systems provide the most integrated solutions available to consumers looking for true home automation. They require professional programming and installation, which means that consumers looking for this level of control will have to put down a significant financial investment. For example, Savant Systems LLC. and Universal Remote Control, Inc. touted sleek smart device control systems. The impressive offerings mean business is booming for both the system manufacturers and professional installers. In fact, David Pedigo, former vice president of emerging tech at CEDIA, mentioned during a panel that the average integration company’s revenue has doubled over the past five years.
Consumers with more limited budgets can also benefit from connected home technology, albeit with a little more hands-on work. Consumer appliance manufacturer Honeywell displayed its Home App, which allows users to control temperature in different areas of their homes via smart thermostats in their homes. The smartphone app also links up with Honeywell’s connected security cameras, though users looking to control the manufacturer’s more complete Evohome Security product line must download a separate app.
Ring, owned by Amazon, and the Panasonic Hawkeye brands also featured their own connected security product lines, which users can control through smartphone apps and Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home voice assistants. Honeywell, Ring and Panasonic Hawkeye all advertise their solutions as being straightforward enough to be installed without professional help.
Silicon Valley giant Google’s product lines, Home and Nest, featured the most complete integration solutions for consumers looking to install the technology themselves. In addition to similar features to those described for its competitors above, Nest thermostats and security products connect with hundreds of smart devices that feature a “Works with Nest” logo. These devices, made by a broad mix of manufacturers, can then be connected to the Nest ecosystem and set to work automatically with the user’s preferred settings. A smart lightbulb made by Philips, for example, can shut off automatically when the Nest security system senses that a family is away from home.
Google also displayed its Wifi device, which allows users to create wireless mesh internet network in their homes. The mesh networks reduce wifi deadzones and give users more control over connected devices and how much bandwidth each one uses. A Google representative at the expo shared that he can easily slow his son’s online gaming bandwidth when he wants faster streaming for his Netflix viewing.
Two of the primary challenges to mass adoption of smart home technology are the high installation costs to homeowners and the fact that many consumers still do not view connected devices as providing a worthwhile benefit in their homes. The smart electronics and integration solutions on display at CEDIA demonstrated how manufacturers and home installers are addressing the challenges. Premium home automation system installers are proving just how valuable a truly connected home can be, while mass consumer electronics and appliance manufacturers are working to make self-installation feasible. As smart home technology integration becomes more widely available, the convenience of connected homes will speed adoption rates and transform our expectations of home.