The smart home explosion continued in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down despite the headwinds that the year of COVID presented. Smart home technology has over the last five years crossed the chasm with blockbuster products like voice assistants Alexa and Google Assistant, Nest, Ring, and now with a huge installed base of internet of things (IoT) users, the diversification and robust growth will turn the decade of the 2020s into the turning point when every will home become a smart home.
With a forecast of almost 1,400 million smart home devices to be shipped in 2023 and revenues of $88 billion COVID has not derailed smart home growth by any stretch of the imagination. As a huge part of the IoT market which is forecast to reach $317 billion by 2026, smart home will continue to be a major growth engine for technology companies throughout this decade. (1)(2)
Although COVID has not slowed down the pace of smart home growth per se, it has certainly influenced demand for different products and shifted along new behaviors and realities of a COVID-impacted world. Huge strides have been made, and still many more will be needed for smart home to reach its full potential and help humanity take the next technological leap into the future, chief among which are installation standardization and feature standardization.
While incredible interest, adoption and social media among DIYers has accounted for a large chunk of the smart home explosion since 2016, ease of installation, integration and interoperability is still a tremendous barrier to smart home reaching maturity. In 2020 it is rare that a consumer has a fully automated home; we tend to see such instances only in select high end homes (that have paid six figures for the system plus installation), or in homes of highly skilled technologists that can code their systems, solder their own hardware and 3d print their own cases. The gap between those two consumers and the average consumer has yet to be filled and we remain steadfast in our belief that expanded product breadth and do-it-for-me installation (DIFM) is the only path for true smart home adoption.
COVID did not slow down the software and artificial intelligence (AI) efforts at all. During COVID pricing for multiple hardware solutions and AI technologies such as camera lens boards and facial recognition for cameras, robotic components such as bumper sensors for robotic vacuuming, and entry level WiFi boards like the ESP32 series have all dropped significantly. That has enabled hundreds of thousands of new entrants to introduce the future of smart home in the year of COVID including futuristic robotic kitchens, general purpose home robots for cleaning and cooking and folding clothes, and so much more have given us a glimpse of what is to come in the next decade.
Consumers spent more and more time in their homes in 2020. With all of the growth and breakthroughs in smart home tech surfacing, many areas for product improvement also become clear. Outside of normal feature requests and product improvements like more powerful cameras and wider viewing angles, the need for good safety design surfaced. Resistance to spilled coffee water or any other beverage a user happens to be sipping in the form of tighter case seals and nano plastic coatings will start to become more common in 2021 and beyond. (3)
COVID also laid the groundwork for some incredible long term changes that will not only increase smart home adoption but also change our very culture and behavior for good, particularly in security and education. In security, facial recognition, temperature measurement and biosensor entry systems can help limit the spread of COVID and other viruses by reducing surface contact and catching signs of virus, sickness or disease early. Higher-definition video at lower prices will rapidly accelerate these changes and we saw the beginnings of those changes this year. In education, distance learning from home became the norm and brought with it many new adjacent technologies such as exam proctoring apps where a proctor is shown the test taker’s environment and then allowed to take over control of their computer to ensure fair testing. (4)(5)
“Home is where the heart is” is a truism that took on additional significance with people around the globe flocking to their homes for safety from a deadly virus that has claimed millions of lives and continues to wreak havoc on our businesses, lives and cultures. But home is also where culture is developed, practiced, experimented and transferred from one generation to the next in a loving environment. As smart home technology continued to make inroads into the home, COVID both highlighted its incredible feats but also made us aware of weak spots that must be improved for the technology to reach its full potential and play an increasing role in changing human culture. As automatic locks and cameras allow remote entry and exit, grocery and package delivery, as robotic vacuums and other devices automate housekeeping, and as kids spend more and more time in their homes learning, the home must evolve from a dwelling place for the soul and body into a castle that assists us in reaching our full potential as human beings.
(2) Smart Energy