Report: Has Interest in the DIY Smart Home Market Waned?

Consumer interest in the smart home decreased in the first half of 2015, according to IoT research firm Argus Insights. Are we out of home automation early adopters?

A few successful Kickstarter launches, such as the Canary and Piper security cameras also attracted a lot of attention to the market, resulting in even more new product introductions.  But the optimism of 2014 is turning into the reality of 2015 as that market has dropped, due partly to connectivity and usability issues, according to Feland.

He says that people purchase products that help them tell a story or fulfill a vision of themselves. The smart home slowdown is, in part, due to the fact that people “no longer believe that the story is going to come true for them.”

In other words, they don’t believe in the promise of the smart home.

Leading what he sees as the broken promises of the smart home, are issues of installation and setup. Every manufacturer claims its products can be set up in minutes and be completely intuitive. The truth is that many are not.

“Nest sells itself as something you can install yourself, yet a lot of people have to have it installed for them,” Feland says.

He suggests that network issues cause a lot of installation problems, largely because home networks are often not robust enough (or secure enough) to support all the new chores now being assigned to them. The laundry list of incompatible wireless protocols is another deterrent.

“As an industry, we have to make all this light-switch-simple. We’re running out of folks who have the interest [or skills] to be early adopters, Feland says. “What makes the early adopter happy doesn’t necessarily work for the rest of the market.”

On the other hand, Feland notes that when things don’t work, “people don’t want to pay for professional help. It’s hard to win in that situation.”

Many of the retailers selling smart home products, such as Lowe’s, Staples or Best Buy, don’t offer a very comprehensive guided sales experience. That can result in consumers coming home with the wrong products for their project.

Feland says, “To take the collective intelligence of all those [professional installers] and try to distill it into something that consumers can understand and do themselves … there are still too many pieces that haven’t been designed.”

A Shift toward Other Control Devices?

While the initial mad dash seems to be over, Feland doesn’t think this spells doom for the DIY smart home market. “It’s recoverable. It’s going to take someone to take a leadership role and make this light-switch simple,” he says.

Does this spell a good opportunity for Apple and its HomeKit system? Considering the rocky semi-rollout of HomeKit, it’s still too early to tell in Feland’s book.

Another research firm, IHS, sees strong growth for connected products in the future, just not products that we generally think of as part of the smart home. The big growth, says IHS, will be in white goods, or major household appliances. That firm’s research predicts that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for connected appliances will increase 134 percent over the next five years.

“The promise of the smart home is tremendous,” says Feland, and the ability to control devices with apps and set up simple scenes exists now in DIY products. However, “no one has done that part of how to integrate this piece with that piece in a way that makes sense,” he says.


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