The Future of Smart Homes – Connected, Complementary, Conscious

The future of smart homes is bright and low-power, long-range, cost-effective IoT-powered devices are bringing us closer to this reality.

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There is no shortage of statistics or research predicting the growth of the smart home — millions of new endpoints have found their way into homes over the past year or two, globally. Consumer desire for these smart devices, spurred by purchases made during the pandemic, will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

As more smart devices enter the home, it's a good time to reflect on the smart home landscape, especially with the winter months upon us and the potential to curb energy usage. There are two opportunities at play that are particularly timely:

1. Meeting connected consumers where they are to improve lives and capitalize on ripe market opportunities through smart home innovation

2. Rethinking how we can use connected tools and smart Internet of Things (IoT) devices to be more responsible and sustainable citizens, and do our part in meeting aggressive climate goals

Both are valuable in their own right, and both are also connected in more ways than one.

Interoperability will be the norm

Taking a pulse of the smart home landscape, there are a lot of disparate systems that run on different protocols that share varying types of data. According to McKinsey, despite the proliferation of devices, we're still far from the vision of seamlessly connected homes.

For the future, and for new systems or solutions, the conversation begins with interoperability — this is where there is so much value still to be realized, and where we're heading next. Smart devices talking to one another will not be the exception; it will be the norm.

Think beyond smart TVs and home assistants. We're looking holistically at entertainment, utilities — from temperature to lighting to irrigation to security — and many more touchpoints within the smart home ecosystem.

Small steps will make a big impact

The smart home is moving toward smaller-sized, lower-power, longer-range sensors and IoT devices to track and provide updates when things may look out of the norm, like when there's a leak, for example. Not everything will require short-range, uninterrupted, high-frequency connectivity — and it means that data in the smart home truly becomes "everywhere."

We will continue to see solutions that derive benefit from a constant "pulse" of data — small packets of information that move very quickly and amount to a large impact versus high-bandwidth data dumps. Amazon Sidewalk's smart neighborhoods and Helium's expanding P2P wireless networks are new innovations built on this principle.

The benefit for consumers and smart homes here is that we can move closer to real-time in terms of how we monitor our homes and connected lives, without the burden and (at times) unreliability of high-bandwidth protocols across thousands of square feet.

Speaking of high bandwidth, we will see technologies that are complementary to LTE and 5G. Connectivity technology that requires higher amounts of energy and power will be reserved for specific applications like video streaming, television and gaming, and enabling remote-first work policies.

5G continues to generate a lot of smart home buzz, but the reality is it's not ideal for many applications and we're still a ways off from it being commonplace in the house. So, for many communities, it will be IoT devices that run on these complementary connectivity protocols that will move the needle for impactful smart home innovation.

The connections enabled by these platforms can go through rooms, doors, walls and are seldom impacted by other interference, also enhancing their value over 5G for these use cases.

IoT as a catalyst for good

It's worth revisiting the opportunities discussed earlier and why everyone connected (no pun intended) to the smart home future should be particularly excited about where we are in the market.

Consumers have shown they are interested in smart homes, and that desire has only strengthened over the past year or so. In fact, one study showed that approximately seven out of 10 homebuyers are looking for a smart home, led by convenience, time savings, safety and security.

Smart home penetration is happening. This movement provides a natural gateway for other smart home applications as consumers become comfortable in connected surroundings, strengthening the opportunity for IoT as a catalyst for social and environmental good.

Connected consumers are often also conscious consumers. And, daily data tells a different story to monthly meaning greater visibility into all aspects of the smart home, more often. Many homeowners are also already taking steps to be better stewards of the communities they live in, whether bringing reusable bags to the grocery store or limiting their carbon footprint on the road. That same level of social and environmental stewardship can extend to the home.

Connected IoT devices have the power to make this a reality for consumers, and the time is now to capitalize on this budding trend, which also extends to the enterprise with a movement to reward data-driven consumers, whether through pay-as-you-drive insurance or incentives for electric and green vehicles, and more.

A ripe market opportunity continues to build momentum. An environment where consumers are taking control of their homes, their footprint and their impact on the communities they reside.

The future of smart homes is bright and low-power, long-range, cost-effective IoT-powered devices are bringing us closer to this reality. The innovators who will win will prioritize interoperability not just with devices, but with different platforms.

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