Smart home technology is becoming ubiquitous: According to GfK, a global market research company, more than one-third of U.S. consumers own two or more smart home devices. We’ve come a long way in a few years since the first smart home technology was introduced. Now, homebuyers seek a more sophisticated home technology platform and have been conditioned to a fast-moving, two-year update cycle by the cell phone industry.
Yet unlike cell phones, smart home technology is hardwired into the walls. Not an easy exchange, when the homebuyer sees a better retail solution and starts longing for the next, best, more user-friendly technology.
Right now, consumer use is all over the map. Homeowners lose interest in some technologies in a matter of months, and with others, like speakers and Google Home, usage doesn’t pick up until after the homeowner has had it installed for six months, according to Brad Russell, research director of connected home at Parks Associates, a market research company focused on emerging consumer technology. And, at the same time that many technologies have super short life spans, it can take home builders months to select and specify the right product to put in new construction, which is becoming a much more painstaking process with the necessary integration of many of the smart home features.
This balance is becoming more and more uneven as manufacturers and builders play a tug of war on value versus cost structure. When some smart home technology was first launched, the hardware was installed, the software was static and its relevance to the consumer lasted sometimes only a matter of months. Recently manufacturers have advanced to have the software updated routinely via the cloud, which solves for only a portion of the issue, when and if the hardware becomes obsolete.
Karen Hollinger, vice president of corporate initiatives at AvalonBay Communities, a multifamily housing developer that built 2,600 units in 2017, says they take a very judicious and risk-averse approach to add technology to their projects by only selecting established products. Hollinger says Avalon has invested in Nest thermostats for several thousand units, but that software will be supported for 20 years.