The Connected Home: What Consumers Want

May 18, 2015
Eight principles for designing connected home systems

The security industry is captivated with the connected home. The marriage of traditional security technology and services with the rapidly advancing home automation field has driven a modern gold rush. While the rush is on, though, it is important to not rush.

Even though the process for interconnecting various home subsystems — such as lights, locks, thermostats, garage doors and security systems — has become easier in recent years, it is critical to take the time to properly design a connected home system based on what consumers actually want. In other words, there is no room in the connected home for a cookie-cutter approach that simply results in clutter caused by additional gadgets.

Dealers must weigh product attributes, common sense and previous experiences to determine the suite of products and services best suited to each installation. On top of that, they must determine the best way to position these products and services to entice the busy homeowner to purchase them.

But what exactly does the modern consumer want in a connected home? Research recently commissioned by Honeywell for the design of its newest connected-home platform — the Lyric security system — revealed and reinforced some key principles security dealers should always keep in mind when creating these systems for their customers. This research sought to answer questions such as, “What do residential customers expect in their security systems?” and “Where are customer expectations headed?”

Here are eight of those insights:

Keep it Simple

At its core, technology should improve the lives of its users, not make life more frustrating. Consumers have little patience for complicated technologies that make a task, such as turning off lights, more challenging than manually completing it in the first place. Customers are interested in streamlined, intuitive technology that allows people to focus on what really matters — their families, friends and daily lives.

Smart home technology interfaces should be accessible and understandable to customers of all ages, from the adolescent babysitter to elderly grandparent. And, consumers want technology that will respond automatically and consistently for them in emergency situations. A system that can trigger actions leading to more rapid deployment of emergency personnel to the scene of an alarm event brings confidence and peace-of-mind to customers.

Let People — Not Technology — Set the Rules

Consumers are largely unaware of the possibilities of the connected home. They are frequently surprised and delighted by the many facets of the home that can be controlled from a central system. Consumers appreciate multiple touchpoints that give them control over their homes, and are weary of one-size-fits-all approaches to automation. They want to determine and delegate the rules of their homes.

For example, many homeowners are comfortable with the practice of lending a physical key to a neighbor to check-in on a property while they are away, or to a nanny for childcare. They also understand that, at any time, they can request that key back, effectively rescinding access to their home. Home security and automation systems and permissions must be as easy to understand and administer as the physical key — to most strongly appeal to residential customers who insist on autonomous system control.

Quality Matters

Residential customers agree that the hardware components of home security and automation should be durable, attractive and reliable. Customers expect physical infrastructure that will endure long-term wear and tear and deliver consistent performance over time. Controller options should be flexible, taking into account potential architectural challenges, such as various construction materials and electrical wiring, as well as limited wall space.

Of course, what makes all of this challenging is that personal taste varies greatly in home décor, with aesthetics running the gamut from modern to traditional, industrial to folksy. Crafting a system that appeals to such diverse preferences is a hefty challenge. Despite these numerous inclinations, it is a challenge worth tackling.

Comfort is Key

There are inherent trade-offs when creating a connected home — costs, time and quality, to name a few. Residential customers must balance these factors and more to determine the best system to meet their unique needs.

The Honeywell research found that comfort trumps all. A connected system quickly loses its luster if it makes a home less comfortable than without any smart system in place. Homeowners want the ability to override temperature settings when too hot or too cold, and enjoy indulgences that may slightly raise marginal costs over time, such as heated towel racks and light bulbs that are less efficient, but give off a warmer glow. Comfort is uniquely defined by each customer, so investigating each person’s perspective on comfort is a key component to recommending the ideal system.

Empower Constant Connectivity

The development and widespread adoption of the smartphone has shepherded in a new era in connectivity expectations. More than ever before, people value and expect the ability to connect with community from any location, at any time. Customers are interested in systems that empower this constant connectivity, letting them check-in remotely on their property and family.

For these reasons, video surveillance is one of the most in-demand residential security technologies — but with a caveat. Customers are incredibly cautious about opening themselves up to a “Big Brother” situation, with anonymous individuals accessing their video streams and peeking into their homes. They are weary of outside third-parties collecting and leveraging their personal data and information.

This fear is just one reason that homeowners are emphatic about keeping cameras out of bedrooms and bathrooms. Consumers want the control to decide what personal data is going where, and expect their security system — including surveillance — to work for them, not against them.

Dealers should brainstorm custom surveillance use cases to best sell this aspect of the connected home to potential customers. Offering parents of young children the ability to remotely see their children at home provides valuable visual verification and peace of mind.

 Alternatively, a wide range of smart sensors provide less-invasive monitoring options. For example, dealers can configure customized text notifications based on pre-programmed actions, such as an elderly relative activating a kitchen motion sensor in the morning to make sure she is up and about or a teenager opening the door to let a parent know he’s home from school.

Dealers must “do their homework” on each and every customer, identifying key areas of concern and areas of opportunity unique to the homeowner. It is a crucial responsibility for dealers to help customers navigate the numerous options available to them in order to best meet their needs.

Help Improve Habits

Another way dealers can leverage smart home technology to drive sales is by explaining how it can lead to financial and energy-consumption “wins.” While comfort trumps all, the prospect of improving household efficiencies and reducing costs is a very appealing value proposition to potential customers.

Research shows that residential customers are motivated to change behaviors when they can track improvements against their own cost or energy consumption history, or compare their savings with other people in similar situations. For consumers, it is much easier to justify a new purchase when a clear return on investment is measureable and can be forecasted.

To many homeowners, lighting is one of the most blatant areas of energy waste — and therefore becomes an appealing entry path to connected home technology to help improve habits. People take pride in their “green” choices, however small they are, and a platform that provides access to remotely turning off lights, or checking to confirm they are turned off, is a great “feel good” selling point for those considering connected home technology.

Actively Alert, When Needed

While home automation features add luxury, improve efficiency and enhance comfort, home security is the foundation that provides peace of mind for residential customers. There is zero tolerance for faulty home security systems — homeowners expect their systems to be fully functioning, every moment, every day. Customers demand flawless notification in the case of an exception event, when something that should happen does not happen, or vice versa, alerting them to a potential security event.

For example, consumers want to be notified when there is a flood situation, but not when pipes are functioning as expected.  Homeowners value easy-to-digest and actionable reporting recommendations. A system that generates mountains of unspecific data is overwhelming and largely unusable to many consumers; but, a system that provides clear actions aimed to make homeowners safer, more efficient or cost effective is an invaluable asset.

Make it Scalable

Consumers as a whole believe that achieving a connected home mandates a significant investment in resources — both time and financial — and that implementing such technology is a massive and complex undertaking. Customers are excited by the prospect of scalable automation, implementing affordable components as standalone pieces or as a cohesive system, per their budget restraints.

Dealers who are sensitive to this constraint and willing to implement smaller-scale solutions may find that, over time, as customers explore and familiarize themselves with their new bite-sized connected home technology, they are ripe for upselling additional services and add-ons. It is up to the dealer to keep their customers continually informed with information on the newest technology relevant to their lives, maintaining and building momentum over time.

Above All

Research didn’t reveal this, but it is of course always important to remember that there is quite literally no place like home. While many new homes on the market may feel cookie-cutter in nature, the reality is that each one is somehow made unique by the people who live inside them. The resulting system, therefore, should be aligned with the person — more so than the home itself.

Robert J. Puric is Director - Product Management for the Connected Home at Honeywell. Request more info about the company at