Smart home tech has yet to realize its full potential

Oct. 16, 2015
New study examines use cases that could drive greater mass market adoption of connected home solutions

The advent of smart home technology has forever altered the landscape of the residential security industry. Due to the proliferation of smartphones, today’s consumers want to have the ability to interact with systems installed in their home in a more meaningful way. Whether that is controlling the temperature in their house while they are away or arming their security system remotely from the office, these types of features are no longer considered "nice to have" but rather "must haves" for home security providers. In fact, a recent study conducted by NextMarket Insights forecasts the combined do-it-yourself (DIY) smart device home and managed smart home services market to be worth nearly $17.5 billion by 2019.

However, despite all of the advancements that have been made in connected home technology, the "Mass Market Smart Home: Examining Use Cases to Drive Smart Home Adoption" study, which was sponsored by Vivint, also found that much of the potential of the smart home market remains unfulfilled because vendors, by and large, have failed to tap into some of the most relevant use cases for these systems. Specifically, the study looked at three particular use cases for smart home technology – eldercare, pet care and childcare – all of which have been somewhat underserved and therefore hold a great amount of potential to drive greater mass market adoption moving forward.

According to Michael Wolf, founder and chief analyst of NextMarket Insights, there has been a wide range of companies bringing solutions to the smart home market and while many of them offer a lot of bells and whistles, the fact is that a lot people find them to be nice but not really necessary.

“Technology that is at first blush neat, but becomes problematic or puts more steps in the process towards what would be an otherwise simple thing to do, that might be something that consumers look at and say, ‘I don’t need that,’” said Wolf. “A good example is some of the early smart locks. I’ve had a lot of different smart locks and to me, it is kind of a pain to take my phone out and make sure there is a connection to the Bluetooth device. I think that’s a nice application, but if for some reason my battery’s dead or I don’t have a physical key to unlock it, that requires more steps and it becomes very annoying. Thinking about products in a way in which consumers will use them and considering all of the scenarios that will confront them over the lifetime of a product is really important and I think that is starting to become apparent to many companies.”    


Although eldercare is certainly not a segment of the market that’s new to home security firms, Wolf believes that smart home technology could significantly improve upon or enhance the Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) that are available today. Rather than just providing seniors with the ability to summon help in an emergency, Wolf said smart home solutions could help make their lives easier.  Having sensors within a home that can turn lights on or off at a certain time or that can monitor water temperatures to ensure that someone isn’t burned are a couple ways connected home technology could benefit the elderly, according to Wolf. Kitchen sensors that provide senior citizens with food and nutrition reminders could also be extremely beneficial.  

“One of things we looked at is smart kitchens, so if they haven’t taken their medication or if they haven’t eaten, their caretaker or family member can receive a notification about that. It’s not a scenario where they’ve fallen down, but they haven’t taken their pills or their vitamins,” said Wolf. “A lot of these types of scenarios are ones where you can envision using this embedded technology.”

According to the study, the worldwide percentage of the population that is over 65 years of age will go from seven percent in 2013 to over 20 percent by 2050.  The fact is that people are living longer today than at any point in history with advances in modern medicine and the demand for technology that can help the elderly live more comfortably in their own homes for longer is going to increase sharply in the years to come.  

Pet care

While there are certainly some more under-the-radar type of applications for smart home technology when it comes to taking care of pets in the home, such as the monitoring of food consumption and the ability to automate portion control, Wolf believes the two biggest uses for it will be in pet location awareness and video monitoring. Some companies, such as Whistle, have embedded GPS tracking devices into pet collars to help assist their owners in locating them should they run away from home.

“If you think about it, the pet industry, in terms of tracking lost pets, has been one that has been very reactive and now if a pet’s been hit by a car or taken to a shelter, you can identify them because they’ve had a chip embedded in them. But why would you wait until that scenario unfolds fully when you can be alerted that they’ve left the house or there has been a breach of the gate in the yard and you can now get on your phone through a GPS-enabled collar to look and find them?” said Wolf. “I think location awareness is going to be huge.”


According to the results of a survey released by the Pew Research Center earlier this year, the percentage of U.S. teenagers with access to smartphones nearly tripled from 23 percent in 2011 to 73 percent in 2014. As such, there is great potential for companies that can make childcare a bigger part of their smart home offerings moving forward.  

While some parents have been able to check in on their kids using remote video monitoring solutions for some time, connected home applications give people the ability to take these types of capabilities to an entirely different level.

“Just being able to monitor them, know that they’ve come through the front door and having maybe a smart lock that can send an alert saying this person is home, that is a very unobtrusive and a very kind of light ability to observe,” said Wolf.

At the end of the day, Wolf said the smart home market will be driven by companies that fulfill a need for consumers.

“Making technologies that are clearly filling a need, whether that is around security, convenience, saving money, or conserving resources and reducing waste, all of those will help create drivers (for smart home tech adoption). I think big tech companies with large brands that have a very big influence on consumer thinking like Apple, as they continue to develop their strategies and technologies that will have an impact on the market. Clearly what Apple is doing with HomeKit  is very much in its embryonic stage, but I think over time as that becomes more fleshed out, more consumer will become aware because Apple will pour resources into the market to educate them.”    

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.