‘What really matters is that we ensure the benefits connected-home technologies bring are felt by every citizen’
In markets outside the UK , drivers of the connected-home sector are much clearer. The United States has home-monitoring; Germany has a focus on smart energy. In the UK, the picture is more diverse with entertainment, energy and monitoring all playing a role in driving demand.
Where the drivers are less clear, however, the overall direction of travel is certainly clear. UK consumers are increasingly aware of the connected-home concept, and the peace of mind and benefits it provides.
The connected home is the most personal aspect of the internet of things revolution. Connected devices and services are empowering people by giving them more control over their lifestyles than they have ever had. But it is also an incredible challenge for technology, bringing wider discussions to the fore around security, privacy and ethics in our personal lives.
As much as I’m convinced about the potential for connected-home services, I’m also sure that we must tackle trust issues. These issues in technology reach far beyond the category of the connected home. Indeed, the discussions they raise will form the foundation of a new, open economy and a society facilitated by technology. Yet, fears around trust and security have acted, and will continue to act, as barriers to adoption of new tech.
Too often, the cybersecurity of consumer-facing devices has been an afterthought during product development. Industry has swiftly addressed this, but the nature of the market means we must do more to educate people – and that’s not just consumers, it’s hardware manufacturers and software developers too – on the basic cybersecurity measures they should be using and building into products.
The tech industry has a responsibility to ensure consumers have easily understandable information about the security and support for their devices. But consumers themselves also have responsibility; the best standards in the world don’t help if the front door isn’t locked.
If we can tackle these issues, then the benefits will be vast. Examples can be seen in many areas. Increased understanding of energy usage has led to an increased focus on energy efficiency, lowering bills and reducing carbon emissions, addressing one of the major challenges of our age.
New technologies can help the more vulnerable in society to stay in their own home for longer. With an ageing populating, this can play a vital role in driving better health outcomes, removing some strain on friends and family, while also ensuring greater peace of mind and, at the same time, helping alleviate the social care crisis in the UK.
There is huge potential for increased engagement and better asset management in the UK’s social housing stock. Technology is already facilitating better relationships between housing associations and tenants, with improved housing conditions leading to healthier and happier tenants.
There are great challenges in ensuring the widespread adoption of connected-home devices and services, which we shouldn’t underestimate. The benefits, however, of ensuring consumers and businesses embrace this technology mean we must strive to overcome the existing barriers.
Government, industry and consumer bodies must collaborate and address concerns by driving up security standards, communicating clearly to consumers and quantifying the benefits connected-home tech will deliver.
Whether the market is driven by energy, home-monitoring, artificial intelligence assistants or even the love of syncing your lights with your music doesn’t really matter. What does really matter is that we ensure the benefits connected-home technologies bring are felt by every citizen, as we tackle these important issues of trust and security.