The idea of smart homes has been around forever. Or at least it feels this way. Science fiction has long forecast the explosion of this segment and in the early 2000s many venture capitalists were ready to back its rise. However, consumers remain highly practical when it comes to their home, with the perceived laziness of an automated household an obstacle for many. Innovation has also been lacking. While smartphones have evolved at a rapid pace, technologies that can actually help within the home have lagged. It is far trendier and techy to make progress for people on the go, than for those on the couch.
Yet the industry appears to be finally waking up, with 2013 a massive year for all things intelligent in our homes. And the main reason for its sudden rise? There is finally a practical purpose to the technology: smart homes can save you money. Two segments where this has been especially important is energy consumption and home security. The first a growing necessity as the price of energy surges and the second a luxury most homes would like to afford.
Nest Labs Shows True Value of Smart Innovation
The purchase of Nest Labs by Google for $3.2 billion last month was a breakthrough moment in home automation. Finally, a Silicon tiger saw future potential in what should be a highly lucrative segment. Two products the start-up unveiled caught the eye of the US tech giant – its energy-focused digital thermometer and a high-end smoke alarm. It is the thermometer, aside from being a comfort-focused environment builder, which can save people money by regulating gas and electricity usage, though it is by no means a finished article. Ventures capable of further progress in energy efficiency will have corporate finance advisors on alert, as this is truly a global market. From the water-precious markets of the Middle East to hydrocarbons-poor Japan, homes are coming under major utilities costs pressure.
Affordable Safety Should Not Be Criminally Expensive
Domestic security systems are for the wealthy. That has long been the mantra, though the installation of cheap webcams has somewhat broken this trend. However, the proliferation of smartphones, smart apps and smart crowdfunding is forcing a shift in this mentality. The crowdfunded Canary device, which saw a massive inflow of cash on indiegogo (the fact that the firm when to the public was in itself demonstrative of a lack of venture capital belief in smart-home devices), is eagerly anticipated in 2014 and promises a sensory 360-degree alert system for the home, at only $200, and fully automated by phone. If it sounds like a fad gadget, it might be, but the public has flocked to it as demonstrated by impressive pre-orders, which can open doors for capital inflow to similar home security services.
With trade firms forecasting global smart home revenues at $71 billion by 2018 (smartphones had a global retail value of around $201 billion in 2013), the market is beginning to have a captive consumer audience and the time for developers to deliver is now. After all, who doesn’t want their home to save money.
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