The Success of Home Automation Is Not Automatic

Carl Weinschenk

Folks who create, market and write about technology generally are of a mindset that it is a good thing. Even if they have their qualms deep down, their livelihood revolves, one way or another, around folks’ use of new gadgetry. They understand and almost certainly look to accept it.

But it doesn’t always come to pass. A fatal flaw in the technology can emerge or, more likely, the market for the new service doesn’t materialize. Ironically, the technology that does end up winning often appears out of nowhere to seize the momentum.

Marketers often categorize technologies that overly optimistic developers throw into the marketplace as “solutions in search of a problem.” Quite simply, things that look cool to people who love tech can seem useless or even lame to those who are more neutral on the topic.

All of that comes to mind when considering the responses to two questions posed by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and the Pew Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The two questions essentially asked whether the responders agreed with statements saying that connected homes will be a great thing or a bust by 2020. Fifty-one percent responded that connected homes will be established and useful and 46 percent said they would be a bust. It’s important to note that the respondents were not neutral: They were 1,021 “technology stakeholders and critics,” according to Telecompetitor’s story on the survey.

This should worry vendors and service providers that are putting all — or many — of their marbles in the connected home/home automation basket. The idea that almost half of the folks in the business are not optimistic about its success is telling.

On the other hand, it is not that there aren’t good signs for the category. ABI Research says that 90 million residences will use at least a smidgen of home automation by 2017. In five years, the study says, home automation will grow by 60 percent. The ability to use smartphones as a tool to implement home automation will be a key driver, the report said. Indeed, the increasing familiarity people have with technology bodes well for home automation. What seemed cutting edge a generation ago is the norm today.

Home automation also has a champion. The category is making headway in the cable television industry, which is one of the best conduits for these new services. Comcast and Rogers Cable in Canada, for instance, have active programs.

In the case of Comcast’s Xfinity Home, an initiative that initially focused on home security has broadened to involve energy management and other tasks. The service is expanding. Here, for instance, is the mid-June press release announcing its launch in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. South Florida is on tap for next week, according to SunSentinal.com.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 20, 2012 2:37 PM lanaya lanaya  says:
This is a very informative blog. Carl is really a pro on this subject. I love reading your post and I hope to see more of your writings. Thank you very much for sharing this! Reply
Aug 23, 2012 11:29 AM MikeMHA MikeMHA  says:
home automation will grow by 60%... this sounds promising. Reply
Oct 17, 2013 9:39 PM Matt Matt  says:
I dunno about the whole 'worrying' aspect to it. When Alexander Graham Bell showed his invention to someone, they said they didn't want his 'toy'. Computers got some decent flak from nay-sayers. The television did, too. A music industry agent once told Led Zeppelin their music would go over like a lead balloon. History has a pretty good track record of defying the odds. Reply

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