Opinion

Smart home automation: A look at the top 4 barriers to growth

Editor's Note: This piece was written by Anna Johansson, a freelance writer and contributor to the former Sustainable Cities Collective site. The opinions represented in this piece are independent of Smart Cities Dive's views.

When you take the time to study the global smart home market, it becomes apparent that growth has been stymied over the last few months. It’s not that the industry isn’t growing, but just that it could and should be scaling at a much faster rate. There's unlimited potential for smart home automation technology and that begs the question: what’s holding this market back?

4 of the biggest barriers to growth

Optimism has never been higher in the smart home automation industry. Researchers are anticipating enormous growth over the next five years and it's impossible not to look to the future with hopeful expectancy.

But we should be further along than we currently are. We've been talking about the rise of the smart home for the better part of a decade, yet most homes still lack any advanced automation. What gives?

Well, a number of factors are in play. Let’s check out some of the top barriers and how they could be hampering growth.

1. Lack of awareness

The first issue that should be discussed is a lack of consumer awareness. While there’s certainly some marketing activity surrounding leading smart home devices — such as the Nest thermostat — there isn’t a lot of money being spent on promoting the concept of the smart home as a whole. Some people still see it as a cold, futuristic niche that won’t ever become mainstream.

In order to overcome this barrier, tech companies need to band together to develop an image for what the modern smart home looks like in real life. It needs to be warm, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. Until customers can picture automated technology in their own homes, they’re going to be hesitant to invest.

2. Fragmentation

It's also pretty challenging to get over the high level of fragmentation that exists in the smart home industry. There are tons of different devices with different manufacturers, operating systems and features. The fact that very few devices can seamlessly interact with each other means the concept of a fully integrated smart home isn’t currently feasible.

Nobody wants to deal with the hassle of trying to learn multiple devices and platforms and not being able to combine features and resources. Until integration is improved, adoption of certain devices will be capped.

3. Security concerns

Cyber security is a big topic of conversation and it was only a matter of time before it became an issue in the home. Whenever you bring devices with cameras and network access into the home, you're going to have potential issues. The problem is that the industry hasn't paid enough attention to security; therefore homeowners are worried they’ll expose their families to unnecessary risk.

As UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock said, "Security has not been a prime focus on many devices and organizations that put these out helter-skelter. … In many cases they're not adjusting to security concerns."

These security concerns need to be straightened out before mass adoption can follow.

4. Cost

Realistically, cost is also an issue at this point. If homeowners are going to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into technology, they want to know that it works and that it will remain relevant and useful for years to come.

The problem is that we’re still early along in the development of smart home technology. It’s likely that today’s "leading" devices and systems will become obsolete in a matter of months. Until the technology progresses a little more, cost will be a major concern for the average consumer.

Moving the Industry Forward

The future of the smart home automation industry is bright. There’s no question that things will continue to grow. But in order to see the sort of adoption numbers that have been projected, the aforementioned barriers to growth must be dealt with as soon as possible. 

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