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IoT Technology and Smart Devices in the Home

May 30, 2019

Smart home devices are the most recognizable and familiar IoT technology, according to a survey of 581 people in the U.S.  This most likely is a result of “forced adoption” of smart home devices as more people begin to expect their homes to feature smart devices such as smart security systems and smart thermostats. People benefit from the ability to access and control their home devices remotely, especially their security systems. 

IoT technology allows people to access and control aspects of their lives remotely through a network of smart devices and sensors that connect to each other through the internet. 

The growing popularity of smart home devices such as ovens, fridges, security systems, and thermostats indicates that IoT technology is encroaching on our home lives. 

Clutch surveyed 581 people who are familiar with IoT technology to learn about the perceived benefits and hurdles of investing in smart home devices.

People value the level of control smart home devices offer, particularly for monitoring home security. They also plan to invest more in smart home devices as IoT technology becomes more available and affordable. 

Use this article to understand which factors impact how familiar people are with IoT technology and how people invest in smart home devices. 

Our Findings 

  • Most people are familiar with IoT technology, especially devices commonly found in the home such as smart home security systems and smart thermostats (76%).
  • The percentage of people familiar with smart home devices (76%) is slightly ahead of those familiar with wearable devices (75%) and digital assistants (73%).
  • Over half of people (53%) currently own a smart home device, partially due to “forced adoption.”
  • As more home devices are manufactured with IoT connectivity, people anticipate that they will invest more in smart home devices in the future. One-third (33%) plan to invest in a smart home device in the next three years. 
  • People value the access and control smart home devices offer. Remotely controlling and monitoring home devices (37%) is the main benefit of owning a smart home device.
  • Smart security systems are the smart home devices people are most familiar with (68%) and most likely to own (53%), which is unsurprising since remote security monitoring is the main benefit people associate with smart home technology.
  • Cost (26%) is the primary concern people have with smart home devices, more so than security vulnerability (21%), though most people recognize that some smart home devices can reduce costs.
  • For example, over half of people (53%) think that smart home thermostats reduce utility costs, more than double the number who think they increase utility costs (24%). 
  • Only 43% of people see or use smart home devices daily, meaning that most people don’t rely on their smart home devices.

People Are Most Familiar With IoT Technology in the Home

People are most familiar with IoT technology and devices in the home, which is due, in part, to people’s exposure to smart home devices such as smart thermostats and smart home security systems. 

More than three-fourths of people (76%) claim they recognize smart home devices – slightly ahead of wearable devices (75%) and digital assistants (73%).  

IoT Devices People are Most Familiar With

Many home appliances and fixtures are now “smart” by default, meaning they are manufactured with the ability to be controlled remotely when connected to the internet. As a result, when people purchase or install new home devices, they often expose everyone in their home to IoT technology.  

“I’m not sure there’s much of a choice anymore,” said Bob Klein, president of Digital Scientists. "Everything is starting to feel smart, or if it’s not, then it’s dumb.”
 
When people are exposed to smart home devices and appliances in the home, they become more familiar with IoT technology. 

People Plan to Invest More in Smart Home Devices

People anticipate that they will embrace IoT in the home in the near future, a result of “forced adoption” and people’s expectations that their homes feature IoT devices.  

Over half of people (53%) own a smart home device currently, and one-third (33%) plan to invest in a smart home device in the next three years.

Smart Home Device Investment Plans

As home appliances increasingly are manufactured to be “smart,” consumers may no longer have the option to purchase a fridge, dishwasher, or oven without IoT capabilities. This creates the expectation that nearly all home appliances will be equipped with IoT technology in the future. 

This forced adoption of smart home devices has created an appeal for IoT technology in the home. 

“IoT carries through to so many areas; it's highly likely most people will own at least one smart device, if not more, in three years,” said Michael Hennessy, CEO of Wavelength Lighting, a Brooklyn-based lighting retrofit company. 

As people invest in more devices, they increasingly prefer smart home automation as part of their home design. According to a study from Fixr, over half of new homeowners include smart home devices as part of their design plans in 2019.

For example, Hennessy said that many of his company’s projects now include specific requests for systems that allow people to control their lighting through IoT networks.

The more people encounter smart home devices through forced adoption, the more they expect IoT technology in their home.

People Benefit From the Ability to Control and Monitor Smart Home Devices Remotely

Smart home devices satisfy people’s expectations for immediate access to information by allowing them to monitor their home on demand. 

Remote control and monitoring (37%) are the primary benefits of owning a smart home device.

Top 3 Benefits of Owning a Smart Home Device

People also benefit from saving money on utilities (24%) and ease of use (21%). 

Most smart home companies develop apps that make it easy for users to access and adjust elements of their homes such as security, temperature, and utilities. 

“There’s a lot of value around monitoring and real-time access to information,” said Klein. “I can get almost immediate notifications [if] something happened at my home.”

The value people experience from monitoring their home through an app illustrates a growing need for immediate access to information. For example, when people have a question or concern, they simply Google it to find a solution. Similarly, when people order from Amazon, they expect their purchase to arrive within two days.

Smart home devices are a physical extension of this attitude into the home. Any concerns people may have about if the stove is left on, the family dog is behaving, or the milk has expired can be satisfied or resolved through smart home devices.  

People Recognize and Purchase Smart Home Security Systems More Than Other IoT Devices in the Home

Smart home security systems are cheaper, more accessible, and more effective than legacy systems, which makes them easier to become familiar with and appealing to purchase.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of people are familiar with smart home security systems. People are also familiar with smart lights (64%) and smart thermostats (62%).

Smart Home Devices People Are Most Familiar With

Smart home security systems only require an internet connection to install and integrate with other smart home devices such as smart doorbells, locks, or carbon monoxide detectors. 

“It comes down to cost, accessibility, and approachability,” said Derrick Wlodarz, president of FireLogic, a technology services company in Illinois. “While unique situations will still require legacy players to become involved, these systems will mature and provide features that will meet and exceed what the legacy vendors can offer [and] at better price points.”

The capabilities and connectivity of smart home devices may exceed those of legacy home devices in the future as IoT technology improves.

Factors such as cost, accessibility, and features such as voice command can impact if people choose to purchase a smart home security system. 

"People will be buying smart home devices not specifically for their smart home capabilities, but because of other features they're looking for," said Sascha Segan, the lead consumer technology analyst for PCMag, a technology reviews publication. 

Our data supports the idea that smart home devices will become more popular as features are more accessible. For example, smart security systems (50%) are the most commonly owned smart home device, followed by smart thermostats (48%) and smart lights (46%).

50% of people own a smart home security system

Brianne Sandorf is a copywriter for ASecureLife, an online platform that reviews and recommends smart home security systems. She explains that the smart home security systems’ ease of use and safety benefits appeal to people building a smart home. 

“If you have limited funds for your smart home, what are you going to start with, a fancy toy or something that brings an ROI?” Sandorf said. “Our consumers value safety, and they value ease of use. Put those together in one system and they're going to be interested.”

Smart security systems are easy to install and use and relatively inexpensive, which appeals to people who are considering purchasing a smart home device. 

Smart Home Security Systems Provide People With Peace of Mind

Smart home security systems provide peace of mind for homeowners. 

The ability to monitor activity in the home remotely (38%) is the primary advantage of a smart security system, which may explain why it’s the most popular smart home device. 

38% of people say remotely monitoring activity in their home is the biggest advantage of smart home security systems

Monitoring activity in the home while out of town or at work provides people with peace of mind, which has incalculable value for many people. 

“If there’s somebody standing at my front door, I can have a picture of them,” Klein said. “There’s a lot of value to that. It connects me to my home, and the return is that I can have peace of mind.”

Smart home security systems provide visual evidence of home security, which is about the same level of monitoring and insight that people have when they are in their house.

Lower Cost of IoT Devices Will Reduce Barriers to Smart Home Automation

As the cost of smart home devices decreases, people will be more willing to invest. Some people say cost is the main inhibitor to investing in smart home devices, but, in reality, smart devices can help people save money.

Cost (26%) is the primary challenge people have owning a smart home device. 

Top 5 Challenges of Owning a Smart Home Device

Interestingly, saving money on utility costs is the second-leading benefit of owning a smart home device behind remote monitoring and control.  

People also express confidence that individual smart home devices can reduce the money they spend on utilities:

  • Over half of people (53%) claim that smart home thermostats decrease utility costs, more than double the number who think it increases utility costs (24%). 
  • Lowering utility costs (30%) is the primary benefit of smart plugs. 

The disconnect between people’s concerns about price and recognition of cost savings from smart home devices is an example of an “attitude-behavior gap,” in which people express opinions about the ethics or benefits of something, but their actions don’t reflect those beliefs. 

The disconnect between people’s concerns about price and recognition of cost savings from smart home devices is an example of an “attitude-behavior gap

Solar panel installation is a good example of an attitude-behavior gap. Solar panels are expensive to install, but people recognize their cost-saving benefits over the long-term: People have to spend more now to save money later. 

The same is true for smart home devices; it can take months (or even years) to realize the accumulated cost and energy savings. 

Reducing the cost of smart home devices to equal the cost of “legacy” devices, though, incentivizes investment. 

“A lot of the costs have come down,” Klein said. “If I had a new home, and I had a choice, and there wasn’t a huge difference in the cost, I’d make that decision [to buy].”
 
As the cost of IoT devices falls and people realize savings from smart devices they currently own, there will be fewer barriers to owning smart home devices. 

Privacy and Security Concerns Remain For Smart Home Owners

Concerns about the security of smart home devices don’t outweigh the benefits of convenience and remote monitoring for some people. 

Security (21%) is the second biggest challenge of owning a smart home device. 

Security concerns can keep people from fully trusting IoT devices, an issue that some place at the feet of developers, manufacturers, and retailers.

“Security should not be an afterthought,” said Andrew Sullivan, president of Internet Society, an organization that advocates for a free and open internet. “It’s clear that manufacturers and retailers need to do more so that consumers can trust their IoT devices.”

While the core benefit of smart home devices is the ability to control and connect disparate elements of the home remotely, people think their private information is more vulnerable if it’s shared across multiple devices

“It’s clear that manufacturers and retailers need to do more so that consumers can trust their IoT devices,” – Andrew Sullivan, Internet Society. 

The challenge of balancing the benefits of connected devices with security risks is pronounced with devices such as smart security systems, which have a direct impact on people’s safety. If someone gained unauthorized access to a smart home security system, for example, she could visually access the home, control the alarm system, or unlock the doors on command.

“How do I tie all this together and keep it private?” Klein said. “I’m not necessarily worried about people knowing if my blinds are opened or closed, but there’s much more private information available if I’ve got cameras involved.”

Until IoT developers, device manufacturers, and retailers address privacy concerns, people may hesitate to invest in or use smart home devices in their homes. 

Smart Home Devices Exist in Homes But Not Used Daily

Smart home devices are not part of most people’s daily lives, indicating that people may hesitate to rely on smart home devices fully, even if they own them. 

Less than half of people (43%) have used or seen a smart home device in the past three months. 

43% of people were exposed to smart home devices every day in the past 3 months

Almost one-fourth of people (23%) see or use a smart home device less than once a month. 

These findings illustrate that people may have doubts about the utility of IoT devices and if they have staying power. 

“IoT technology is still being developed, so a lot of the products currently on the market are buggy or not quite as good as they could be,” Hennessy said. “I don't blame consumers for being hesitant. Who wants to spend money on something that might fail in a year's time?”

Some home appliances such as refrigerators are long-term investments; people often keep the same one for over 20 years. If people aren’t certain that a smart home device will be valuable in the long-term, they hesitate to invest. 

“People are nervous that it’s a fad,” Klein said. “Do I really need to have controls [on a refrigerator]?”

If people purchase a smart home device, they want to make sure that it will be valuable throughout its life-cycle. A smart refrigerator with IoT connectivity but nothing to connect to doesn’t bring people value. 

“People are nervous that it’s a fad. Do I really need to have controls [on a refrigerator]?” – Bob Klein, Digital Scientists

As the IoT technology that powers smart home devices improves and becomes more reliable, people may begin to trust and use their devices as part of their daily routine. 

Smart Home Devices Represent the Expansion of IoT Into the Home 

People are familiar with IoT technology in the home. 

Smart home devices are the most familiar IoT device, and people plan to increase how much they invest in them over the next 12 months, partially because many home appliances and devices are manufactured with IoT connectivity. 

People benefit from the monitoring and control that smart home devices offer, which may explain why smart home security systems are the most familiar and commonly owned home IoT devices. 

Specifically, smart home security systems are easy to use and offer people peace of mind, which is appealing for people who are considering purchasing a smart home device. 

As prices of smart devices fall and people trust that IoT devices in the home have staying power, the more people will use and experience the benefits of IoT technology. 

For now, though, privacy and security concerns remain, particularly for devices that can jeopardize people’s personal information. 

About the Survey

Clutch surveyed 581 people about their familiarity with and plans to invest in IoT technology in the home. 

Sixty-four percent (64%) of respondents are female, and 36% are male. Nearly half (47%) are ages 18-34; 35% are ages 35-54; and 18% are over the age of 55.