Picture this: you’re lying in bed in the middle of the night and your phone or control panel beeps a message to let you know you have an intruder, or you’re sitting in an important meeting and your phone beeps to inform you your home is filling with water - this is information I, personally, could do without.

On the other hand, I do quite fancy the fridge letting me know what ingredients I have and what Nigel Slater might do with them. These are just two of the ways we might interact with a connected home.

The connected home is one manifestation of digital action translating into real world action as we fully realise the internet of things - infrastructure, smart phones and connected objects all linked together to help us live our everyday lives more seamlessly. Cisco reckon the internet of things will be 50 billion objects hooked to the internet by 2017.

Jetsons

The concept of the connected home is nothing new. We had glimpses of the potential and promise of the technology as far back as 1962 when the Jetsons beamed onto screens. There have been many false dawns but now the connected home does seem to be becoming a reality. Berg Insights predict that smart home installations in North America and Europe will reach 21.5 million by 2017.

The predicted growth in the penetration of connected homes is due to a number of factors - prices falling, increasing accessibility, advancement of technology and commercial interest, increasing penetration of the smartphone and apps to address single functions within the home - heating, lighting, locks - and the fact that people are far more comfortable using their smart phone for multiple actions and activities - it’s fast becoming a remote control for our lives.

Much like the battle between VHS and Beta over three decades ago, the real spanner in the works has been the lack of emergence of a dominant operating system to bind all of this together.

The race is on between the likes of Apple and Google for control of your data. Google’s recent purchase of Nest potentially sets them up nicely so they have info about your home on top of your search behaviour, your phone, your TV and next your car. For some this might throw up concerns over privacy, but hopefully this data will be used to provide useful tools and utilities for people and not just to serve targeted ads.

Dermot O'Shea (Digital Architect)

Without this all companies need to invest a great deal to build their own and this just does not make commercial sense without promise 
of scale, audience and interest. Google’s project Tungsten and 
AT&T’s Digital Life are at the front and will build a monopoly to 
make this viable.

Nest in the home

So that’s that- you can now control your lights, heating, immersion , oven, fridge, locks and you can let the guy from the supermarket in to deliver your groceries by sending him a code he can use from his smart phone to gain access to your house. We can talk all day about technologies such as August (Locks), Nest (Thermostat), Hue (Phillips lighting), Google's Project Tungsten or A&T's Digital Life but what interests us is the implication of the inevitability of greater connectedness in our homes, particularly for the millenials - those most adept at auditing the pros and cons and the most likely to benefit from the democratisation of this technology with regards to access and cost.

All the literature points to the fact that greater connectedness in our “Castles” represents real and positive progress. The devices available and showcased at CES present a vision of an improved standard of living, seamless lives and limitless opportunities.

Early adopters appear to have already benefitted but what are the implications for you and how you live your life? Well, we have a theory drawn from the wonderful worlds of bundling and clinical paranoia!

Phillips hue lights

Not everyone will jump into the connected home in its entirety but rather sample it bite by bite - building towards a completely connected home- much like we now happily purchase fixed and mobile broadband and TV services from companies like eircom or how we have evolved from using our smartphone for voice and text to being comfortable and knowledgeable enough to use all it has 
to offer.

We’re already closer to the fully connected home than most of us realise. Your browser history, favourites and passwords are shared with your devices if you have an iCloud or Google account. What could be better than being able to control your heating, oven, every appliance remotely? More time to spend doing what you want and less on what you need to do – bring it on.

Gavin O'Sullivan (Creative Partner)

Below is our “chic mag pop quiz” to determine how you might embrace or resist the potential of all things connected.

You can choose to side with Amy or Claire on the quiz answers.

1. THE “EFFICIENCY” ARGUMENT

Having my home connected and being able to “turn it on” an hour before I get home means that:

ConnectedHomes AmyMitchell

ANSWER A)

My ambitions for a seamless convenient life have been fully realised. Yahoo!

 

ConnectedHomes ClaireClifford

ANSWER B)

The cost implication of my house being “on” when I am not there seems like a waste of money.

2. "RIGHT-ON"NESS ARGUMENT

Closely connected to number one, the moral side of the rational efficiency argument:

ConnectedHomes AmyMitchell

ANSWER A)

As and when I want it - I am eco friendly because I can control what is used in an optimal way. I can programme my house to turn off the lights when I leave a room.

ConnectedHomes ClaireClifford

ANSWER B)

As and when I need it - I only use energy when I am there and not in anticipation of my arrival.

3. THE LEAP OF TRUST ARGUMENT

There are big names behind this such as AT&T and Google to name but a few.

ConnectedHomes AmyMitchell

ANSWER A)

It’s great that someone is doing it. This is just progress and some company has to own the operating system - I applaud it and want to be a part of it.

ConnectedHomes ClaireClifford

ANSWER B)

I’m all for progress but I want to protect myself too. Can I trust these big names and what do I surrender in the transaction?

4. THE ANXIETY INDEX

Will the connected home alleviate our anxiety affording more control and insight into our homes or will we just exchange our current anxieties with new ones associated with full information on the working of the home and relinquishing control to new technology?

ConnectedHomes AmyMitchell

ANSWER A)

For the first time I am fully in touch and in control of my home and all that’s contained therein. E.g a leaky pipe or a breach of the perimeter- I’ll get a text.

ConnectedHomes ClaireClifford

ANSWER B)

Yes, it’s really convenient that the plumber was notified that we had a leak and was able to let himself into our house, but did he remember to turn off the tap and shut the door on the way out?

5. HUMAN CONNECTEDNESS ARGUMENT

What will the connected home mean for the most primal, and arguably most important connection of all- human connection?

ConnectedHomes AmyMitchell

ANSWER A)

Picture the scene - Middle of the night, baby cries. The mat under the baby activates the bottle warmer downstairs and the under-floor heating in the kitchen - so, when you get there, your “piggies” are warm, the bottle is ready to go and the baby gets fed in a timely manner and back to sleep. Utopia – right?

ConnectedHomes ClaireClifford

ANSWER B)

The exchange over whose turn it is to warm the bottle and or feed the baby and other of life’s little exchanges may become obsolete. Things are so seamless that even little interactions, positive or blemished, get photoshopped out of our lives and we lose some of the texture of our personal relationships. A bridge too far?

 

Amy Claire

If you answered mostly A), then like Amy you will be a Brave Evangelist for the
Connected Home.

If you answered mostly B) you will be a Progressive Pragmatist for the Connected Home, like our more relatively cautious Claire.

Both are progressively minded. The biggest difference between the two perhaps being the pace at which you will find yourself adopting this concept and its associated technologies.

Connected Homes are already a reality and people are already benefitting from them; this feels like positive progress.

So, whatever you do don’t be the lone voice that shouts “The Connected Home will never catch on” or you’ll find yourself in an uncomfortable position similar to H.M Warner (Chairman of Warner Bros. 1927) who proclaimed “who wants to hear actors talk?”

As with all transactions there is a balance of risk and reward and what will most likely happen is that even the most reluctant among us will approach with an à la carte attitude.

It is essential for brands that want to play in this inexorable and (almost) new frontier to continue to put the consumer at the core of their thinking.

You’re thinking “you would say that” but those designing, developing and marketing these new technologies must continually ask themselves “why are we doing this?” and “who are we doing this for?” or risk leaving the consumer behind.

This is particularly pertinent for the millenial audience, those most exposed to the impact of technology on their lives and, consequently, the most critical and cautious consumers of it.

Make it safe and attractive for them and the rest will follow.

 

(Image courtesy of Nest and Digital Trends)

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