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Smart Homes Need To Put People First

Smart home technology manufacturers and sellers are putting too much emphasis on products instead of focusing on people and making their lives easier according to a new report from global consulting firm Accenture.

The Putting The Human First In The Future Home Report said the “smart home” dream of an intelligent connected home to make users’ lives easier “remains stubbornly under construction” because companies “don’t understand who the future home resident is and what they want”.

Devices that don’t play nice with each other, poorly designed apps with weak data security and badly designed products are responsible for the smart home remaining the domain of early adopters according to the report.

The research found people are now spending more time at home than before, viewing their homes as a “retreat” from the stresses of everyday life, and suggests while companies have been focusing on technology that makes life more efficient, it needs to work harder to make people comfortable as well.

This “comfort” factor has an impact on how safe people feel in their homes, but this desire for safety is more nuanced than things like Wi-Fi security cameras, smart locks and alarms, and can be heavily influenced by concerns over data.

The report found there is tensions around intrusiveness and truthfulness of data collection and use, and companies need to marry the need to rationalise these tensions with consumer desire for technology that makes people feel a sense of comfort and control in their home.

While consumers increasingly accept a need to give up their data to use some smart home products and services, companies need to focus on earning consumer trust about the handling of this data by being more transparent about their data collection and usage.

Additionally, companies need to focus on the user experience and ensure they’re providing customers something they value by “re-imagining” things they already use so they adapt to their needs and behaviours, rather than trying to sell them on a gimmick.

The report cited Juniper Research that found digital voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant adoption is projected to grow to 275 million by 2023 as an example of an attractive smart home technology, as the products are perceived to provide increased productivity, communication and entertainment benefits.

The research surveyed more than 6,000 people around the world, and found young people, who have grown up with the rise of technology and the internet, were the most negative about the way technology affects their lives.

Around half of survey respondents between 18 and 34 worried they were too dependent on technology and that it was intrusive.

Those aged over 65 were found to have a largely positive attitude towards technology and its impacts on their lives.

The report said this same segment was largely overlooked by technology companies, suggesting companies need to challenge and adjust their approach to designing for and marketing to a wider range of consumers.

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