Smart Technology

1 in 3 people have a smart device

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Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash

Bluetooth- and Internet-enabled devices are becoming more prevalent in the UK and around the world, with smart versions of existing technology now becoming more commercially available.

What Is Smart Home Technology?

What if all the devices in your life could connect to the internet? Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, doorbells, security cameras, windows, window blinds, hot water heaters, washing machines, pet feeders, kitchen appliances, you name it. And what if those devices could all communicate, send you information, and take your commands? It's not science fiction; it's the Internet of Things (IoT), and it's a key component of home automation and smart homes. If you went back in time even just fifteen years and explained how far technology has come in that time, they might quite reasonably think you’d been watching too much Doctor Who.

Home automation is exactly what it sounds like: automating the control of items around the house with a simple push of a button or a voice command. Some activities, like setting up a lamp to turn on and off at your whim, are simple and relatively inexpensive. Others, like advanced home security camera systems, may require a more serious investment of time and money.

If you've already started connecting the various devices and fixtures around your home, you'll know that there are a lot of ways to approach the problem you are seeking to solve. You might just want one device to solve a particular issue, like a smart plug to automate a lamp, but your choice of product may be determined by which smart hub platform you are already invested into. Maybe you have Amazon Echo devices with Alexa or Google Assistant-powered smart speakers, or maybe you're one of the rarer breeds of Siri and Apple HomeKit adherents. Voice assistants are often the starting point for building an off-the-shelf smart home, since they offer a convenient way for multiple family members or co-residents to interact with the various devices in your home. For those who like them, they also make fantastic gifts, whether you're shopping for the holidays or buying a housewarming present.

We conducted a survey with findings from a cross-section of our exclusive panel of consumers, OpinionHive, asking them for their thoughts on smart home technology and other smart devices, whether they own any such devices themselves, and what concerns they have with their use.

What smart devices do you have?

The most popular devices with our panel are smart speakers (23%), and 36% and own some kind of smart home device. Other devices include lights, thermostats, power switches, video doorbells, electric toothbrushes, smoke alarms, bathroom scales, kettles, vacuum cleaners, toasters, and carbon monoxide alarms.

32% of people feel that smart devices help them in their everyday life, and 58% of people say they like trying new technology, but 31% feel that they don’t need any smart devices in their lives.

Panellists who don’t own any smart devices list cost and affordability as the biggest factor, but others say that they don’t find them necessary, or simply don’t understand them. Privacy is another major barrier to ownership, with many mentioning a lack of trust in them, and a fear of being snooped or hacked.

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Those who have smart devices feel that they make life easier, save time, and are generally convenient to have. Regarding features, they also highlight listening to music, controlling heating, and security as key benefits.

Cost

Prices vary enormously depending on the make, model and use case of the smart technology and device in question, but are consistently much more expensive than their non-smart alternatives, so we asked our panel what they think about the price of smart devices. 57% believe that smart home appliances are too expensive, 17% feel that the pricing is about right, and less than 1% of people feel that they are relatively inexpensive.

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Smart watches

Smart watches that can track your activity, health and sleep and let you take calls and answer messages have been around for a few years now, but have our panel taken them to heart? Well, 20% say they currently own and use a smart watch, and a further 6% say they are likely to purchase one in the next six months, compared to 48% who say they are very unlikely to do so, citing cost and a lack of interest as key reasons.

Virtual assistants

Many smart devices can take voice commands, and some even have virtual assistants that can speak back to you. The most popular are Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s imaginatively named Google Assistant. 33% of our panel own or are planning to purchase an interactive smart speaker with a virtual, voice-controlled assistant, but virtual assistants are not only found on specifically smart devices, as they are now available on phones and even laptops. 8% of our panel use their virtual assistant on their phone daily, 4% once a week, 6% use it monthly or bi-monthly, and 56% use theirs less than once a month, if at all.

Privacy

We asked how concerned or unconcerned they are about companies listening to their voice recordings from their smart speaker or voice assistant app, and 37% of people are unconcerned with the fact that people might be listening in, but 43% of people do feel concerned about it.

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You can access other surveys and FREE fact sheets in our knowledge centre.

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