As energy costs invariably rise, connecting and integrating American homes to the smart grid is a worthwhile endeavor for the nation. The reality however is that smart solutions allowing homes and utilities to communicate beyond their monthly electric bill are currently in pilot stages only. How can innovation help advance the smart home agenda?
The good news is nearly 70 million U.S. households already have a home network, providing a foundation to build upon for greater home automation and connectivity to systems like the smart grid. What’s more, energy conservation concerns have prompted homeowners to explore energy-saving smart devices.

Recent industry research conducted in partnership with Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) shows consumers prefer easy-to-use interfaces and simplified options to control, monitor and remotely manage their homes. There are a range of options available to automate homes, from installed systems to plug-and-play technologies that leverage existing devices like smartphones. Telcos such as Verizon also have begun marketing bundled automation and monitoring services to their customers.

The research suggests there will be a gradual shift toward connected home platforms as opposed to ad-hoc solutions. The resulting shift will more clearly define business models and establish the value chain across service providers and device manufacturers. Smart meters on the market today provide a natural first step toward a smart grid, but consumers lack the tools to make use of energy consumption data and few utilities have deployed protocols like ‘time of use billing’. This is where the CE industry can lead to transform the connected home into a smart home by developing more energy-intelligent appliances, devices and services.

Working Together

But the industry can’t do it alone; greater collaboration and partnership between industry and utilities are crucial to advancing the vision of smart homes in America. Over time, rising energy costs will organically drive these parties together to develop solutions; but why wait when opportunities exist now?

In the short term, the research suggests energy efficiency will continue to dominate the discussions around adopting smart technologies by homeowners. Here is a focal point for industry innovation that can ostensibly shorten the path to the smart home. Industry must work with utilities and the federal government, such as the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to chart a course for solution development. Meanwhile, another area of collaboration will be to address consumer issues related to a connected home’s integration with the smart grid, including information sharing, data security and consumer privacy.

It is the industry’s opportunity to innovate in order to overcome technical challenges around convergence and integration as we move toward smarter, connected homes. The industry can also leverage its close relationship with consumers to educate them on the benefits of adopting smart appliances and devices. Expect to see new apps, technology platforms and services roll out over the next several years to convert today’s connected home into the smart home of the future.

Hurdles to Overcome

The main challenges to advancing the smart home agenda:
  • Consumer education and acceptance; and
  • Hardware integration and cost effectiveness.

As more strategic alliances are formed between industry and utilities, the awareness of connected home solutions should increase favorably. Research shows consumers trust utilities most when it comes to sharing energy consumption data, so utilities are a natural place to start with education efforts aimed at adopting smart
technologies as a means to lower energy costs.

Related: Stats and Facts: Connected and Smart.