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Smart Living: Consumer Expectations For Smart Home Technology

Carley Knobloch, Technical Consultant, HGTV Smart Home
The Smart Home market has exploded in recent years, and CES has been ground zero for all the new developments. There aren’t too many appliances or devices left that don’t have a sensor or two, or can’t be controlled by an app. But is that all it takes to capture a consumer’s heart (and wallet)? 
As the technical consultant for the annual HGTV Smart Home, I’m always on the hunt for the latest and greatest in home technology. My job is to make sure the house is cutting edge year after year but also relevant to our audience, many of whom are just now contemplating their first connected device. Some are concerned about safety, some are unsure whether the premium is worth the features they’ll get. Many are concerned they’ll end up with too many clunky black boxes they can’t maintain.

 With all that in mind, I set out each year to tell the smart home story to our audience in a way that’s reassuring, exciting, and of course, beautiful. (We are HGTV, after all!) Here are a few consumer expectations I’ll be looking to meet while I’m scouting for what’s new on the floor this year.
A person’s smartphone is as unique to them as their fingerprint: I’ve yet to see two set up identically. Highly customizable devices are the new normal, both for personal technology and smart home devices. Any product that can be customized on the outside (like light switches and outlets in myriad finishes), or creates a customized experience (like coffee brewed just the way you like it, or a shower pre-set to your exact temperature) is now expected by consumers. It’s great to see so many connected devices happy to oblige.
I’m always thrilled to see technology companies investing in good design. Partnerships with celebrity designers are always exciting, but even smaller gestures like décor-friendly colors, and unexpected shapes will help even the most tech averse proudly display their new gadget as a bookshelf objet. And the good news is that beauty is rarely skin-deep— a well-designed exterior often means that the user experience is highly considered as well. At the HGTV Smart Home, we have a mix of tech that hides in cabinets and technology that is left, beautifully, out in the open.
Finally, we’ve seen that pretty much any device you can think of can become “connected” (Belts? Forks?! CES has featured them all!) but it’s time to move to the next level of intelligence. Consumers are voting again and again for devices that offer peace of mind and anticipate their needs. A smart lock that texts you when your kids get home from school, so you know they’re safe. A camera that alerts you when it sees unfamiliar faces in your home, but recognizes your wife and cat as persona grata. These are both examples of connected devices that are tapping into deep consumer needs by making good use of the data they’re collecting.
In other words, thoughtful is the new smart. 
Carley Knobloch is a digital lifestyle expert on a mission to help people improve their relationship with technology. She’s HGTV’s resident tech expert, and also a regular contributor to The Today Show and Apartment Therapy. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, two kids, springer spaniel, and myriad smartphones. For more information, visit