2012
05.08

I’ve been saying it for a while now, that the smart home market seems ripe for the picking due mainly to the fact that no one has seemed to crack the code just yet. Apparently AT&T agrees with me, as evidenced by its entrance into this market this week.

The carrier announced plans for a portfolio of all-digital, IP-based home security monitoring and automation services called AT&T Digital Life. The carrier says homeowners can control the system using any Web-enabled device, regardless of carrier. Trials will begin in Atlanta and Dallas this summer, and pricing has yet to be established.

I can get into all the bells and whistles of the offering, but I think the really intriguing part is the fact AT&T saw an opportunity in what it clearly considers to be an underserved market. And the argument can be made that this market is indeed underserved. But it’s not for lack of “star power” if you will, with the likes of Verizon, ADT, Comcast, Google, and even Lowe’s all taking aim at automating the home in some way, shape, or form.

Now that AT&T has entered the game, everyone will be racing to get their two thoughts out on the topic of who will ultimately “win” the race to connect the home. But I think that discussion becomes moot if we don’t first solve the real issue, which is homeowner appeal.

Tell me why a homeowner would want their home to be automated. I mean, really. Sure, it all sounds great to have these sensors installed all over the home that control everything from the point of entry to the major appliances, but the majority of homeowners are still asking the market to prove why this is necessary. Naturally you have the discussions around peace of mind, security, and comfort—but let’s get real; the ultimate “prove it” factor comes down to cost.

The reason that more drivers aren’t riding around in a fancy connected car is the fact the average consumer keeps their vehicles for about six years. The average age of a car on the road in the United States today is 10.8 years. Why I am telling you this? Because people don’t just up and spend money on a tech-enabled car no matter how compelling the argument is around safety, comfort, and convenience. They are watching every dollar they have these days. For that very same reason, the connected home has been a hard sell to the average consumer too.

We throw around terms like ‘usability’ and ‘reliability’ all the time, but does it really exist at a cost that becomes compelling enough for the average homeowner to get off the dime? The fact AT&T is talking about connections over a range of networks, like wired, Wi-Fi, and Z-Wave makes for a very compelling argument.

Now I am going to throw a really doozy out there to the market: “Does the average home owner care?” Because that average Joe Homeowner is who AT&T, Verizon, ADT, Comcast, Google, and everyone else needs to sell in order to “win” the connected home.

I will get off my high horse on this one to say that, yes the average homeowner wants to care. Just like we all want to be “green” and be considered “charitable” we all want to care about things that keep our families safe and secure … but at the right price.

Which new technologies will be the enablers? And why? Great questions, and ones that I think we can all find answers to. It might sound like I am beating up on the tech providers here, but let’s be fair: there are some great offerings out there. But let’s hear the real solutions to the big issues that will get the average homeowner over the hump and off the dime, if you will. Then perhaps we can get some clarity on who will “win” the race.

We’ve lined up the likes of ADT, Motorola Mobility, Craftsman, and other great speakers to talk on the connected home at our Connected World Conference, June 11-13. Sit in on the ‘Welcome Home’ panel on June 12 and pick the brains of those out there trying to automate your home. I know I certainly will be.

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