Smart Homes: The Future Has Arrived

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You may have thought the idea of controlling your household appliances by essentially talking to a robot was something destined for the year 3000, right? Think again. With the arrival of ‘Smart Homes’ and ‘Smart Home Devices’, the future is right here with us in the present day.

A Smart Home is a home equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by smartphone, tablet or most recently, the power of your voice. Yes that’s right, just like the movies! You can now boil your kettle or turn your shower on just by saying it!

How does it work?

The Amazon Echo RRP £149.99 is the pioneer of voice activated devices, its clever operating system dubbed ‘Alexa’ is an effort to humanise the echo. Of course, for the whole thing to actually work, you have to have ‘Alexa’ compatible appliances and devices. This has seen manufacturers scrambling to create their very own compatible smart home products, due to the storming popularity of smart home speakers that control the devices.

5.1 million Amazon Echo smart speakers have been sold in the U.S. since it debuted two years ago exclusively in the U.S. Boasting over 3000 skills and functionalities added by third party developers to push the boundaries on what voice interaction can do, the technology is constantly growing and has now made its way across the Atlantic. The UK market is still very much in its infancy, but already 4 million Brits have invested in smart home devices of some sort. This makes the market valuation £30 million at the moment and growing.

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Image Source: Statista

Now the Amazon Echo isn't the only kid on the block. Ever since the news broke that Amazon's Echo Is expected to grow five fold in the next 5 years, Google has gotten in on the action, releasing its own smart home speaker, simply named ‘Google Home’ RRP £150. With its smaller, sleeker design it’s said that Google Home is ‘smarter’ than Alexa, but it’s lagging behind in compatibility since it is relatively new to market. This is unlikely to stay the case though.

So, what can a smart home actually do?

Perhaps the main reason smart homes are in such high demand and surging popularity worldwide is because of the vast amounts of benefits these bring to consumers. And their continuous development means the sky's the limit in terms of where they will go next. Let’s highlights some of the key benefits of current smart home technology:

Convenience. Arguably the biggest reason why people kit out their house into a smart home. Residents can access home appliances like kitchen appliances, lights and music speakers without having to actually go over to them to operate them. All of these smart home devices essentially streamline common tasks by talking to your smart home speaker or swiping on your iPad.

Efficiency. Smart homes offer enhanced energy-efficiency. Lights can be controlled automatically through the tap of a button or a voice command. Heating can be automated to only be on when somebody is actually in the house. All of these automated tasks through energy-efficient appliances combine to save on energy. Which means... cheaper bills and a greener planet!

Security. Smart homes include advanced security systems complete with cameras, motion sensors and a link to the local police station or a private security company. Smart homes may also use key cards or fingerprint identification in place of conventional locks, making it harder for someone to break in.

Accessibility. For elderly or disabled residents, a smart home may feature accessibility technologies. Voice-command systems can do things like control lights, lock doors, operate a telephone or use a computer. Smart homes have the potential to vastly improve an elderly or disabled person's quality of living.

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Dash Buttons

Launched last year and solely available in the U.S. from who else than... Amazon. Dash buttons are palm sized Wi-Fi connected buttons. The idea is, you buy your favourite branded dash buttons. Let’s use washing detergent as an example. Stick the ‘Persil’ button on your washing machine or wherever you store your detergent. Once you have ran out and the product needs replenishing, all you simply do is ‘click’ the dash button. The washing detergent will then be instantly ordered there and then to be delivered the very next working day.

Don’t be worrying about paying delivery charges every time you ‘click’, as Dash buttons are only exclusively available for Amazon Prime subscribers, meaning unlimited free next day delivery! Amazon now offers 150 branded dash buttons priced at $4.99 but you get that money back in credit after your first ‘click’. The buttons range from food and drink brands to shaving foam.

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The idea is still in its early days so it’s hard to gauge whether or not dash buttons will be a real success but it has been reported: “In just the last three months, total Dash Button orders have grown by 70%” - June 2016. So, long gone could be the days of writing your shopping list and traipsing around your local supermarket to do your weekly shop. Dash buttons could become THE way to do your grocery shop.

So, what can we learn?

With technology ever changing and advancing there may be many different concepts of a Smart Home in years to come; but it is undeniable that Smart Homes are the future. We may be some time away from an episode of ‘Futurama’, but Smart Homes have arrived and they are here to stay.

Smart Homes are an idea that is based around convenience, and convenience is now something that consumers of all kinds crave. The opportunities for brands, organisations and people alike, in the new and young market are there for all to see. Brands should look to take advantage of this now by designing and marketing products for the future.

What are your views on Smart Homes and what would your ideal Smart Home be able to do? Send us your Tweets over on @FastWebMedia

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