Interview: Consumer demands on smart home technology

The demand for smart technology is continuing to rise, with all generations becoming increasingly comfortable (and expectant) with the capabilities of smart and connected devices.

To shed some more light on the current industry trends and the impact they are having on traditional retail models, we spoke to Kevin Wen, President of D-Link Europe.

The full interview can be found below.

  1. To start off with, please give us some background on D-Link Europe and what the company has been up to recently.

D-Link has an extensive portfolio of award-winning networking, surveillance and home automation products and services for business and consumer use. Lately we’ve been focused on smart home, breaking into the market with the launch of mydlink™ Home, a complete smart home ecosystem for home automation in September 2014.

Since then the portfolio has grown to twelve connected products that work with the free mydlink Home app, helping people to monitor, automate and control their home easily. We’re also focused on connectivity, launching Wireless AC products for fast, reliable Internet connections. Put simply, our vision is to keep our customers connected to what matters most to them.

  1. How has the consumer demand for smart home technology changed in recent times?

A few years ago, going back to 2012 and 2013, there was more scepticism from consumers with trying or investing in smart home technology. Before, consumers would commit to a single, simple device such as a smart plug or home monitor, giving them control over a certain aspect of their home, rather than setting up a complete smart home system with devices that talk to each other.

But that has changed over the last 12 months. Customers are asking for more features for home monitoring and security, and around energy management particularly. Now 26 per cent of our customers in Europe set up multiple devices from the mydlink Home Smart Home range to interact with and trigger one another. The consumer will continue to expect more of this interaction within the smart home ecosystem, especially as their confidence with using the technology increases.

  1. What kind of devices/solutions are proving most popular at the moment?

There is huge demand for security products as people realise the benefits of being able to keep an eye on their property, their pets or families from wherever they are. Our home monitoring camera is the most popular product in our range. It’s not surprising that the most interactive products are also the most popular.

Being able to access a live video feed from the monitor that users can view from their mobile devices is really appealing. In the future, energy management and sensors will be at the top of the agenda. This has already happened in the United States, but here in Europe the market is slightly behind in adoption.

  1. What steps should companies be taking to ensure connected devices stay secure?

The most important element to staying secure is the cloud platform connecting smart home management and device interaction. Millions of individual pieces of data from smart home users are generated and companies playing in the smart home market need to ensure this data remains highly secure.

The impact of leaking customer information would be huge. At D-Link, we use the AWS cloud hosting platform and ensure every stream is encrypted between each interaction of the device and app, and the app and cloud platform.

Another consideration is how companies will manage the security of wearables and other connected devices as they start to enter into the workplace. Whether organisations will allow them to enter the corporate network is another matter. This security will have to be managed in a very different way to the smart home environment, but will ultimately be down to each company’s own policy.

  1. How has the growth in popularity of IoT and connected homes impacted traditional retail models?

The average household will have more and more IoT gadgets in the coming year. Some consumers won’t even be aware that the devices they own are ‘connected’, such as an energy management device from their utility company. But eventually everything in the home will move to become digital, Internet-connected devices. As the typical buyer diversifies, so we’re also seeing a major shift in retail models.

Traditional consumer tech retail shops will be one place people will buy these devices. But more and more alternatives such as coffee shop chains and supermarkets will recognise the opportunity of the growing smart home market. We’re already seeing examples of this shift in Europe but expect it to be much more prevalent within the next two years. Mobile device shops will start to embrace it in order to differentiate their services. DIY stores are another natural home for these devices, as the smart home market focuses on easy to install products that don’t require a specialist company for installation. People will see it as a way of easily upgrading their home security.

Furthermore, we expect utility companies to take significant market share, particularly in the areas of security and energy management, and ISPs and telcos will look to grow in this space too.

  1. What do you expect smart homes will look like in the future?

One main trend is smart home devices being increasingly used to set off actions between each other so homes become even smarter. Over the next two to three years, wearable devices will also become part of the smart home ecosystem, allowing people to remotely switch smart home appliances on or off via their smart watch, as well as a mobile or tablet.

Voice activation controls will also be introduced. Ultimately, smart home devices will make many analogue devices such as burglar alarms redundant, especially as consumers realise it’s a way out of long-term contracts that tie them to monthly payments. It’s not that far away.

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