How the Smart Home has Changed During the Pandemic
7 March 2021
It’s been almost a year since everything came to screeching halt due to the pandemic. I was already working from home though traveling frequently due to a lot of activity in the sports technology and stadium/arena industry. But a lot of others had to make a quick transition in their work routine from the daily commute to the office to setting up shop on their dining room table. Raise your hand if you wish you had bought stock in Zoom a year ago.
As you can imagine, this hasty move caused a lot of people to re-evaluate their home internet and related technologies. Surprisingly, even Fisher-Price got in on the act with their own “My Home Office” playset — it includes a pretend laptop, a wood smartphone and a headset “for all those important business calls, and a to-go cup for kids to sip their favorite beverage.” I’m a little torn on this between shameless cashing in on the pandemic to helping kids make sense of all this. But I have to admit, I’ve been really tempted to shake it up a little on my next Microsoft Teams call wearing the Fisher-Price headset to see if anyone notices or comments.
As people have been spending almost all of their time at home, it’s been tough. But probably for many like me, also looking for ways to improve their home office, home efficiency and entertainment. One of the silver linings for Debbie and I has been time together to plan our new home. But I’ve been curious about how the pandemic has affected the adoption of smart home technology.
According to research from several analyst firms, it turns out the pandemic hasn’t had a huge effect on overall adoption. But the last year has seen big growth in certain categories however.
Overall growth in connected product sales has stayed relatively similar to rates of growth in the preceding two years, according to research from Parks Associates.
Parks Associates recently released new research and consumer data focused on COVID-19 contact tracing, voice technology, consumer privacy concerns, and the smart TV and OTT video markets. The firm finds 64% of US broadband households have an internet-connected entertainment devices, while 30% have a smart home device, creating a range of products in the home that can deliver new value but also need monitoring and cybersecurity protections.
At the end of 2020, 40% of homes had at least one remotely monitored connected device, and about 33% of homes had at least one smart home device. Sales of those smart home devices rose by 5% from the end of 2019, which was the same rate of growth for the prior year, according to Parks.
While people didn’t buy more, they appear to have had some very focused concerns. Lighting was a top one, likely due to all the time people have been spending on Zoom calls along with all the time kids have been spending being home schooled or online. A survey indicates smart lighting as a relatively new demand in smart homes, along with a newer focus on touchless faucets, toilets and other infrastructure.
Security systems have also seen a boost during the pandemic, although it could also be a result of fear caused by a rise in civil unrest. NPD Group, which says half of all homes now have a smart device in them, estimates that sales of security systems and products rose by 44% during 2020. NPD also noted the demand for smart lighting, reporting that sales of smart lighting were up 43% year-over-year in 2020 compared to a 17% rise in 2019. This is understandable as lighting is generally an early smart home technology adopted after voice assistants.
As to where the smart home might be heading, Parks asked consumers what services they might be interested in going forward. Unsurprisingly, more robust home networks, security systems, and health-related services topped the list. These make sense as work from home has put greater demands on broadband and with gym closures, exercise options have turned to purchases like Peloton and Mirror which require internet access. Raise your hand again if you wish you had bought stock in Peloton a year ago.
Other health-related services such as water or air filtration and monitoring elderly family members are services consumers are now interested in as well. These have been a little out of the reach of the less technically inclined in the past but have become more commoditized and easier to work with and integrate into overall smart home planning.
All this being said, Debbie and I have not made any real significant changes to our smart home tech due to the pandemic. I guess this proves out Parks Associates findings that the pandemic hasn’t really affected the growth of smart home either way. We’re curious how the pandemic has affected you from a work from home and smart home perspective. Have you upped your game around more robust home networks, security systems or health-related technologies? What about water or air filtration and monitoring elderly family members? Let us know how the last year as gone for you. As for Debbie and I, we continue to work on our floor plan, hoping to finalize things soon so we can get started on construction this spring. Stay tuned …