Innovation Insights: How widespread are smart devices and which future use cases are most appealing?

May 29, 2020

Matthew Hellon
Research Executive

Innovation Insights is a monthly series on research world looking at all thing’s technological innovation. The series is based on several recent surveys with Arm (semi-conductor company valued at £23.4 billion) and will cover topics such as:

  • Security – will security concerns stifle technological and product innovation or simply lead to more secure products?
  • Insight driven innovation – what processes can be used to turn insight into innovation and how can insights into the way youths interact with technology be used to prototype software that assists and empowers them to tackle cyberbullying?

Smart devices connect to other devices or networks (such as Wi-Fi) and operate with some autonomy. Smartphones are one of the most common forms of smart devices. In recent years, the number of smart devices being used in the home has increased rapidly – such as Amazon’s Alexa (smart speaker/home automation) and Phillips Hue light bulbs (wirelessly operated smart bulbs). Smart homes are a growing market and are predicted to be worth $53 billion in 2022 globally, doubling in size since just 2016.

With this rapid increase in market value, many companies are looking to the future of smart devices. How companies approach smart devices in the future will be dependent on:

  • Current ownership
  • Consumer reaction to future smart device use cases

This instalment of Innovation Insights looks at which smart devices are resonating most with people and which future smart device scenarios are most appealing.

Smartphones and tablets are the most used devices

Smartphone and tablet ownership is high. This reflects how long they’ve been available for. 79% of people[i] own a smartphone and 45% own a tablet. The largest ownership of smart home devices is the Smart TV (31%), Smart speaker (24%) and Smart lighting (13%).

Alongside the highest ownership, smartphones also have the highest levels of device satisfaction. 93% of owners are satisfied/very satisfied with their smartphone. Smart lighting, doorbells, TV’s, alarm/camera systems, vacuum cleaners, speakers and tablets also have device satisfaction above 90%. Smart pet monitors alongside smart display/video calling devices (e.g. Facebook Portal) have the lowest satisfaction at just less than 80%. This still represents relatively high satisfaction suggesting these devices are resonating with consumers.

Convenience and security are most appealing to people

Smart home devices typically use sensors to gather information. This information is then shared with other smart devices. This is already enabling interesting use cases. For example, Scottish councils are using smart devices to detect risk of fuel poverty in social housing. It’s important to consider the level of comfort people have with these potential use cases as this will dictate the smart device market’s future innovation and development.

Generally, people are more comfortable with smart devices that are convenient and aid security. Conversely, they’re less comfortable with devices that become too intimate or presume too much. 69% of people[ii] are comfortable/very comfortable with a smart home system that can predict maintenance (such as when a lightbulb will fail) and 64% are comfortable/very comfortable with a smart security system that listens for the breaking of glass, shouting or dogs barking.

Lower levels of comfort are found for a smart door lock that can be opened by delivery drivers to put your package inside your house (31% comfortable/very comfortable), a smart TV that tracks your eye movements in order to show adverts you’ll be interested in (34%) and a smart speaker that senses if you are sad or upset and asks if you are okay (41%).

Commercial applications of smart devices

As smart devices are adopted by people, they will also be adopted by businesses. People are generally less enthusiastic about these applications of smart devices for businesses, but some uses stand out as being more comfortable than others.

People are most comfortable with AR glasses that allow furniture to be visualized in their home (52% comfortable/very comfortable). This is similar to offerings already in the market such as IKEA’s AR Place app. In the same way that people were uncomfortable with a smart TV designed to show them adverts, advertising billboards that recognize you and show you targeted ads garnered the least levels of comfort (38%) for the business applications of smart devices.

For future innovation, people want smart devices to support and improve the general running and security of households whilst avoiding overstepping the boundary into intrusion. Brands should look to adopt smart devices when they enhance the shopping experience but avoid them when trying to target advertising.

Next month’s Innovation Insights article will investigate the use of smart technology in the automotive industry. What is the appetite for smart technology in cars and what AI futures are most appealing for people when it comes to their driving experience?

[i] From a global sample of 750 people across 6 regions
[ii] All following %s from a global sample of 3,800 people across 8 regions

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