Tech Chats: EY’s Rob Atkinson on smart home product trends

We spoke with Rob Atkinson from EY about the firm’s smart home survey results.

Hi Rob, thank you very much for joining us. EY recently conducted a consumer survey about smart home product adoption. Could you tell us a little bit more about the findings, please?

Yes. We recently published something called “Decoding the Digital Home”. This is the third piece of research that we’ve done over the last number of years, looking at the content and connectivity of the household and the consumers and how they buy and the behaviours they have towards content they consume within the home.

On that note, what smart home products are likely to see the most adoption over the next five years or so?

Well, what we are seeing today is that the principal categories are getting a lot of interest from consumers and there is money being spent in smart speakers, digital home assistants and smartwatches. What we see in the research is that actually, over the next five years, there will be three new categories that probably overtake those and leapfrog them completely. And that’s likely to be the likes of home security, lighting and heating controls. And a third of the people in the research believe that they will buy those sorts of products in the next five years.

Interesting. So, who are consumers more likely to buy these smart home products from?

Actually the research suggests that consumers are most likely to buy digital smart home products from broadband providers, perhaps 20% from there. 15% from utilities, maybe 18% from specialist technology providers or specialist tech websites, but only 4% from mobile operators, which is really very revealing when you look at the behaviour and the characteristics of what is really happening in consumers’ homes.

Other parts of the research told us that, not surprisingly, 50% of consumers think the internet is fundamental to their social lives and a quarter of those consumers believe that the mobile phone is the principal, main way in which they get on to the internet. That’s up from 16% when we did the research in 2016.

So, there’s quite a big shift there towards mobile phones erm but the mobile operator is not really relevant in that story as of yet.

What can service providers do to increase smart home product adoption?

Well, I think if you look at the mobile operators specifically, their challenge is that they’ve not articulated a value proposition. The relevance of what they do and what they provide is not really coming through.

So, what we heard was that 71% of consumers are worried about the loss of personal data. 81% are actually worried that their smart appliance might get hacked from the outside, but if you look at that first statistic around the concern for loss of data, thats on the rise.

You know, when we did the research in 2016, that was only 61% and it was only 52% in 2013. So, what we are seeing is that the consumer is much more worried about the loss of data, there’s much more awareness of that.

So, trust is the key thing. Actually as you look at what operators should be doing, they need to be consistent and coherent about the value proposition. They need to solve real problems and they need to build on the trust proposition that they have.

If you look at mobile operators worldwide they have connectivity into the home for billions of connections. Billions of people buy mobile phone connections and they could be the principal vehicle through which smart homes and smart home connectivity is provided. But, presently they are not at the races. And there is a huge opportunity for them based on that connectivity and that trust to be much more relevant than they are today.

Data and trust is definitely very topical in this day and age.

It certainly is.

Thank you very much for your time, Rob.

Thank you.