The corona virus made a lot of us stay at home more than ever before. A natural reaction to this is trying to make staying at home as nice as possible. An opportunity to make life at home more convenient and efficient are so called smart home systems. Smart home describes a set of technological innovations that aim at improving the living environment of a user by adapting it to his or her individual needs (Abicht et al., 2010). Smart home systems offer various options such as dimming the lights using your phone or automatically shutting the blinds, depending on the time of the day to ensure energy efficiency.
What do users expect from such systems?
In order to answer this question, we must first look at the different types of smart home systems. Overall, there are two general smart home concepts. The first one is a single-brand solution. As the name implies, all necessary technology for smart home is holistically provided by one manufacturer. This ensures full compatibility and data security as well as good customer service. On the other hand, there are standalone open-source solutions. In this case, technology from several different brands can be connected with the control unit via a common operational framework. This offers endless possibilities for the customer to individually assemble the desired smart home solution. However, the user is responsible for checking the compatibility of all devices and has to make sure they really work together.
While 40% of Germans are currently using smart home devices, only 18% of them are true users with connected solutions. 82% of users own single or multiple devices but did not incorporate them into a coherent system. Besides, 28% are interested in smart home solutions but do not own any and 26% reject smart home solutions in general. This implies that there may be a lack of acceptance (Splendid Research, 2021). In 2019, Gabriela Salomon and Prof. Dr. Patrick Müller from the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences investigated the acceptance factors of smart home technology based on the widely used framework (UTAUT model, Venkatesh et al., 2003). In their online survey, users (n=496) were either asked about their insights regarding the single brand solution or the standalone open-source solution. Therefore, it is not only possible to find out what best predicts acceptance of a smart home system but also compare the two system types.
The following four success factors for smart home technology acceptance were identified:
- Performance Expectancy is the most important success factor for smart home technology acceptance: The more people expect to save time, money and to increase security, the more they tend to use smart home technology.
- The second relevant factor is Effort Expectancy: If smart home systems are expected to be effortless, inexpensive and easy to get, people are more likely to use it.
- Additionally, people’s interest in the technology also depends on what they think their social environment likes the technology or not (Social Influence) and how well suited their living situation (e.g. rented flat, new house) is for the technology (Facilitating Conditions).
- Overall, no differences in these success factors between the two smart home systems were found. However, users expected a higher performance of the single brand solution but at the same time had the feeling that standalone open-source solutions are more suited to their living situation.
What can companies learn from these results?
This research implies that the cost and time saving benefits should be communicated clearly to consumers. Additionally, there needs to be a focus on simplicity of the installation of smart home in order to decrease the expectation that such systems are difficult to install and maintain. To achieve a positive social influence, manufacturers can promote successful group interactions and communication through and with the system. Last but not least, users need information about compatibility with other technologies and the suitability for different living environments.
By focusing on the clear communication of benefits and necessary requirements, a positive image for smart home solutions can be created.
Is there a winner?
The study by Salomon and Müller (2019) showed that users do not necessarily think that one system is better than the other. They expect more performance of the single-brand solution but at the same time expect that standalone open-source solutions to be more suited to their living situation. So, it looks like we will see very different approaches to smart home solutions for the time coming. It is going to be interesting to see which features companies develop in order to tie customers to their systems and how these systems evolve.
What are your thoughts on smart home? Do you already have something in place? Or are you thinking about getting it installed? What information and solutions should companies provide? We’d be happy to hear your opinion.
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Abicht, L., Brand, L., Freigang, S., Freikamp, H., & Hoffknecht, A. (2010). Internet der Dinge im Bereich Smart House. Retrieved from http://www.frequenz.net/uploads/tx_freqpro- jerg/Abschlussbericht_Id__im_Smart_House_final.pdf.
Salomon, G., & Müller, P. (2019). Success Factors for the Acceptance of Smart Home Technology Concepts. In A. Lochmahr, P. Müller, P. Planing, & T. Popovic (Eds.), Digitalen Wandel gestalten – Transdisziplinäre Ansätze aus Wissenschaft und Wirtschaft (pp. 205-215). Springer Gabler.
Splendid Research (2021). Smart Home Monitor 2021. Retrieved from https://www.splendid-research.com/de/smarthome.html
Venkatesh, V., Morris, M. G., Davis, G. B., & Davis, F. D. (2003). User acceptance of information technology: Toward a unified view. MIS quarterly, 27, 425–478.