How smart are smart homes really?

A home that can learn what its inhabitants need. What sounded like science fiction just a few years ago, is now a reality. But do "smart homes" really improve the quality of life and living or can one easily make do without these technical gadgets? 

 

How smart are smart homes really?

A home that can learn what its inhabitants need. What sounded like science fiction just a few years ago, is now a reality. But do "smart homes" really improve the quality of life and living or can one easily make do without these technical gadgets?

In a smart home, various technical devices are digitally networked with each other. From HVAC and household appliances to consumer electronics, everything can be controlled centrally: intelligent heating systems can be operated when traveling or simply regulate their heating behavior themselves – ideally even saving energy. Modern security technology can be used to check whether someone is visiting your house while you are away, whether the basement is getting flooded, or whether your children have made it home from school safely. Even entertainment systems are reaching the next level in smart homes. Activate cinema mode via voice control and the TV and HiFi system turn on automatically, the light dims, and the relaxed evening can begin.

Enthusiasm looks different

All these are examples of technological innovations that should make our everyday life more efficient and comfortable. A good thing. However, smart home installations are still not nearly as popular as you would think. While most Germans recognize the term by now, the technology itself has not yet established itself. Installation numbers are increasing only slowly. According to an estimate of Statista, there will be only about 720,000 smart homes in Germany till the end of the year.1

"Is this smart or can we throw it out?"

Why are people so reserved? The first important factor are high costs. In addition to buying expensive smart devices, you have to pay for the installation of the systems and constant maintenance. And it is questionable to what extent the use justifies the costs. Especially older generations are very skeptical here.2 Is it really necessary for the light to turn on automatically when people enter the home, even though you could just use the light switch?

The topic of security is another sticking point. At the moment there are no prescribed security standards for smart home products. There is merely an inspection by the Association of the Electrical, Electronic and Information Technology.3 A current example is Amazon Key, the company's smart door lock. This lock monitors the entrance area per camera and lets mail men with packages into the home when nobody's there. In some tests, experts already managed to trick the camera. This does not exactly inspire confidence. However, consumers should not only be worried about their stuff, but even more so about their data. When connecting smart home components, a lot of confidential data is uploaded to a cloud, like for instance when the owners are usually at home. Storing this personal data comes with the fear of hacker attacks.

The future looks bright

The fear of possible risks is offset by a large number of tempting benefits and possibilities. Especially young consumers are fascinated: About 32 % of the so-called "early adopters" stated in a survey that they found smart home concepts "very interesting". And a whole 52 % considered it at least "interesting". The foundation has been laid. Experts predict that smart homes will establish themselves in the next few years.4 One can expect that the manufacturers will minimize the security gaps in their products, alleviating the skepticism of the older crowd. And experience shows that prices will also decrease over time. According to the study "Smart Home + Building", the situation will change fundamentally in the next ten years: in particular in new buildings, smart home installations are to become part of the basic equipment to permit more security, comfort, and energy efficiency.

1 statista.com
2 statista.com
3 verbraucherzentrale.de
4 zertifizierungsprogramm-smarthome.de
5 VDE-Studie "Smart Home + Building: Plug-and-Play als Strategie zur Markterschließung"
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