What people want from a smart home

Previously we focused our poll discussions on robots that will enter our domestic environment. But what if the environment that surrounds is itself becoming robotic? In our latest poll, we looked at the topic of smart homes.

Giants such as Apple and Google have already invested in this technology. First, Google recently bought Nest Labs, a smart thermostats company. Nest Labs’ Nest Learning Thermostat is a smart home climate system that can be controlled remotely with an app, and Nest Protect is a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector that talks to you.

Then Dropcam — a company that produces closed-circuit home security cameras that can be operated remotely through a Wi-Fi connection – joined Google’s smart home technology family tree.

Now the Mountain View company is working on putting together the Dropcam and Nest Labs products in one — the smart thermostat’s sensors could be used to turn on motion sensors on the Dropcam when a user leaves home, and Dropcam will start recording if Nest Protect detects a fire or high levels of carbon monoxide.

Instead of acquiring companies, Apple has taken on a slightly different approach. Starting from scratch, Apple developed HomeKit, a suite of tools for controlling devices in your home such as thermostats, furnaces, air conditioners, lights, cameras, garage-door openers, and security systems.

There are also many startups working on various devices to make your home smart. Take Peep, for example, which is a camera system that snaps and sends a picture to you when someone knocks on your door.

With so many smart home devices coming onto the market, what are the main features that customers would open their wallets for?

Smart home optimization
Smart home optimization

We first asked our readers “If your smart home were to optimize your devices for one of the following, which one would you choose?”

Despite the energy savings and environmental friendliness that has often been associated with smart home technologies, the most popular answer from our readers was that they want the home to optimize for their comfort level and personal preference (45%). Security/Safety and Energy Savings tied in second place (18%).

Note that the three most voted choices have direct advantages for the user, as opposed to Environmental Friendliness, which is primarily a societal benefit.

We were also curious about what kind of smart devices are the most attractive for people. So we also asked our readers which smart devices people would prefer to have at home if they could choose only one.

Smart home control
Smart home control

The answers were all over the map. But the first and second most voted answers were room-temperature and lighting control. Perhaps people are already familiar with the idea of smart control of these functions, having already seen them work (e.g., in the Nest Learning thermostat). Or it could also be that the industry has discovered this market need and has targeted their products well.

Thermostats aside, smart lighting is undoubtedly here, thanks to companies like Philips and General Electric. General Electric, in particular, entered smart lighting market with the introduction of GE Link, a smart LED bulb that consumers can remotely control from anywhere in the world and sync with other connected devices.

Smart lighting is also entering the crowd-funding project scene as well. For example, Avi-On is a project that proposes to develop an affordable Bluetooth-based system consisting of a mobile app, a light bulb, and a capacitive-touch light switch.

Most of smart devices available today can be controlled and synchronized with your smart phone or your tablet, using frameworks such as Apple’s HomeKit or other. But we figured that one of the obvious extensions of home robots would be that it will act as the master control of your home’s smart devices.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a robot that does its own thing – perhaps vacuuming, or perhaps just being social – but that also smartly controls your home? In general, our readers seem to be open to having a robot that does the smart controlling (39%), as well as being able to use more recent technologies of using voice and gestures to command the system (32%).

When Jibo and Pepper ship out next year, maybe they should come with smart home apps.

Smart home interface
Smart home interface

The results of the poll presented in this post have been analyzed and written by Camilla Bassani, AJung Moon, Mike Van der Loos, Shalaleh Rismani, Joost Hilte, and Julio Vazquez at the Open Roboethics initiative.

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What people want from a smart home