Is it time to ditch the term “Smart Home”?

I spend a lot of time talking about Smart Homes as we develop solutions to improve both user experience and security. We know broadband subscribers want these improvements, and that their broadband operators are keen to deliver them. But I’m starting to believe the phrase “smart home” might be getting in the way.

What makes a smart home smart?

Some broadband service providers are still reluctant to discuss smart home management systems. They dismiss the need for such solutions in their market: “Our subscribers don’t have smart homes”, they’ll tell me, or “consumers in my market can’t afford a connected fridge and Internet-enabled CCTV.”

But the response is quite different when I talk about solutions for “connected homes”. Suddenly, it feels relevant to their market. Because anyone with a broadband subscription has a “connected” home. And, of course, every household wants the best, most secure user experience.

Modern life, not science fiction

And here’s the problem with the term “smart home” – they are an idea that was born in science fiction, long before the technology actually existed. For many people – perhaps the majority – the term still conjures images of a Sci-Fi future where every gadget in the home is powered by artificial intelligence and the internet. It’s about robots serving coffee and fridges ordering milk by themselves because supplies are running low.

For 99.9% of broadband subscribers, this still feels like a vision of the far future, not modern life. They don’t consider their home “smart”, even if they have laptops, a wireless printer, several phones and tablets, Amazon Echo speakers and OTT streaming devices. Like the ISPs I speak to, they’re more likely to recognize such households as simply “connected”.

Yes, there are plenty of early adopters out there buying Google Nest systems to control their doorbell, lightbulbs and thermostats. They may even have a connected toothbrush or web-assisted coffee machine. But these households are still in the minority, even in the most developed countries.

What’s in a name?

But does it really matter what label consumers and broadband service providers use to describe their homes? I’d argue that it potentially impacts both security and customer satisfaction.

Aren’t consumers who shrug-off the “smart home” label also likely to ignore warnings about the security precautions needed in smart homes like changing default passwords and checking for updates? Might they be more likely to purchase cheap Wi-Fi extenders and complain about poor connectivity than to consider investing in a managed, secure solution marketed by their ISP as “smart home management”?

An inclusive name, a better user experience

I’d argue that it might be wiser for broadband service providers – and companies like ours who support them with solutions like Trusted Home – to adopt the more universal term “connected home” so we reach all broadband consumers.

Encouraging greater awareness of how to effectively manage the risks and frustrations of a connected home isn’t just good for subscribers, it’s good for business!

Ronald Peters | Product Manager, Trusted Home

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