Consumer Electronics Show

Ad Age @ CES: 5 Things We Learned About the Connected Home

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Ad Age @ CES

Greetings from CES, where the rain has broken a 116-day drought and the strippers are robots. Ad Age spent the day with leaders in tech and marketing to talk about what's next (and what's never) in the world of connected homes. Check out the full video above.

Some highlights:

1. Smart home? Not quite yet

Compared to a few years ago, our homes can do some interesting things. More people use smart devices to control lighting and temperature, our toasters can send a notification when breakfast is ready. But that's still kid stuff.

"In a lot of ways, the smart home is kind of dumb right now," says Ted Booth, user experience design director at Honeywell Connected Home. "To get really smart, that's about the data analytics, the AI, all that kind of stuff."

The systems need to get more robust and reliable, he says. And now that the novelty of some of the tech has worn off, the next area of focus will be comfort and security. Smart thermostats, for example, can help customers adjust behaviors and ultimately save them money.

2. Insurers get in on the action

Historically, insurance companies' main relationship with consumers has been reminding them to pay their bills or coming to the rescue when something bad happens. Smart homes present those companies with the opportunity to forge deeper ties with their customers, says Jennifer Kent, director of research quality & product development at Parks Associates.

"Think, for instance, about the types of damage that can occur from a fire or from water," says Kent. "There are connected sensors that can detect if there's a water leak and smart water shut-off valves. A lot of insurance providers are heavily researching whether or not providing these devices to consumers, or offering discounts, or getting them to better maintain and proactively control what goes on in the home can lower the cost for insurance providers and also provide a new way to engage with their consumers."

Credit: iStock

3. Smart cities will be a bigger topic of conversation

As the number of smart homes begins to swell, they'll need cities with the infrastructure to support them. A full 70 percent of the world's population is expected to be living in cities by 2050, according to some estimates, so governments will need to innovate around managing those populations, infrastructures and services, says Bill Holiber, CEO and president of U.S. News & World Report.

"What we're seeing is a large group of technological companies in different aspects working with local government and trying to figure out what they're going to do to serve the citizens of those cities," he says. Smart cities like Fujisawa in Japan are already tackling transportation, sewage, water treatment, carbon emissions and more in new ways.

4. Bad day? Your home is there for you

Smart devices already get lots of intimate details about the products we use and our preferences. Someday, they'll likely be able to read the context behind our requests, and offer up suggestions. If you're stressed, that could mean suggesting an order of comfort food from the restaurant around the corner, or cueing up a playlist of soothing songs.

It could also be a way—perhaps a less intrusive one—for brands to interact with consumers. "Understanding the emotional side will hold some interesting nuggets for brands to play with," says Cindy Gustafson, chief strategy officer at Mindshare North America.

5. Opting in to less privacy

Of course, sharing all those intimate details with our devices remains a spooky prospect for a lot of people. Privacy is top of mind for everyone when it comes to connected home. So how can devices get to know us without being creepy? Gustafson says consumers will buy in if they know what they're getting themselves into.

"We have seen stat after stat that says people want more personalized experiences and are willing to give over data for that," she says. "They just need to know that they're doing it."

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