Consumers Beginning to Embrace Smart-Home Technology”Even If They Don’t Know It Yet

From wireless speakers to automated vacuum cleaners, advanced "smart" devices are becoming increasingly common in the homes of Americans, aiming to make life simpler for all. However, language counts for a great deal when it comes to consumer attitudes and familiarity; nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans say they don't know much about smart-home technology, while Nielsen's Connected Life Report—a bi-annual study of consumer needs, preferences, attitudes, and behaviors around new and emerging technologies related to connected cars, homes, and wearables—finds that just over half of household decision makers (53 percent) say they know what connected home technology does.

This confusion may, however, be rooted in category headings more than in specific products. When asked generically about smart-home technology, just 7 percent of Americans say they own such a device; however, when presented more specifically with a list of devices from the smart-home category, 34 percent of Americans—nearly five times as many—indicate they already have at least one in their home. This disconnect signals a need for consumer engagement and education in this budding industry.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,225 adults surveyed online between May 20 and 26, 2015. Full results of the study, including data tables, can be found here.

Self-described early adopters are more likely than their counterparts to have one or more devices in their homes (59 percent vs. 37 percent mid-adopters and 20 percent late adopters).

The most popular devices currently owned are wireless speaker systems (17 percent), smart thermostats (11 percent), and smart/wireless home security and monitoring systems (9 percent), with many of the same devices making repeat appearances atop the list of devices Americans would consider for future purchases: smart thermostats (40 percent), smart lighting (37 percent), wireless speaker systems (35 percent) and smart/wireless home security and monitoring systems (35 percent).

Consumers appear hesitant to purchase certain devices despite respectable awareness levels, indicating there may be ample room to better communicate the benefits of these devices. Nearly half (48 percent) say they've heard of smart-home security systems and don't want one, while nearly six in ten (58 percent) say the same about domestic robots and 46 percent say the same for smart/connected refrigerators.

On the other hand, for several devices, the largest barrier appears to be awareness itself. Over half (51 percent) have never heard of water detectors that connect to Wi-Fi and 42 percent say the same for smart/connected laundry machines.

With 88 percent of Americans believing these devices are too expensive, it should come as no surprise that, when probed on potential "tipping points" when they will be likely to consider purchasing such technology, the highest percentage by a wide margin (37 percent) say they will consider purchasing smart-home technology when it drops to a price they think is reasonable. Another 9 percent will wait until the "bugs" have been worked out and 12 percent will never consider buying smart home technology.

Matures and Baby Boomers are more likely to say they'll never consider buying smart-home technology compared to their younger counterparts (20 percent Matures and 17 percent Baby Boomers vs. 10 percent Gen Xers & 6 percent Millennials).

Notably, two in 10 (21 percent) Americans are not sure at what point they would consider purchasing this kind of technology—further signaling confusion in this still-new market segment.

Potential Perks

A majority of Americans believe there are perks for homeowners in smart-home technology, with over six in ten (61 percent) saying household devices that can connect to the Internet are good for homeowners.

Vast majorities of adults feel it's important that smart-home technology saves money (91 percent), conserves energy (90 percent), helps keep them and/or their family safe (89 percent), and protects property from theft/vandalism (88 percent).

However, far fewer Americans believe the technology currently offers these benefits. Just half (50 percent) believe the technology currently helps save money, while six in ten or fewer say smart home technology currently conserves energy (59 percent), helps keep them and/or their family safe (55 percent), and protects property from theft/vandalism (57 percent).

Three quarters of Americans also feel it is important that this technology save them time (78 percent) and offer the ability to adjust to their preferences and behaviors (74 percent), while just 42 percent each say the technology currently offers these benefits. Americans are nearly split on whether it's important that the technology enable them to better care for pets (55 percent important vs. 45 percent not important) and reducing the likelihood of running out of household products (53 percent important vs. 47 percent not important), which is good considering less than two in ten feel the technology offers these benefits (17 percent and 18 percent, respectively).

Among pet owners, 71 percent feel it's important that smart-home technology enable them to better care for their furry, scaly or feathery friends while only 22 percent believe the technology currently offers this benefit.

Regardless of the status of these current and potential benefits, many Americans believe smart-home technology will start to have an impact on them within the next five years. Over half (51 percent) say smart-home technology will improve their quality of life within the next five years and 43 percent say it will have a big impact on how they manage their home within the next five years. Education efforts focused on more clearly communicating and demonstrating the benefits of these devices may help to drive further consumer excitement.

Remaining Questions and Concerns

While it may be clear what the expected and perceived benefits are, with 78 percent of Americans saying they expect newly built homes to include smart-home technology within the next five years, it's no surprise that some concerns still remain. Seven in ten Americans believe smart-home technology makes it easier to steal personal information/data (71 percent) and wonder whether smart-home devices will perform basic functions as well as their traditional counterparts do (70 percent).

Despite the concerns and questions that exist, most Americans clearly believe this technology is on its way and here to stay, with less than three in ten (27 percent) doubting that smart technology will catch on.

To see other recent Harris Polls, visit TheHarrisPoll.com.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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