US smart home device owners satisfied, but could be more engaged

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The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) latest survey indicates lingering concerns about upfront costs and data privacy of smart home devices.

The survey, Smart Home and Energy Data: What Do Consumers Want?, draws on input from 2,000 North American consumers to assess the ongoing needs and wants as smart home device ownership grows.

A little over one-third of North American homes now identify as ‘smart homes’ with the penetration rate expected to exceed 50% by 2024.

The most popular device is a smart speaker, followed by smart thermostats, smart plugs and smart lighting, and smart appliances. Moreover, multiple device ownership is common and for example among those with a smart speaker, almost half also have a smart thermostat and/or smart plugs and one-third a smart appliance.

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The survey found that almost all of the consumers with a smart speaker and/or smart thermostat, of which about three-quarters were under the age of 55 years, were either somewhat or very satisfied with their devices.

However, almost two-thirds expressed concerns over data security and privacy with electricity providers and third parties accorded a similar level of trust.

Among those without devices, who were more likely to be older, over half felt there was no need while almost half had concerns around data privacy.

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These two categories correspond broadly with those from earlier research findings who value energy efficiency or are less engaged respectively, according to the SECC, an independent energy consumer organisation.

Another finding is that from half to two-thirds of smart device owners – depending on device type – were willing to participate in demand response programmes compared with around of one-quarter of non-smart home device owners.

These smart home device owners also are likely to be interested in making adjustments in their energy consumption themselves for a financial incentive.

Recommendations

In analysing the findings the SECC offer several recommendations, of which one is that energy efficiency programmes with smart home devices should start with electricity providers and devices other than smart speakers.

The benefits of smart home devices and potential energy savings need to be communicated in a tangible way to encourage further usage and messaging needs to focus on innovation and data security to be effective. Further, data security concerns need to be addressed by giving consumers access and control over their data.

As consumers continue to invest in smart home devices and the industry continues to offer new and expanded capabilities, the opportunity to realise the benefits of these smart devices will continue to expand, says the SECC.

“Consumers may lead the way with their purchases for targeted use, but they will need help to pull these devices together for maximum ease and return on investment. There are opportunities for electricity providers, application developers and integration service providers.”