Why the high-tech smart home is still years away

Research shows that only a tiny proportion of British consumers have bought into the ‘internet of things’ phenomenon

The high-tech vision of the “smart home” is years away from reality, according to figures showing that British consumers are reluctant to splash out on the technology.

Samsung, Google and Philips are among the technology groups investing heavily in the “internet of things” (IoT) – everyday items such as security cameras and thermostats that can connect to the internet to offer new functions.

Advocates of the IoT claim that it will make our lives better and more efficient. For example, a connected thermostat can detect whether people are in a home and adjust the temperature accordingly to save energy, or be remotely switched on and off from a smartphone.

However, only a tiny minority of consumers have invested in the technology, partly due to its high cost, according to Deloitte’s annual Mobile Consumer Survey, which will be released this week. Just 3pc of British households have invested in internet-connected security systems, 2pc in smart home appliances such as fridges or washing machines, and 2pc in smart thermostats.

“The current status is that most of our things right now are not connected, and it may be the case that some of the [connected devices] will remain relatively niche,” said Deloitte’s head of technology, media and telecoms research, Paul Lee.

The figures come amid heavy investment in smart home devices from technology companies. Last year, Google paid $3.2bn (£2.1bn) to acquire Nest, a company founded by former Apple executive Tony Fadell that makes connected thermostats, smoke alarms and security cameras.

Korean giant Samsung last week unveiled a new range of smart home devices, and pledged that within five years, every product it creates will be able to connect to the internet. Apple has also developed software that links smart devices with its iPhone.

Mr Lee said the prohibitive cost of smart devices was one factor putting consumers off, but said the dominance of the smartphone is sending the price of components such as Wi-Fi chips and cameras down, which is likely to have a knock-on effect on smart devices.

Consumers are more likely to adopt smart home technology when it becomes a standard feature in home appliances. Internet-connected smart television sets, for example, had a slow start but are now in one in four households since many TV manufacturers include the technology by default in their high-end sets.

Internet-connected entertainment devices, for example wireless speakers and devices that connect to a television to stream video, have been somewhat more successful.

Deloitte’s research found that 9pc of households use internet-connected wireless speakers and 8pc own devices that connect to a television to stream internet video.

Apple is expected to give a major boost to the latter category when it unveils a new version of its Apple TV set-top box later this week.

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