Smart Home Revisited
more homes are linking up to computers and the Internet, marketers are
looking to exploit new technologies. Through the Loop has previously
looked at how "Consumer Fusion" was creating new opportunities
for manufacturers, retailers and service suppliers.
particularly interesting element that results from this fusion is the
increasing blur between home and office. This environment forms one
aspect of what we call The Smart Home.
one level, The Smart Home has been discussed for many years with much of
the coverage concentrating on the area of energy savings. More recently,
the development of technology is allowing new concepts, products and
services to become part of this evolution.
believe that the Smart Home has implications for leisure, media usage,
shopping and working from home as well as in other areas. For this
reason, its development will impact on many areas of business and
marketing. Its evolution will have as profound an effect on consumers'
lifestyles as other devices that are now commonplace such as the video
recorder or microwave oven.
Smart Home will offer new opportunities for marketers, not just those
that are developing home networking products or network-ready appliances
but other companies such as retailers, delivery services, media
companies as well as companies that are looking for more flexible ways
of managing their workforce. In addition companies involved in the
leisure business will discover new opportunities for developing
home-based leisure activities.
Fabric of the Home
the core of The Smart Home is the development of home networks. These
are a logical step following the move of the personal computer into the
home and the rise in networking through Local Area Networks (LANs) in
workplaces and the Internet.
the idea of this may not be especially new, the availability of
equipment at the right price and the right level of complexity, i.e. not
requiring a computer genius to use, will change this. Systems may not
use dedicated cabling but can use existing telephone or electrical
wiring or wireless systems.
We can expect to see new homes sold "network ready" allowing
multiple PCs, telephones or fax machines to use the same infrastructure.
As the development of workplace networking becomes more standard,
companies in the sector will look to the home as the next major
has already established a dedicated division to work in this area. Intel
has also recently announced that it will launch networking products for
the home. These include items that allow a home to have multiple
Internet access, play multi-user games and share printers.
and 3Com announced a joint venture in March to develop home networking
products to be launched towards the end of the year. These are intended
to allow shared Internet access and peripherals with future developments
said to include wireless data transmission and connectivity over home
3Com had already established its home networking division as a response
to the growth of US households with multiple PC ownership. Microsoft is
said to be working on shared home applications such as family messaging,
distance learning and home audio-on-demand. Other companies that are
believed to be developing in the home market include Sun Microsystems,
IBM and Philips.
there will be more opportunity, initially at least, in affluent
households or those where there is significant home working. The home
network replaces the multiple telephone lines required for telephone
(home and office), fax and computer network. In an era of multiple PC
ownership at home, there will be the same requirement for shared devices
such as printers or storage devices that have made the LAN so successful
in the office environment.
Intelligent Fridge To Intelligent Dustbin
the Smart Home will be more than just a smaller version of the office
LAN. Increasingly, more and more home appliances will be sold as
"Network-Ready." This means that they will work within the
home network and will be able to communicate over the home LAN and even
further. This could allow automatic replenishment of groceries once the
fridge is almost empty or updated programs to be downloaded direct to
the microwave. The advent of digital TV is a vital part of this
development and will allow consumers to enjoy new types of leisure or
and ICL have already announced the development of the Screen-Fridge
where a screen and bar code scanner are built into the top door. This
simplifies grocery ordering as the fridge can be programmed to send
orders direct to a retailer when the consumer wishes to reorder a
product. The device also allows communication to the consumer so that
marketers will have direct access to individual consumers. It may become
more viable for food manufacturers or retailers as the message will be
delivered to a more appropriate device, in terms of position, than a
television. The Screen-Fridge is due to be test-marketed in the UK
towards the end of 1999.
Knowledge Lab in London has invented the "Intelligent
Dustbin." This recognises packages that have been thrown away,
through an embedded chip in the package, to enable automatic
replenishment. The dustbin can then place an order electronically for
delivery direct to the home. But will the dustbin actually recycle the
the end of 1998, BSkyB, the satellite TV channel controlled by News
Corporation announced a deal with one of the UK's major housebuilders to
install digital satellite dishes into 5,000 new homes during the current
year. This is a further step towards the smart home and results from the
unpopularity of satellite dishes amongst many consumers who deem them
unsightly. This is additional to the standard terrestrial TV aerial
installed in the home. Installation of the dish at building stage allows
it to be placed somewhere that is not intrusive.
Smart Home is clearly the next step forward for electronics in the home.
However, its success depends on clear communication of the benefits,
affordability and usability. It is likely to be adopted first in
multi-PC homes or built into the construction of more upmarket new
is not the issue. It is about the enabling of consumers through smart
devices and the networked home. The technology itself becomes invisible,
built into the fabric of the home or the devices inside it. The entire
home becomes "plug and play."
relationship with technology has been at the heart of much behavioural
change recently, for example in changing shopping habits, working
routines or media consumption. The Smart Home will transform existing
behavioural patterns with wide-ranging consequences for marketers.
this means is that there are implications across different areas of
The integration of "smart" devices may have an impact on
cooking and eating habits in the same way as the introduction of the
freezer and microwave oven. The convenience level rises even further.
The chore side of cooking and shopping is further minimised with the
automatic replenishment of staple items. Result: more free time, less
stress and less pollution from driving to the superstore.
the area of entertainment and leisure we have already witnessed a move
towards the multi-TV household and there is now a move towards multi-PC.
The Smart Home takes this further, enabling devices to be linked.
Technology becomes more individual than previously. We cease talking
about personal TVs but each member of the family has his or her own
media choices. Forget arguing over which channel to watch. Result: less
stress again but what happen to conversation and family life?
implications does this have for advertisers? Media fragmentation will
increase further but this will be an advantage for advertisers not a
handicap. It will enable messages not to be targeted at smaller groups
but to be directed to individuals in the family. The issue of privacy
arises here. Alternatively, will TV move from advertiser-funded to
subscription or pay-per-view? Result: will there be a division between
rich and poor according to who can pay for subscription services, i.e.
advertising-free, and who requires advertiser-funded services.
the area of services there are further opportunities. The nature of TV
programming will change, even if we still refer to the devices as TVs.
The multi-channel TV service is already here but how will programmers be
able to utilise the capacity and interactivity offered by digital TV?
Edutainment, the combination of entertainment and education, is one
possible growth area as is the possibility for viewers to become more
involved in TV shows, voting in debates, taking part in game shows, etc.
Alternatively, to what extent are consumers looking for dialogue?
Result: will they immerse themselves in interactivity or will they
prefer to remain passive viewers as previously?