Even with the biggest names of tech working on the so-called smart home, the odds aren’t in favour of smart devices taking over everything we do any time soon.
It’s one thing to get someone to buy a smartphone or smartwatch, but the benefits of a smart door lock, light bulb, or refrigerator are too vague to rally significant interest outside of geeks and hobbyists.
But if you take the long view, the concept of a smart home isn’t that strange, and could bring a lot of unforeseen benefits beyond just dimming your lights with your smartphone.
Last fall, Samsung bought a relatively small startup called SmartThings. SmartThings began as a project on Kickstarter that promised to help you control everyday objects in your home from your smartphone. SmartThings makes a router-like hub that can talk to all the connected devices in your home and control them through an app.
Since acquiring SmartThings, Samsung made a big promise in January to connect all its products from TVs to air purifiers to the SmartThings platform. It was a bold statement, and left a lot of people asking, “Why do I need that?”
However, the vision is more nuanced than that. The expectation isn’t that everyone is going to suddenly replace all their appliances with smarter versions or upgrade their toasters every two years. SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson told Business Insider in a recent interview that people will start slowly by buying smart appliances and other gadgets as they need them.
After that, the real benefits start to take shape. Hawkinson said that connected homes and connecting other normal gizmos to the internet have a few immediate perks:
- You can save money. Some insurance companies are toying with the idea of giving customers discounts if they have things like smart smoke detectors and flood sensors in their homes. You can also buy a web-connected security camera and monitor your home for much cheaper than other professional systems.
- It could save lives. Health monitors can detect potential problems before it’s too late. Doctors and family members could also monitor the elderly and eliminate the need to send them to a nursing facility or hire live-in help.
- It could save energy and have a real impact of global warming. Having devices that intelligently know to turn off or go into low-power mode when you’re not using them could reduce the amount of energy we use. And with enough smart home adoption, it could help reduce carbon emissions and potentially undo some of the damage we’ve done to the environment.
So the change may not be as rapid and fundamental as it was when everyone started adopting smartphones over the last few years, but the benefits could be drastic.