Smart home redefined: What’s a smart home in 2021?

Technical nomenclature is more important than you might think. The faster a burgeoning industry adopts standardized definitions of key aspects, the easier it becomes to accurately gauge both growth and pain points that need addressing.

One of the central challenges in the smart home industry derives from basic definitions for smart home devices and “smart homes” in general. When you look at data on adoption, purchase intent, or forecasted growth, the working definitions of these categories play a huge role in the results. If you don’t know the definitions in play, comparing data from one source to another is impossible.

Here are some important questions for defining the smart home today:

  • Do consumers understand what kind of devices researchers are asking about compared with other models? Electronic door locks, for instance, often get confused with internet-connected smart door locks. Merely describing them as “internet-connected” is not enough.
  • What’s in and what’s out? Home automaton purists only include devices like smart lights, locks, and thermostats, whereas some smart home data is so inclusive it encompasses smart TVs, streaming media devices, and smart speakers. Sometimes smartwatches and smartphones are included. In extreme models, almost every home is a smart home.  
  • Smart speakers also present a conundrum – do they get included as smart home devices? Consumers certainly think they are, but some research considers them merely a user interface.
    • According to Interpret’s Smart Home Matrix™ research, smart home control is in the top three use cases for 30% of smart speaker owners who fall into the firm’s Collector, Connector and Conductor segments. Smart speakers are integral to their smart home system.  With expanding RF support, edge AI, and thousands of cloud integrations, smart speakers are doing more than just passing along a control command.
  • Do you only include devices that can be controlled remotely from outside the home via the internet or do you include devices that can be controlled wirelessly inside the home and supported by an app via Bluetooth or other near-field protocol?
  • Finally, how many device types make a smart home? Just one? Back in 2016, Coldwell Banker established a standard requiring that a home could only be marketed as a smart home if it had at least three distinct device types or systems. Similarly, Interpret has found that when consumers think of a smart home or smart apartment, they expect a lot of technology, not just a little.

“These questions are some of the many that guide the way we’re thinking about smart home research today,” said Brad Russell, Interpret VP. “We’re striving to be smarter about smart home to deliver the most accurate and helpful data to the industry.”