Meet the Somewhat Connected Home


Here comes the smart, connected home, again. That device-packed connected home promises to provide buckets of data to help residents' live better while feeding barrels of device data to business analytics teams that they can identify new and improved services and products for home owners.

So, what is a connected home?

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

McKinsey, which has released a report called The promise of the connected home, defines it as a home with at least one connected device. Think washers, dryers, thermostats, security systems, and smart smoke detectors. At least one!

"One" is not a crowd, except maybe in the six or so phone booths still in operation across the 50 states. I'm sure that "one" device wouldn't make a home "smart" or "connected" in the view of the average person.

The McKinsey report said, "In the span of a few short years, millions of Americans have brought connected devices into their homes, and the connected-home industry is poised for a new wave of growth...[The connected home] accounts for about 22 percent of US households, and that rate is growing at a CAGR of about 30 percent a year."

At least that 30% estimate is more modest than a lofty number that came out last year. BI Intelligence and Business Insider pegged the rate at 64% CAGR for the years between 2014 and 2019. Graph that and you'll see a ski slope.

Of course, that research also used the minimal one-device standard.

I have a tough time thinking of a home as smart or connected if it only has a NEST thermostat or a web-enabled nanny cam. Connected should imply that there are multiple systems -- working together where feasible -- to make life better, safer, and more affordable.

In that case, I would expect the NEST to be working in conjunction with an energy-efficient heating/cooling system, feeding power usage information out to the utility company, or one that allows you to control temperature levels and view alerts from anywhere. A security system is truly connected if it alerts you and the police/fire department, and perhaps takes action such as turning on spotlights and video cameras that provide evidence through live feeds.

In addition, those varied systems should provide you not just with data but with recommendations to help you run your home better.

But let's not over-estimate the speed with which the average American home owner is going to implement any such systems. There's a market reality called money.

The many devices required to make a home smart might be easy to fit into a budget for new construction and major renovation projects. The price for such an upgrade in systems is much more tolerable when you don't have to pay the high labor costs associated with a retrofit.

For that existing home, thousands of dollars for sensors, controllers, and connectivity -- plus labor -- is tough to justify when you still have to budget for food and growing kids' shoes. You don't run out to replace products designed to last 10, 20, or more years -- laundry appliances, refrigerators, stoves, heating systems -- in the hope that they might pay for themselves in four or five years. Few of us have the pocket change to replace them ahead of schedule.

The smart, data-driven home will come along eventually, but it will be on a piecemeal basis. Those pieces might be a somewhat smarter heating system this year, if really needed, a connected washing machine when the current one starts to go clunk-thunk during the spin cycle. To think we will dramatically upgrade our housing stock in two, three, or four years is dreaming. Maybe the prognosticators simply have been watching too many Jetsons reruns.

How connected is your residence today? What intelligence will it gain in the next two years?

James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

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Re: The disconnected home
  • 9/5/2016 2:29:40 PM
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@Terry I look forward to a day when I can commute to my own home office or a nearby coffee shop. I like some aspects of office work, but there are many I prefer to avoid. :)

Re: The disconnected home
  • 9/2/2016 6:52:18 PM
NO RATINGS

Dummy thermostats... best $ saving device ever.

I beleive I also read that most "walk" buttons attached to traffic signals aren't attached to anything either, but do give pedestrians something to do until the light changes. And I suppose it keeps them from trying to cross against the light.

Re: The disconnected home
  • 9/2/2016 6:50:04 PM
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tinym, you're reminding me why I don't miss going to an office. All those complaints about too hot, "I'm in a draft," or waiting for maintenance to work their magic.

I will say even now in summer when I'm camped out at Starbucks on a deadline, I always wear long pants and bring a sweatshirt because they keep their stores chillier than cold-brewed coffee. I recently heard a Starbucks manager say the stores are kept cold because some machines behind the counter run so hot and they don't want them to overheat.

<insert highly dubious look here>

Re: The disconnected home
  • 9/2/2016 6:13:44 PM
NO RATINGS

..

Jim writes


That's the first I've heard about the idea that Dressdown Friday migrating to every day could be tied to savings on the HVAC costs. Over the years, I've worked in organizations where the dress code was anywhere from strictly business (suits or sport coats for men and dresses/skirts for women) to extreme casual.

I think dress code is really based on the company's mentality. 


 

It was pure speculation on my part, and could indeed by an example of falsely inferring causation. Yeah, company mentality does vary, maybe more so with the influx of Millennials. (Maybe more false causation there?)

 

Re: The disconnected home
  • 9/2/2016 11:00:30 AM
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@Lyndon. That's the first I've heard about the idea that Dressdown Friday migrating to every day could be tied to savings on the HVAC costs. Over the years, I've worked in organizations where the dress code was anywhere from strictly business (suits or sport coats for men and dresses/skirts for women) to extreme casual.

I think dress code is really based on the company's mentality. In one company the attitude was "just do your job" (along with being ready for constant change). They did expect at least business casual in meetings with outsiders. In that firm the only time I heard of the HR director getting involved in dress code was telling one guy, "The tee shirt and shorts are fine in the office but you have to wear shoes." They she told a few of the younger women they really should wear bras on company outings because "the sales guys are pigs."

Any type of change was much more difficult in another company. The dress code was button down, and so was the whole corporate attitude. Structure pre-empted work. It took lots of teeth gnashing and many emails to define the host of rules that accompanied the allowance of jeans on Fridays. I think they had more rules about that one move (so many that I stuck with biz casual and refused to wear jeans) than the previous company had rules for the business at large.

I never heard HVAC as a factor in any of these policies. The companies that only care that you "do your damn job" don't believe that clothes make the man or woman. The blue suit, white shirt wearing CEOs of the 1960s and 70s IBMs and Prudentials must be turning in their graves looking down at today's workplace. Yet, work still gets done.

Re: The disconnected home
  • 9/2/2016 8:07:03 AM
NO RATINGS

That slowness in temperature change explains a bit about how they can use the dummy thermostats.  Make the response so slow that you are not tempted to call for repair - you just assume the slow response is for any thermostat and not notice the dummy ones.  Clever. 

Re: The disconnected home
  • 9/1/2016 11:01:23 PM
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..

Jim writes


The office HVAC systems have been a nightmare for decades. Even as they have added more zone controls they just can't handle the cubicle concept or respond to the variance between even adjoining offices.


 

I think I'm noticing an effect of offices raising the interior temperature to save money and "go with green" (double meaning there I guess...)

I seem to be noticing that typical office dress is changing. More and more offices seem to be adopting "dress-down Friday" for every day in the workweek ...

 

Re: Still waiting for Rosie!!
  • 9/1/2016 8:46:54 AM
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@Maryam. There is a data-driven method for determining when it is time to buy more laundry detergent. However, it's highly complex and utilizes IoT style concepts. The eye focuses on the plastic detergent jug and alerts the brain, which determines that, yes, it is the detergent bottle. The brain tells the hand to pick it up. When the hand picks it up, it senses the weight of the jug and relays that information to the brain. The brain then evaluates whether you need more detergent, based on previous customer activity and the relative weight of the jug. If the appropriate weight threshold is reached, the hand is then instructed to pick up a writing implement called a pen and add "laundry detergent" to a piece of paper known as a list.

It's a fabulous system.

Re: Still waiting for Rosie!!
  • 8/31/2016 10:50:26 PM
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Jim I love the improvised version as well, now thats truly smart! The other items I see like smart regfrigerators and butttons on washing machines to track detergent usage seem just useless to me. I find the idea of managing them more cumbersome than their value.

Re: The disconnected home
  • 8/31/2016 10:21:53 PM
NO RATINGS

 I have to say my old fashion digital thermostat that turns down the temperature at off times is still my best friend. It saves energy keeps us comfortable when we are home and saves energy when we are not at home! I have heard too many horror stories about smart thermostats that freeze pipes and cause other secondary problems for me to try them right now.

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