IoT Reality: Smart Homes Not Smart Enough Yet

IoT Reality: Smart Homes Not Smart Enough Yet

The Internet of Things needs standardization and easier programming options. Until then, the promise of IoT for consumers remains unfulfilled.

The Internet of Things is the most exciting thing to happen in the technology industry since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. At the same time, it remains challenging.

The iPhone demonstrated the utility of having a connected computer available at all times and provided proof of the utility of cloud services at a time when on-premises computing was still the norm.

The Internet of Things promises similar benefits by adding computational power and sensing capabilities to previously non-communicative objects.

But that promise isn’t yet convincing, at least as far as consumers are concerned. Last June, Icontrol Networks, which offers white label IoT gateway and device management software to connected home service providers like Comcast and Time Warner, published its 2015 State of the Smart Home Report based on a survey of 1,600 consumers from the US and Canada. Icontrol found that about a third of respondents said they intended to purchase a connected home device in the next year.

In a phone interview, Corey Gates, CTO of Icontrol Networks and IEEE member, said smart home adoption has moved beyond early adopters, but he noted that home security remains the dominant application by far. “Peace of mind as the value proposition is the No. 1 thing people will spend money on,” he said.

The easiest path to a smart home, Gates said, leads to service providers like Comcast that offer professional installation. DIY device installation, networking, and programming is the more affordable option, but that approach can be rough.

My own experience with Scout Alarm and Nest devices offers an example of the some of the pitfalls and the benefits.

After years as an AT&T and ADT customer, I was fed up with high fees and went wireless over the holidays. I was paying about $50 per month for a landline I had maintained for my alarm system and about $30 per month for alarm monitoring. I cancelled my ADT and AT&T accounts in order to switch to a self-installed Scout Alarm system and Ooma VoIP calling. (I considered Piper, a competing alarm service run by Icontrol Networks, but went with Scout because Piper’s focus on security through video and motion sensing seemed ill-suited to a household with pets. Piper says its system can be tuned for pets.)

Scout Alarm was easy to install and comes with a well-designed app. It’s mostly a pleasure to use, and it’s more affordable than legacy systems. But its hardware isn’t very flexible.