Report: Five Smart, Connected Home Trends to Watch in 2014

Here's a peek at TV everywhere, connecting all our mobile and land devices, and the push to raise the IQ of the 'smart house.'

via Google TV We'll see more of this: People connecting to the Internet through a smart TV, a game console, a streaming media player such as Apple TV, Roku, or a Blu-Ray player. Google TV is but one of the fastest moving trends in the space.

FrontDoor had a (virtual) front row seat at the year-end presentation “Content, Connected CE and the Smart Home 2014 Trends” by Parks Associates, a leader in consumer technology research. Take a look at the highlights:

1. Smart Home Adoption

“Something we’re really going to watch for next year is smart home adoption,” said John Barrett, director of consumer analytics at Parks Associates. “A lot of consumers out there are interested in getting these types of systems and services for their home.” The big players are camped out in this space: Comcast and AT &T had early footing. But are the equivalents of telecom big box stores enough incentive for lagging consumers to fork over the money and make the switch to “smart”? “I think what the market is really waiting for is getting the right mix of features and prices to drive adoption,” Barrett said. 

The takeaway: The “smart home” is becoming part of the mainstream. If you’re in the market to buy or sell, keep in mind smart tech will probably become a common and expected feature. 

2. Home Automation and Home Control Networks

Home automation is the hot area right now, especially in interactive, home-controlled security, said Tom Kerber, Parks Associates director of research in the home controls and energy area. What’s the number one obstacle? Lack of consumer awareness. But that’s about to change. Lowes and Staples offer connected home systems, and although it's been a bit hush-hush, several name-brand retailers have packages ready to launch over the next few months.  

“You have these connected products: thermostat vendors, like Nest, and these garage doors and ceiling fan and appliance [companies] all entering the home at the same time as these connected home systems,” said Kerber. His concern? How are these products going to work together? What if you want the fridge and the radio on separate controls? “You have all these different home control networks, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Z-Wave,” he said, but what should you use as a central control? They’re all in the home but there’s not a clear winner here. Yet.

The takeaway: More choices in home security and automation packages you can buy direct at retail stores. 

3. Connected CE Devices

Within the last two years, connected TV rates have more than doubled. “As of [2013], more than 60 percent of U.S. broadband households have at least one TV connected to the Internet,” reported Barbara Kraus, director of research on connected CE.  Watch disruption here, she said: Google Chromcast, which entered at a cheap $35 price point, is continuing to add content. (Content, still, is king.) Amazon, who’s become a tech Goliath, is developing a Kindle TV with original programming.  And Microsoft is not out: they’re prepping original shows targeted to gamers. “They want to own the living room,” said Kraus. 

The takeaway: Interface, content and price are the three biggies. Expect a rush of new shows launching and competing for your living room clicks.

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