Home automation might sound like something out of science fiction, but the reality is far less complex than some might think. Some people might be understandably hesitant to start automating their homes, but many times this reluctance is based on misconception.
The first step to overcoming these hesitations is to separate the myth from reality – replacing science fiction with fact so consumers can make informed and rational decisions. Once the layers of myth are pulled away, a smart choice about smart homes is much easier to make.
Some common reservations about smart home technology are listed below. In the article that follows, each of these consumer concerns shall be addressed.
- It’s too expensive
- It’s not worth it
- It’s too complicated
- Too much pressure
- Not enough variety
- All style, no substance
- Huge savings
1) It’s too expensive
One of the first thoughts many people have about home automation is, of course, the price point. Movies, television, and generalized pop culture osmosis have generated an idea in many minds that having a smart home is only for the wealthiest consumers, and that the barrier to entry is far too high for the average family.
This is also one of the easiest preconceived notions about home automation to move past, because it is provably false.
The first thing to understand is that there is no need to purchase every automation item in a single stroke: to get started, you only need to purchase a home hub – some of which can cost less than $100 USD, like the Samsung SmartThings Hub v3 – and which connect to and control any other smart home appliances you want to add. With this foundation in place, you can simply integrate more devices at your leisure or when funds become available, steadily building up to more automation at a pace that fits your life.
Adding other items like a Google Home speaker will further the process a bit more at a time, while also keeping the prices low and helping you get comfortable as you customize your home automation to your needs and desires.
As users begin using these tools, they can more accurately gauge what they need and want in terms of automation, meaning they won’t spend money without a cause. Starting small keeps the cost down, but also helps make for the best personal fit.
2) It’s not worth it
Though the price point barrier is lower than some might think, home automation is still an investment. And, as with any investment, one will want to maximize their returns.
The first way to look at it is the time investment – it takes time to connect and set up automation, with some sources saying it can take as long as two to three weeks for a complete smart home setup. But the amount of time automating one’s home can save in the long run will usually outweigh this fairly quickly. An estimate from Alarm dot Com says a smart home can save the average consumer up to 30 minutes per day. While that may not seem like a lot initially, that adds up to 182.5 hours per year: over one full week. This means in just two years, the average smart home will have saved more time than it cost to have it installed, especially when one considers that no consumers would be having a team working around the clock to install their smart home equipment.
The next way to look at the investment is monetarily, though this one is a bit more simple. Smart home automation can raise the value of a property up to 5% according to consumer reports: far beyond the money spent on integrating it in the first place, so it can easily yield great value to the consumers. This increased equity means that the consumer’s smart home devices have in essence paid for themselves.
With these things in mind, the ROI on smart homes is much greater than it might appear at a glance.
Popular media has seen a recent increase in shows like “Mister Robot” and “Black Mirror”: both of them intense story-driven narratives that leave lasting impressions on audiences by generating effective fear from the worst-case scenarios when it comes to technology. This has led to several concerns about hacking and a lack of privacy when it comes to integrated devices like smart homes
The important thing to remember is that, while these shows are created by brilliant writers who take some inspiration from real life, they do a great deal of sensationalizing. After all, a good story needs drama to keep viewers hooked.
In actuality, the odds of a home automation system being quickly hacked like one might see on television are very low, in no small part because of the protective measures software manufacturers take. It doesn’t take creative genius to know people who feel secure with a product are more likely to use it, so there are engineers working around the clock to make smart home technology as difficult to hijack as humanly possible
All that being said, there are steps one can take to minimize the threat of privacy breaches that much further. AT&T, partners with ADT Security, have done extensive research into the safety of smart homes, and what simple steps people can take to make their integrated household that much more secure.
Part of customizing a smart home is comfort as well as ease. If a product makes one nervous, it is completely alright and rational to leave it out of their personal automation plans.
4) It’s too complicated
One of the best things about modern technology is a drive towards being as user-friendly and intuitive as possible. The days of needing an IT degree just to run smart homes are long since past, as companies have realized the importance of accessibility to making the process fun and easy for the consumer.
The average smart phone can connect to any automation hub with the simple installation of an app, making for quick control capability as close as the device most people carry around all day anyway. And since the standard user of a smart phone connects their device to their at-home WiFi, once the hub device is on that same wireless network it will be easy for you phone to find it, connect to it, and start letting you control all the devices that hub connects to as well.
The highest difficulty one might encounter is the set-up of something like a smart thermostat, as that does require the device being wired into the existing thermostat setup you have. Fortunately, that can usually be done by any professional electrician for only the price of labor, since the thermostat itself is something the consumer purchases separately
Last but certainly not least, remember that not all systems are alike. A simple Google search will show the top-rated smart home devices, usually ranked by ease of use among other things. A little bit of research will go a very long way!
5) Too much pressure
Home automation can make life simpler for some, but there should be no pressure to jump on the bandwagon right away. Remember: not everything is for everyone, so do not feel like some desperate need exists to lunge forward.
Those who rent their homes might not be able to make some of the larger changes, like installing certain hard-wired devices, without approval from their landlord. What’s more, it makes little sense to make such a lasting decision unless one plans to be in the same place for a very long time.
This, again, is where starting small can be one of the largest advantages. The simpler the starting point, the more room there is to branch out and grow to fit the way and place the consumer lives. Full automation might not be the right move right now for every individual and family, so building up from bare bones means there can be as much or as little home automation as desired.
6) Not enough variety
Two of the largest names in the home automation world are also two of the world’s largest businesses in general: Google and Amazon. This has led to a mistaken idea many people hold that they are the only names in smart homes, and while they are very reputable and recognizable names, this is simply false.
In this day and age, saying that Amazon and Google are the only names in the home automation game would be the equivalent of saying that the only places in the United States that sell hamburgers are Burger King and McDonald’s.
Amazon and Google are two of the biggest names in smart home technology, but that by no means makes them the only options one has. Companies from Logitech to ADT to Samsung have smart home devices that offer connectivity options all their own, sometimes for things that Amazon and Google do not offer yet and might not offer at all.
A quick glance at options and apps makes it clear that the two titans are far from total domination of the market, and what they offer might not even be what the consumer needs or wants with their own smart home anyway. After all, not everyone likes Whoppers or Big Macs… sometimes, it’s nice to get some Chic-fil-A instead.
7) All style, no substance
The dictionary definition of a “gimmick” is something that is meant to draw in attention, publicity, or business. As such, every product has a gimmick and there is nothing wrong with that.
Having said that, a product being nothing but its gimmicks is a real concern most consumers share.
Thankfully, in this world of digital information sharing, customers are helping each other one review at a time. The smart home devices that provide nothing but flash and flair are quickly being weeded out by the consumer, leaving only the products that provide function as well as form to rise to the top.
Again, this is where research comes into play. A little investigating on one’s own will show which products are all bluster, and which ones are worth the investment.
Smart devices for home automation tend to connect to one another very seamlessly and easily… but neither of those words mean “instantly.”
Connecting different devices isn’t always a snap, as anyone who has ever connected a cell phone to WiFi can attest. To maximize security, there have to be steps in place to make sure no one without proper clearance can get into or control the smart home items.
Some connections can be easier than others: if the products are made by the same manufacturer, for example, it tends to be much easier than if they come from different companies. That being said, the extra steps are usually fairly simple and intuitive to take.
Managing expectations will prevent a lot of heartache and stress.
9) Huge savings
This falls mostly into the realm of “gimmicks”, but also pertains to managing expectations. Many smart thermostat companies will loudly trumpet the amount one can save, without mentioning the savings don’t happen by themselves.
Just like any thermostat, how much the homeowner saves by having it installed depends on a wide variety of factors: how well the actual heater and air conditioner are functioning, what settings the in-home users apply, and so on will all raise or decrease the amount saved.
A smart thermostat can be a big help with saving money, but it can only do as much as the heating and cooling system it is attached to allows. More importantly, however, is that the user is energy-conscious when they set their devices.
With a few extra steps being taken, the truth becomes clear from the fiction when it comes to smart home technology. As futuristic and intimidating as it might seem, the easiest way to think about it is one bite at a time. Just like with any purchase, a small amount of research can save days or even weeks of headaches down the line. So long as a user starts small, does their research, and chooses wisely, there is no need for home automation to be any scarier or more intense than any other home renovation.
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