Smart Home

Intelligent home: a growing market and increasingly smart Italians

Important numbers and a growing market, which continues to rely heavily on the figure of the installer: according to data from the Internet of Things Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano, the Smart Home in Italy really seems to have opened its doors and make throats to more and more people. But it’s not all gold that glitters, and there are still many barriers to overcome

250 million, and a growth of 35% compared to 2016, in line with the main Western countries: this is the value of the Smart Home market in Italy. The data presented by the Internet of Things Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano are certainly encouraging, even if in absolute terms our figures are still far from those of other countries such as the United States, where the home market is worth 10.8 billion euros, or Germany (1.5 billion euros).

If in America was the year of speakers, or intelligent voice assistants – such as Google Home or Amazon Echo – in Italy we are still waiting for their arrival, but it should not be too long, and the entry of large operators – the so-called Over-The-Top – on the Italian market may be an important factor in increasing consumer confidence in the Smart Home, thanks to the strength of their brand and often effective communication.

More and more “intelligent” Italians

In any case, according to the survey conducted by the Observatory in collaboration with Doxa, 38% of Italians already have at least one intelligent object in their home, and among these as many as 32% have made one or more purchases over the past year: we are on track. So what are the types of solutions that have left their mark in 2017?

As in 2016, security products are confirmed in first place: video cameras, locks, sensors for doors and windows, which show how important it is for consumers to have everything under control, and to be able to manage their homes even from a distance.

In this world, do-it-yourself solutions are proliferating more and more, but in reality, despite the name, they are rather difficult to install, and push the user to still rely on the traditional supply chain of installers.

In second place are the solutions for heating, such as boilers and connected thermostats; also in this case the figure of the professional is fundamental, not only for the actual installation, but also because he is able to illustrate to customers the concrete benefits, based on an estimate of costs and savings, that derive from solutions of this type.

Beyond the advantages for individuals, if all Milanese citizens were to adopt smart solutions of this type, carbon dioxide emissions in the city would decrease by more than 54,000 tCO2 per year, with an annual saving of as much as 70 million euros. Finally, large household appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators are also on the podium of the most purchased solutions, able to fascinate many people, who, however, do not fully exploit the possibilities and functions offered.

The installer in the middle of the connected house

According to this framework, therefore, the traditional sector is still the main reference point; it is worth 175 million euros in 2017, equal to 70% of the market, and shows a growth of 15% compared to the previous year.

While the installer is certainly not the best candidate to spread a wide knowledge of IoT solutions, the consumer still has a lot of confidence in this figure. Then the professional has no choice but to stay up to date, because there are plenty of opportunities: of the 38% that already have at least one “smart” object, in fact, as many as 74% requested the help of a professional for the installation.

Moreover, manufacturers should get more and more involved, taking on significant communication activities both towards their loyal installers and towards end users. Today, however, consumers have several new points of contact to buy solutions for the connected home, including retailers (traditional and online), manufacturers, insurance companies, utilities and telco that already cover 30% of sales channels, and are growing.

Barriers to development

But what are the obstacles that make the average Italian still too wary of IoT solutions for his home? As mentioned above, 73% of the more than 370 solutions surveyed by the Observatory should be able to be installed autonomously, but at the end of the day the user often has to contact a specialized installer. For the professional this is an advantage, but it causes additional costs for the consumer.

Moreover, there are few services that actually allow you to create added value: today only in 27% of cases there is at least one service in the solution offered, often only “basic” (such as managing data in the cloud or sending push notifications in case of unexpected), not enough to fully meet the needs of the user. Finally, today more than half of the products on sale are offered by startups, young companies and therefore often not perceived by consumers as sufficiently mature and reliable.

Despite this, saw the entry into the market of large companies, which are equipping themselves to offer valuable solutions. The survey also confirms the importance of communication in this market: those who today do not have connected objects in 27% of cases have never considered buying them for lack of knowledge, and in 17% do not fully understand the benefits.

Privacy, Cyber Security and IA

Moreover, Privacy, Cyber Security and the new Artificial Intelligence algorithms are crucial aspects for the development of reliable and attractive solutions on the market, and we must aim at the correct management and enhancement of data. 51% of consumers are reluctant to share personal information, especially for the risk that the purposes of use are different from those stated.

And there is little trust in terms of Cyber Security: 72% of respondents are concerned about the risks of access or control of objects connected by malicious people. How to overcome this obstacle? Companies should already anticipate security issues (data protection by design) at the design stage, and then launch smart products on the market with a lower risk of vulnerability than any external attacks. Finally, Artificial Intelligence, which is applying to become the new “housekeeper” of the house.

The interface with which the user manages the Smart Home is evolving more and more rapidly and in the future we will move from the well-established voice recognition to the most advanced “context aware”, which allows you to predict, customize and configure the use based on personal preferences.

This could help overcome many of the barriers that hinder the spread of IoT in homes, simplifying the management of connected devices, but also improving the management of products and services offered by different companies, with a more integrated user experience.