City planners in El Paso, Texas are bracing themselves for upwards of 15,000 new homes built over the next five years. Most of those homes, if not all of them, will be built on the east side of the city. How many of them are smart homes that remains to be seen? Will smart homes be the standard moving forward?
Smart homes are those homes with smart home technology that is built-in. If it only takes one device to make a home smart, then every home with a smart thermostat would qualify. But there is probably more to it than that. You might need embedded smart home infrastructure built in to consider a home truly smart.
Looking to the Future
In terms of smart homes, builders do not necessarily see smart home components as anything other than options for prospective buyers. Builders are constantly looking to the future in the sense that they are trying to anticipate what will sell. If smart home technology will bring buyers, then builders will build it into their designs.
El Paso’s home construction future lies in developing the far east side of the city. Unfortunately, the city’s location and current development prevent it from expanding anywhere else. To the west is New Mexico, to the south is the Mexican border. Builders are also hemmed in by the Franklin Mountains and Fort Bliss.
The only open areas are on the east side. Thus, builders have to project where they can build new homes and who will buy them on that side of town. If they can reasonably rely on upper-middle-class buyers filling east side neighborhoods, there is a strong bet they will also consider adding smart home features. On the other hand, if they think that their buyers will be lower middle class, the extra expense required to make a home smart might not translate into profitable sales.
People Want Smart Homes
Builders can look to smart home statistics to get an idea of what buyers are thinking. In short, growing numbers of homeowners do want smart home devices. According to a recent study, approximately 47% of millennials already own smart home products. Among them, 70% say they plan to buy more.
Equally important are the kinds of devices homeowners want. The same survey revealed the following:
- 60% want the ability to monitor their homes via smartphones
- 63% want smart locks and home alarms
- 63% want smart thermostats and fans
- 58% want smart lighting.
The survey also revealed that homeowners are looking to purchase video doorbells and wireless video cameras. This suggests that they are as adamant about home security as they are smart home convenience. Vivint Smart Home says that the desire for security gives builders a blueprint for future construction.
The Market for Plug-and-Play
In addition to wanting smart home technology, millennial homebuyers also want plug-and-play options. Such options are few and far between right now. However, we are bound to see more industry players offering more plug-and-play platforms in the very near future.
Plug-and-play devices are those that do not require separate software or smartphone apps to work. If you got in on the ground floor of smart home technology a few years ago, you know exactly what we are talking about here.
Let’s say you buy a video doorbell from an off-brand provider. The device might work every bit as good as a Ring doorbell, perhaps even better. Yet you have to download and install a companion app to use that doorbell with your smartphone. That’s fine. But now you have to do the same thing for your smart lighting and thermostat as well.
The goal of plug-and-play is to eliminate all of these third-party apps. It is to eliminate the need to download and install a new app every time you purchase a new device. Plug-and-play devices work out of the box without the need for any new software.
The problem builders face right now is a lack of standardization. There are not a lot of plug-and-play systems because there simply is no standardization among device manufacturers. Everybody does things their own way. Manufacturers are holding on to proprietary systems in order to guarantee they get their piece of the pie.
The Need for Open Standards
Plug-and-play issues are nothing new. They were the dominant topic of discussion during the PC wars between Microsoft and Apple some years ago. Fans of Apple devices used to boast of the plug-and-play capabilities of their computers, smartphones, and tablets.
Apple devices certainly are more plug-and-play friendly than their PC counterparts. But that plug-and-play compatibility only goes so far. Apple devices do not work with peripherals that are not designed specifically for them. This is the same problem builders are running into smart home systems.
What the industry needs is some sort of open standard. Builders need to be able to install smart home systems that work not only with the components they build into their homes but also new components homeowners will install later on. Open standards are the only way to make this sort of thing work.
Imagine being one of the homeowners projected to buy a new house in El Paso. You are coming down to El Paso from Dallas-Fort Worth. You invested a ton of money in smart light sockets and electrical outlets; you plan to bring those components with you.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could plug them into your new El Paso home and know they will work? Absolutely. Without open standards, there are no guarantees. Your devices might not work with the system installed in your home. You will still have to rely on third-party apps to use them.
It is not hard to imagine smart homes being the standard of construction moving forward. It is clear that people want smart home devices. They can only get what they want if manufacturers adopt open standards. Otherwise, the smart home market could remain a crapshoot for many years to come.