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The smart home is becoming the norm. Smart-home tech was heavily featured at the Consumer Electronics Show at the beginning of the year, and for consumer electronics companies that have put their efforts into connecting anything and everything to the internet, these investments might be paying off.
New Morning Consult research reveals that ownership of internet-connected smart-home devices, from video doorbells to thermostats to lightbulbs, has substantially increased over the course of 2023. Ownership of internet-connected cameras and door locks in particular has risen 7 and 9 percentage points, respectively, since December, underscoring the importance of safety as a factor in these purchasing decisions.
Ownership of Smart-Home Devices Is on the Rise
There is reason to believe this rise in adoption will continue. Smart-home devices are becoming even smarter due to the rollout of Matter, a new connectivity protocol that allows devices to work and communicate with one another more seamlessly. For consumers, this means it will become increasingly easier to connect new cameras, doorbells or smoke detectors to a central hub — such as a smart speaker — that unifies the smart home.
Desire for convenience and safety drives smart-home tech adoption
Today’s smart-home device owners are generally satisfied with their purchases, particularly of devices that provide a degree of physical security, such as door locks, smoke detectors and security cameras. Owners of internet-connected large appliances — a growing area of smart-home tech — were less likely to report satisfaction, possibly because they find internet connectivity less valuable in these items.
Smart-Home Tech Satisfaction Is Generally High Among Device Owners
This may be rooted in what people tend to seek when shopping for smart-home devices. When asked to name the top three reasons why they would consider buying or upgrading smart-home devices, 32% of consumers cited the convenience of smart-home technology, and 28% said they feel safer with smart devices in the home. Spending more time at home is an important consideration for 25% of consumers, particularly as remote work has grown over the past few years. Among remote workers specifically, 30% said spending more time at home is a top reason for considering buying smart-home devices.
Convenience and Safety Are the Top Reasons for Smart-Home Tech Purchases
Safety is a key feature of the specific smart-home devices consumers intend to purchase next. A quarter of U.S. adults said it’s “absolutely certain” or “very likely” they will purchase an internet-connected security camera in the next 30 days, and a similar share (24%) said the same about internet-connected doorbells. Purchasing consideration for smart-home tech is highest among younger consumers — Gen Z adults and millennials — who unsurprisingly are more likely to be early adopters of new technologies than older generations.
Purchase Intent Is Strongest for Internet-Connected Security Cameras and Video Doorbells
Gen Z shows comparatively greater interest in security cameras and smart lightbulbs, while millennials lead the pack in consideration for door locks, thermostats and large appliances. Compared with their younger counterparts, millennials are more likely to live in houses and have more space, highlighting that even early on in this tech adoption cycle, where and how people live will influence the types of devices that are next on their shopping lists.
Data privacy and cost are top barriers to smart-home tech purchases
While adoption of smart-home tech is on the rise, there are still important obstacles to purchasing. Consumers have reservations about bringing home devices that are constantly listening, monitoring and sending data over the internet. Concern about data privacy tops the list of reasons why people would not consider purchasing internet-connected smart-home devices.
Data Privacy and Cost Could Prevent Further Smart-Home Tech Adoption
This creates an interesting tension: One of the top reasons why people consider buying these devices is that they make them feel safer, but at the same time, the safety of their data is also top of mind. How people feel about data privacy is largely contextual to what they are doing and how the data is being used, according to a Morning Consult analysis. And while people feel a great deal of ownership of their online data, they make trade-offs every day if they see value in doing so. In this case, consumers must weigh the value of convenience and physical safety over data privacy — as well as literal value, as cost is the second largest barrier to purchasing consideration.
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Supporting the importance of cost as a barrier, income is a key differentiator in purchase intent for smart-home devices. Average purchasing consideration across the devices asked about in this survey was 27% in households with at least $100,000 in annual income, compared with 20% in households earning between $50,000 and $99,999. Affordability of smart-home devices will likely increase as internet connectivity in everyday objects and appliances becomes standard, though in the context of continued inflation and economic uncertainty, the perceived value of these devices relative to more essential purchases remains a key consideration.
Consumers are not yet sold on AI integrations
The growing popularity of smart-home technology is eclipsed by the omnipresence of artificial intelligence in tech conversations. Excitement about AI reached a crescendo a few months ago, and now optimism about what this technology could bring seems to be giving way to concerns about its potential impact on everything from jobs to democracy. AI is already on the verge of a regulatory reckoning just after making it out of the gate. Consumer concerns over the tech may be bleeding into other categories.
Overall, U.S. adults are not convinced that AI integrations into smart-home devices will bring mostly benefits; in fact, a slightly higher share said there are mostly drawbacks. However, as adoption of these devices increases, so may openness to the idea that AI could have a positive impact on the smart home. Owners of at least one smart-home device are more likely than nonowners to say that AI integrations into the tech will bring mostly benefits. In many cases, owners of already popular smart speakers may not even have a choice, as virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant will inevitably incorporate generative AI models to improve their services.
Owners of Multiple Smart-Home Devices Are More Likely to See the Benefit of AI Integrations
Consumer electronics companies aiming to be part of everyone’s smart home will have to communicate the benefits of convenience and safety that these devices can offer to outweigh their perceived drawbacks. Data privacy and cost are important barriers to further adoption of smart-home devices, and they’re made all the more complicated by economic uncertainty and the advent of generative AI integrations, which highlight further potential privacy and cybersecurity risks.