Smarter homes take on a COVID world

by | Feb 15, 2022

The pandemic has no doubt led more Australians to spend their unused holiday funds on upgrading all aspects of their homes, from decking to bathrooms and all manner of smart home products. Now, more than ever, homeowners have the confidence to research and install smart home devices as they look to implement quirky, yet simple alternatives throughout the home.

The need to link home devices such as lighting, security, speakers, and even some white goods to smartphones has become quite the temptation as consumers seek to implement more convenience into their lives.

But there is still the underlying question of whether homeowners who continue to install these once-overly priced items have a gimmick-fed addiction, or simply wish to make life a little more convenient for themselves and their families.

Smart home security, lighting and speakers have become much more commonplace of late, with the more popular security and lighting devices now being implemented during the planning stages of a new home build, not only to be utilised by the new homeowner, but to also increase the home’s resale value down the track.

Recent data from technology market research company, Telsyte, shows smart home gadgets are fast becoming the norm with 61 per cent of Australian households adopting at least one IoT@Home (smart home) product at the end of June 2020. The average number of unique devices among households has now reached seven and is expected to continue to grow as Australians look to modernise their homes.

Telsyte also estimates that the average Australian household will add more than 10 connected devices by 2025, with the IoT@home market set to grow by $4.8 billion by 2024. No doubt this figure will be easily achievable when considering the number of major brands now seeking to launch products that are affordable and easy to use.

Since the pandemic over a third of Australians (36 per cent) made changes to their home to make it more comfortable. Furthermore, 38 per cent indicated that they intend to spend more time at home even when social distancing restrictions have eased.

It is no surprise that the fastest-growing categories within this space are video doorbells and locks (up 76 per cent), smart outlets (up 42 per cent), smart garden devices (up 40 per cent) and smart cameras (up 38 per cent). More recently, smart speakers, security lighting, energy, heating, ventilating and air conditioning sensors are also showing strong sales, with saving energy a huge motivator for consumers, according to Telsyte.

Bunnings Hardware Category Manager, Steve Quinn agrees that there continues to be a strong trend towards upgrading homes both inside and out as consumers spend more time at home.  

Bunnings Hardware Category Manager, Steve Quinn.

“Many consumers have discovered that a simple change like upgrading to a digital door lock is an easy way to update a home’s functionality and look. What we have learned throughout the pandemic is that customers have found a new sense of confidence in their own capabilities and are more willing to give DIY projects a go. Spending more time at home has given people a new perspective and motivation on how to get the most out of their home,” Mr Quinn said.

Modernising home security continues to be a primary driver for the adoption of smart home products with security cameras, particularly video doorbells and digital door locks all popular choices of late. Modern home security alternatives are not only easy to operate but simple to install, according to Mr Quinn. 

“Due to a significant increase in online shopping habits last year, video doorbells have been a particular favourite as customers look to upgrade so they can keep track of deliveries when they are not home. Cameras also continue to be a popular choice with a key trend coming from customers looking to keep an eye on pets while they are away,” he said.

“Battery security cameras are also trending up. Advances in technology have improved battery life allowing cameras to last up to a year between charging and making them a quick and easy to install option for both owners and renters.”

“Spending more time at home has also meant efficiency has become more of a priority for customers with smart lighting allowing people to effectively manage energy costs as well as elevate their entertaining spaces including their living areas and backyards,” Mr Quinn said.

Easy-to-install security continues to grow

With the smart home industry currently valued at US$1.278 billion in Australia, recent market figures indicate that this number is expected to increase to US$2.44 billion by 2023 or grow by 23.5 per cent by 2028. It seems that although the pandemic has slowed in pace, according to high-security locking company ASSA ABLOY, home security products are still showing incremental growth.

ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions Australia – Product Manager, Sanjay Tendulkar says the adoption of DIY (Do It Yourself) home security systems is driving current market growth, with DIY systems including motion and entry sensors as well as smart locks that provide an easy install solution. 

“Yale Smart locks are consistently receiving a five-star rating from users due to their high performance and overall user experience. They are also easy to install which is so important to the consumer at the moment,” Mr Tendulkar said.

Home security trends proving to be most prevalent currently include Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and NBN high-speed Wi-Fi network, according to Mr Tendulkar, along with the latest smartphones having faster connectivity and App-based functionality such as Geo-fencing, keyless door entry, voice-activated commands. He said anytime, anywhere connectivity is also driving the smart home theme.

While smart home technology continues to increase in popularity it seems control access has become a natural addition to any smart home. ASSA ABLOY’s Yale Access App is a great example of this proving to be extremely popular amongst consumers, according to the company, because it allows Yale Smart Locks to work with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, SmartThings and Google Assistant. 

The adoption of DIY home security is driving current growth.

“This is a modern, smart, and secure solution that would be a perfect feature in any new build or renovation particularly as users seek more and more safety, security and ease of use. Those products that are well-established brands and have a proven track record of good performance are also driving the connected smart home theme,” he said.

The increasing popularity of smart home products is most prevalent among consumers seeking to upgrade their homes and have the time to research new products as well as the disposable income to pay for them.

“Residential customers are looking to upgrade their homes with more in-home tech devices because pandemic-driven cash savings offer more of a disposable income. It seems consumers are also very keen to try out new smart devices for their convenience and home security features such as door status notifications, intrusion monitoring and auto-lock/unlock for keyless door entry.”

“As a home security device, smart locks may be managed via a smartphone, a smartwatch, tap cards, PIN code or mechanical keys, so users can unlock and lock their door both electrically and physically with the option of keyless door entry. Imagine having a visitor waiting outside the door while the homeowner is at work. With a smart lock, you can generate the temporary access code for your friend via a mobile App. The App also reminds users to lock the door, while also providing the locked door status and operation log, keeping homes secure. Most Yale smart locks source power from a set of four AA batteries while also connecting to the mobile user interface via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi,” he said.

Smart home platforms – including Apple HomeKit, Google Home and Alexa – are also driving the adaption to digital security smart locks because Australian consumers seek smart home features that deliver easy access to digital smart lock information such as door status, door entry tracking, visitor tracking and access management, Mr Tendulkar pointed out.

“The Yale Unity Entrance Lock may be paired with the Yale Smart Keypad enabling owners to enter up to 220 PIN codes, but this applies only to Yale Unity as Yale Assure has a built-in keypad. Consumers often lean towards the Yale Smart Keypad because it may be installed anywhere within Bluetooth range and also be paired through the Yale Access App in just a few minutes. It is also battery-powered so no wiring is required.”

“The Yale Smart lock range caters to a broader customer base and consistently introduces products that meet customer’s expectations. Yale Smart locks also support the integration of other smart home devices including Philips smart lighting, Yale Smart keypad, Zigbee and Z-Wave connectivity,” he said.

More recently hardware independents have lured customers to their in-store smart space by installing interactive kiosks; however, Mr Tendulkar pointed out that smaller stores have found it more difficult to present smart home products because they cannot provide staff that are trained specifically on the product’s features and functionality.

“In saying this, some of our retailers have even gone on to organise roadshow events, barbeque meets and trade nights to demonstrate the best of their digital security smart lock technologies and functionalities. Creating an interactive kiosk is a great way for users to touch and feel the product’s functionality. Interactive demos and media-driven (videos for setup, features, use) are the best options when demonstrating new products to customers. Retailers have also organised staff training on their range of smart products so they can offer appropriate advice to the customers who might be just starting out in the Smart Home domain,” Mr Tendulkar said.

“Retailers are also launching ‘Smart Home’ promotion events and special pricing on bundles such as smart locks with smart intrusion sensors. Staff product training, placing home security products in high traffic areas and running product promotion videos at prominent locations in the store are just of the initiatives to be pursued by retailers currently,” he said.

Looking to some of the challenges within the market currently, hacking and data leaks remain a primary concern for users, particularly for those switching over from traditional locks.

“Customers do expect privacy to be the top priority for home security solutions. As new privacy and security features are added, including cloud storage and encrypted networks to securely manage the home security data to avoid hacking and data leaks, customers are looking for highly secure, reliable products from leading well-established brands in the local market,” he said.

“Now with the increasing adoption of smart home devices, users are also looking to control devices using voice-activated commands such as Apple Siri, Hey Google and Alexa, which is also why the Smart Home sector is so well placed for growth.”

“I believe the most preferred DIY security system is the one that is compatible with Apple, Google and Alexa smart home platforms. This is why the Yale Smart locks range is fully integrated with these platforms while also offering secure gateways. Later this year the Yale Smart locks range may see some new additions to the already popular smart lock range.” 

For now, it seems more consumers are recognising smart locks for their user benefits, including granting remote access and integrating with a variety of smart home platforms, such as Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assist, Airbnb, Smart lighting, SmartThings and more. 

While it seems today’s consumer continues to be lured by the convenience of controlling door locks ‘anytime, anywhere’, the need for a more flexible and convenient smart home experience is also becoming an option for consumers aged over 55.

“This is because over 55s often relate better to voice activated smart locks and ease of using the digital security products such as keyless door entry,” Mr Tendulkar said. 

It is this older generation of consumers that could possibly encourage a new wave of smart home security customers throughout 2022 and beyond.