Homes around the world are increasingly becoming smarter and more connected. However, a good number of consumers still don’t totally understand the benefits of connected-home devices, or even how they work, particularly in South Africa, where ubiquitous broadband is still a pipe-dream for many.
Adoption of the connected home is slow, and South Africa is still waiting for many of the big players in this arena to enter the local market. However, the connected home could still be the next big technology revolution. There is no doubt that it could vastly alter, for the better, many aspects of our lives.
The connected home is one which is networked with numerous devices connecting to the Internet, and to each other, and delivering services to the home. Again, fast broadband is needed for this to actually work, which is why SA is lagging behind its global counterparts.
These services range from home automation, security, energy control, entertainment, education the things like even healthcare.
Connected-home devices include a wide variety of smart appliances, such as washers, fridges, dryers, as well as energy equipment such as smart lighting and temperature control. It also includes security systems such as sensors, monitors, cameras and alarms.
The connected home goes beyond a collection of individual services to the home, it must be developed and connected as a totally integrated platform. Unfortunately, broadband is not the only hindrance to the widespread adoption of the connected home in SA. There needs to be a single environment where all these devices, systems and services can be delivered to the end user, but where the individual has full control of their data, their devices and the network as a whole.
The connected home has the potential to enormously boost efficiency, as it will allow consumers to carefully manage their consumption of various resources such as water, power and even other consumables such as food and broadband. Not only will this save vast sums of money in the long run, it will take some of the strain off the environment. With SA being plagued by load shedding, this could be a huge benefit.
Another stumbling block to the adoption of the connected home is the lack of consumer trust, particularly in light of the burgeoning cyber security threat. Every day we read of a new device that has fallen foul of hackers. It seems that almost nothing is sacred – baby monitors, pace makers, insulin pumps, smart lighting – even cars, have been hacked. No wonder people are reluctant to allow a slew of potential threat vectors into their homes.
There is a movement towards connected homes, but they are complex and complicated, and widespread adoption is unlikely to happen for some years. I have no doubt there will be some truly incredible technologies built on this platform, but there will also be bugs and hiccups.
South Africa needs to overcome several barriers before the connected home dream becomes a reality. Fast broadband, economic weakness and uncertainty, load shedding, lack of standardisation, lack of consumer trust, and absolutely no regulation, are all obstacles in the way.
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