For all the talk of smart home and its revolutionary effect on appliances, not much column space has been devoted to the connected home revolution in housewares.
At a panel discussion called “How the Smart Home is Disrupting Housewares (and What to Do About It)” at the 2017 International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago, industry leaders discussed the growing need to create products that solve problems.
The panel was moderated by Mike Wolf, creator of the Smart Kitchen Summit, host of the Smart Kitchen Show podcast and founder of NextMarket Insights, a research and advisory firm focused on the connected home. He was joined by Chris Young, CEO and co-founder of ChefSteps; Carley Knobloch, host of HGTV’s Smart Home; and Nathan Smith, founder and chief technology officer of Wink.
As Wolf put it, “connected products so far have experienced varying degrees of success," but the category as a whole is moving into a new stage of maturity that's more focused on sustainability, eliminating fragmentation around technology and addressing real consumer pain points (rather than using technology for technology's sake).
“I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and says ‘Oh, I want to get a smart home.’ The terminology itself is somewhat scary,” Smith said. “[If you’re a connected product manufacturer], just saying something is smart doesn’t cut it. But saying ‘Hey, did you know you could do this with this product?…Did you know you never have to come home to a dark house again?....Now that’s something.”
“I’m looking for a compelling solution to a problem,” Knobloch said. “I’m looking for a company that has empathy for me. I don’t want connectivity for connectivity’s sake.”
One way to communicate the value of such a product? Tell a good story about it.
Another key to the maturation of the category will be decreasing the amount of fragmentation.
“Apps today in many ways are like VCR and TV remotes of the 1980s,” Young said. “They had lots of features but we didn’t always know what they did. Lots of clutter and lots of heft can be very intimidating.”
The way forward, the panel agreed, will involve technology-enabled improvements (“We get feedback in the form of data all the time as to how people are using the product — what’s working and what isn’t," said Young), as well as voice recognition (“The design has an intangible pull to it, and we’ve been liberated from our phones. It feels like a little less of a burden," Knobloch said).