5 Smart Home Trends to Watch
authors Dan DiClerico
Smart home technology was one of the hottest trends at the 2018 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS). Manufacturers big and small touted the intelligence on their latest wares, from voice-controlled faucets to fridges with built-in cameras. The question is: What’s the best way to incorporate all this great innovation into actual remodeling projects?
To answer that, HomeAdvisor hosted a KBIS panel talk titled “The Secrets of (Smart) Home Remodeling.” From the moderator’s chair, I got to pitch questions before a packed crowd to our superb lineup of pros, including Jamie Briesemeister, co-founder of Integration Controls and CEDIA member; Adam Gibson, CMKBD and president of Adam Gibson Design; Scott Koehler, president of Dream Kitchen Builders; and Jill Waage, editor-in-chief of Traditional Home.
Here are five key takeaways from our talk:
Smart tech is moving mainstream
Home automation used to be a niche high-end business. Mainstream consumers are now flocking to the technology in droves. In fact, a joint smart home survey by HomeAdvisor and CEDIA found that three out of four pros have seen an uptick in smart home-related calls, with the vast majority receiving service requests at least once a month, if not weekly or even daily.
St. Louis-based Briesemeister discussed her plan to launch a second company aimed at the mass market in addition to her custom-integration business. “The market is changing so quickly,” she says. “We want to be there for customers who need help with the installation of their new smart lock as well as those interested in whole-house automation.” She believes the smaller projects will lead to larger ones. “By opening up our sales channel, we’ll be in a position to catch customers on their first home, not just their last one.”
Remodeling pros who can take on smaller, product-based smart home requests—maybe the installation of a smart lock, thermostat and/or camera—stand to see their customer bases grow. If you do a lot of whole-house renovations, the key is to establish a network of trusted integrators in the same way you have multiple go-to subs for plumbing and electrical work.
Voice control is the future
Smart speakers, like Amazon Echo and Google Home, have advanced the concept of smart home technology with millions of consumers; indeed, Amazon’s Echo Dot was the top-selling product of the 2017 holiday season on its website.
“Being able to control things by voice command is revolutionary,” says Koehler, who has worked for decades as a technology consultant in addition to his role as a kitchen designer. “Between artificial intelligence and ambient computing, it’s getting to the point where we won’t need a device between us and the end object, be it a smart light fixture or voice-controlled faucet.”
While voice control is the future, we’re not all the way there yet. That’s why remodeling pros should be well-versed in one or more smart home hubs, such as Samsung SmartThings or Wink Hub 2. Smart speakers, including Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod, can now function as smart home hubs with voice control capability.
Older homeowners are a massive, untapped market
Millennials have been the go-to generation for all things tech related. And they were the earliest adopters of smart home technology too. But their parents are getting on board in a big way, thanks to the aging-in-place movement. By 2035, one in five people will be over 65 years old, and 90 percent of older Americans plan to remain in their homes as they age, according to HomeAdvisor’s Aging in Place report.
“If you have a remodeling business, you’re crazy not to educate yourself on this population,” says Gibson, whose credentials include a Certified Aging in Place Specialist designation from the National Association of Home Builders. The Living in Place Institute also offers a comprehensive training and certification program for remodeling pros.
Technology is becoming a major part of the aging-in-place strategy. Our report found that older Americans are installing a lot of smart security systems, smoke alarms and lighting with improved security and ease of living driving the upgrades.
Kitchen and baths are finally getting smart
They’re the most remodeled rooms in the house, but they’ve seen the least smart home tech—until now. KBIS was buzzing with connected kitchen and bath products, including voice-activated shower controls and smart appliances that take the guesswork out of cooking.
Smart toilets were a panel favorite, in part because their automated cleansing feature fits neatly into the aging-in-place trend. “This kind of technology is doing wonders to help people stay in their homes longer,” notes Koehler. Gibson agrees, noting, “Every bathroom I design now has a GFCI outlet at the toilet to power the bidet seat.” In addition to helping with hygiene, smart toilets can also enhance safety—with motion-activated lights that reduce the risk of nighttime falls, for example.
Consumer awareness remains the biggest challenge
Even with all the buzz at KBIS around smart home technology, there are still more than 100 million homes in the United States without a single connected device. Reaching these consumers is the key to mass-market adoption of the technology.
Retailers are stepping up with enhanced smart home service. Most recently, Lowe’s announced a plan to launch smart home centers in 70 locations nationwide, allowing shoppers to interact with more than 60 connected products. Best Buy, meanwhile, is partnering with Vivint to provide expert in-store consultations. These are good resources for remodeling pros, either to learn about the technology themselves or to refer interested clients.
Media is doing its part by telling more smart home stories. “All things being equal visually, a project with smart technology woven will definitely catch my eye,” says Waage. She’s particularly interested in pitches to her magazine that communicate the true lifestyle benefits of the technology to consumers, “as opposed to a bunch of high-tech jargon and abbreviations that will go right over people’s heads.”
The effort is sure to pay off. “Design pros frequently tell us that being featured in the magazine leads to more calls and more work,” Waage adds.
Ultimately, that growth in business is what the smart home panel talk, and indeed the whole of KBIS, was all about.
Dan DiClerico is an experienced speaker and thought leader in the real estate, remodeling and home product space. DiClerico joined HomeAdvisor in 2017 as the company’s Home Expert and Smart Home Strategist. Prior to joining HomeAdvisor, DiClerico was the senior home editor of Consumer Reports, where he produced award-winning content on real estate, remodeling and other topics.