In recent months I have seen numerous reports on the current interest and future trends of the Connected Home – not just the future of Artificial Intelligence and voice recognition technology, but all things that fall broadly into the internet of things: wearable watches, central heating, light bulbs and home video security systems.
The majority of the reports focus on raising interest and uptake of the ‘connected’ devices and the fact that predicting purchasing of such devices will soon spread beyond the early adopters. But, there also are some signs that we need to remain cautious, or at least cautiously optimistic. One of the IPA’s latest surveys reports that over half of Brits have not used voice assistant technology and won’t be interested in using it in the near future. Of those who are not interested, half are unlikely to see how they would benefit from it and three in ten don’t like the idea of speaking to a machine… Unsurprisingly, there is an age gap – ‘Baby Boomers’ are the most unlikely to use the technology, and young Millennials are keenest of all.
Age differences are to be expected, but what I think is fascinating is how the new connected technology is adopted by those who are not able to take part in a national survey yet, e.g. a 3-and-a-half-year-old son of my friend, a bilingual child who speaks fluently Russian to his mum and fluently Dutch with his dad, is now speaking English to Alexa when he wants a Batman song to be played out loud. Another example is friends who use smart lighting to create a ‘bedtime inducing’ mood for their kids, who love the bulbs changing colours and the fact they have control over it, blissfully unaware of their parents’ manipulation. Apparently, it works marvels.
These kids I speak of will grow up with this new smart technology and it will be simply taken for granted, with no need to question its functionality or what a strange concept it is to talk to a machine. And perhaps that’s the key: functionality. If lack of functionality is currently one of the key barriers for rejectors of connected home and voice assistant technology (as indicated by the IPA survey), especially among older generations, perhaps that’s where the marketing focus should be. The early adopters’ pool is quite finite and many don’t need to be convinced about the usefulness of it – it’s rather a question of which brand and device, rather than what do I need it for. So maybe it’s worth engaging the younger generations who are already experiencing the benefits of the connected home and AI to reach the older consumer – even if not all of the new technology would be of interest and some barriers are more difficult to overcome than others, there is definitely technology that would be of benefit no matter how old you are.