Review: Smarthome in 2020 & preview of 2021 – In the past year, smart home has again grown considerably. Not only does the Google Assistant continue to do well. People have also started using video doorbells, smart lighting and other smart products en masse. In this article we look back and forward.
Smarthome in 2020
Just like in our previous retrospects, we also take it this time report from research agency GfK in collaboration with the Smart Home Society about Smarthome in 2020. This shows that smarthome in 2020 has gained momentum due to the impact of the corona virus. Figures show that familiarity with the term ‘Smart Home’ has more than doubled among Dutch people in five years. For example, a third of the population now knows what a smart home stands for. In addition, one fifth of the population expects to have a completely smart home within the next two years.
So why do people want to have a smart home? According to 44 percent, convenience is the most important advantage. Saving on costs and energy and the ability to operate devices from anywhere are the advantages mentioned.
Naturally, the basis of a smart home starts with stable internet. According to Tessa Holzenbosch, Technology Expert at GfK, households have invested heavily in this. The market for routers and signal amplifiers has more than doubled compared to last year. And of course working from home plays a role in this. Outliers in sales of 500 to 700 percent were even observed.
Although smart home gives you the opportunity to save costs, just think of your energy bill, the purchase costs of smart home products are mentioned by many people as a reason not to start with a smart home yet. So there is still a task for manufacturers to further emphasize the advantages of smart home and come up with more affordable smart home solutions. We also see a division in the field of privacy and security. For example, 41 percent of consumers are open to smart home if it helps to increase the feeling of security with, for example, a smart alarm system or smart security cameras. On the other hand, 27 percent of consumers are afraid of being hacked through smart home products.
As we said, the current pandemic has led to an increase in smart products in the home. We have to stay at home as much as possible and many people have been working from home since March this year. And then it is of course nice if you feel as comfortable as possible in your home environment. Interest in smart solutions and virtual assistants has increased significantly. For example, Dutch households have an average of five smart devices. The increase in the purchase and use of smart speakers with voice assistant is also clearly visible. People mainly use such smart speakers for playing music (52%), requesting the weather forecast (41%) and operating smart devices in the home (37).
Smarthome in 2020 – The rise of Tuya
In the context of Smarhome in 2020, the research shows, many people think that the purchase costs of smart home products are still a bit too high. However, major steps have been taken in 2020 to improve affordability. We see this in particular through the rise of Tuya. It all started at the end of 2019 when retail chain Action launched its own collection of smarthome products under the name LSC Smart Connect in the shops. The collection was a great success and was further expanded in 2019 with a video doorbell and security cameras. Action made smart home very affordable for the average consumer in one go and the quality turned out to be very reasonable.
The basis of the LSC Smart Connect products lies with Tuya. Anyone can develop a smart home solution in just a few steps via Tuya. The American-Chinese company does not make smart home products itself, but provides the underlying technology and cloud traffic via the 4A IoT platform. Tuya works together with 3000 manufacturers with whom you can go straight into the sea via the underlying platform. Tuya also supports protocols such as Zigbee, but Action’s products run on your own WiFi network. You do not need a hub, but you can easily connect it to your network via the accompanying app. This has also resulted in a strong increase in the use of the WiFi protocol for smart devices.
Since everyone can easily contact manufacturers via Tuya and Tuya has created a White Label app with its own logo for you within a few days, other manufacturers also jumped on the ‘Tuya train’ in 2020. Think of manufacturers like WOOX or Marmitek, but also stores like HEMA, Kruidvat and Lidl have come on board. And the advantage is that you can also use almost all Tuya products together and in other apps.
In 2021, we expect even more stores that will put smart products on the shelves with Tuya as the basis. The proliferation of Tuya products is therefore enormous. Although most products from the different manufacturers and retail chains are not identical, in most cases they are equivalent to each other. The Action has built up a significant lead, but it should be clear that not every manufacturer and retail chain will survive if the products are basically equivalent to each other.
You can all connect the Tuya-based products directly to your WiFi network, with Lidl being the exception with the Zigbee hub. Other manufacturers that do not work with Tuya can also use the WiFi protocol. Just look at a manufacturer like Lifx using smart lights with wifi as protocol. Wifi as a protocol is of course very easy for the consumer. You do not need a hub, almost all of us have a WiFi network at home and the purchase price of a product is often lower than if you do need a hub. Yet there are certainly also disadvantages.
By lumping all your smart WiFi products together with your smartphones, tablets and laptops, noise and malfunctions can quickly occur on the WiFi network. In particular, the supplied router from your provider usually does not excel in speed and capacity. Wifi is also quite energy-consuming, so you often have to replace batteries in motion sensors, for example. A protocol like Z-Wave and ZigBee actually create a network next to your wifi network (you can reed their comparison here). With WiFi as a protocol, everything goes together. That is no problem if you only want to purchase a few smart products for your home, your router must still be able to handle that. However, if you want to provide your entire house with products with WiFi as a protocol, you will soon have to deal with malfunctions and inactive devices. And then you end up spending more because you have to buy a faster (mesh) router with larger capacity or switch to a different smarthome protocol. So pay attention to the advantages and disadvantages if you start with a smart home with WiFi as a protocol.
The fact is that the rise of Tuya with WiFi as a basis has resulted in very affordable products. This made smart home affordable for a large group of consumers in one go.
Control everything from one place
All those smart devices in the house are nice, of course, but to use your own app for each smart product? That’s not what the convenience of a smart home is for. We are increasingly looking for ways to control the smart home from one place. Or even better, let the house take care of itself as much as possible.
Advanced users are getting started with controllers and hubs to make the whole house smart. Think of Homey, but also to Fibaro or Zipata. These controllers can often handle multiple protocols and platforms, making it an ideal way to control the smart home from one place. It is also ideally suited to replace expensive installations such as KNX, Loxone or Crestron. Is all that a step too far? Then it is good to know that nowadays it is also possible with the Google Home routines and shortcuts.
At the end of 2018, we got the Dutch-speaking Google Assistant. In 2019 we saw a proliferation of smart speakers from various manufacturers with this voice assistant on board. Unfortunately, we still missed important options in our country. In 2020 we finally got the opportunity to create shortcuts and routines in the Dutch variant. This gave consumers many more options to combine smart products and automate things. This allows Google Home to really serve as a hub for the smart home, albeit a bit more limited than the more advanced options.
Smarthome for the advanced user
A trend that is emerging has to do with tinkering and DIY. A step too far for the ordinary consumer, but the advanced user is increasingly letting go with MQTT, APIs and the like to tailor a smarthome entirely to his own wishes. Often the Tuya products are ideally suited for flashing them. With this you change the software on the product and you can use it in a different way via, for example, Home Assistant or Domoticz. These are two open source systems with a large fan base, so that many applications are possible to design the smart home completely according to your own wishes.
Smarthome in 2021
As we wrote at the end of 2019, manufacturers had the task of making smart home more widely known among Dutch households. The research by GfK and Smart Home Society shows that this has been partially successful. So for 2021 the task is not only to further highlight the familiarity and the benefits, but also to ensure easy installation procedures, clear and well-organized apps and to look at the affordability of the products. Ultimately, a smart home will only be really successful if grandpa and grandma can install and use a smart lamp without any problems.