Connectivity, simplification and data analysis are the main factors in the development of the smart home, which in Italy is worth more than half a billion euros, according to the latest report from the Politecnico di Milano. A great potential to be exploited with innovative products and services, to create professional opportunities and increase the digital culture of citizens.
2020 was a rollercoaster for the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions market for the smart home. The pandemic, in fact, did not allow this sector to confirm the growth trend of the past years (+ 52% in 2018, + 40% in 2019), but the market held up overall, with only a slight decline in 2020 ( -5%) and settling at 505 million euros.
The data from the latest report by the Osservatori.net of the Politecnico di Milano, presented during the online conference “Stay at home, stay in a Smart Home: the smart home to the test of Covid”, indeed confirm the key role of digitisation in most critics of last year. Giulio Salvadori, Director of the Internet of Things Observatory, spoke of good results, considering the context in which the companies had to operate, almost ‘unexpectedly’ at the beginning of the year. In fact, between March and May, during the first lockdown, sales literally collapsed: a loss that in many cases oscillates between -60% and -100% compared to the same quarter of 2019. The other months of the year were better, with good growth rates between September and November 2020.
Technology to change your lifestyle
Beyond the impact on sales, the emergency has led people to significantly change the relationship with their home. This has favoured in the first place the use of some types of smart objects at home (smart speakers and small appliances), with 67% of consumers declaring that they “often” use the solutions purchased. In addition, new habits have been rediscovered, such as the passion for cooking and the desire to renovate one’s home. 46% of the interviewees, in fact, are already doing or planning to do interventions on their home. This generates important repercussions on the purchase of smart objects, functional to the new way of living (air purifiers, audio systems, video conferencing solutions, etc.) and on the work of professionals in the sector.
In addition, the pandemic has increased the digital culture of users: more and more people surfing the web and conducting operations online. An example? Since March 2020, 25% of Italians have carried out more transactions in online banking, while 34% have ordered online shopping for the first time or more than before. The pandemic is therefore progressively transforming consumers’ shopping habits and, more broadly, their relationship with digital.
The ‘favourites’ of the smart home
If staying at home for a long time has favoured the sales of some smart solutions, this is not true for security, which maintains the record (21% of the market, about 105 million euros), but has a significant setback (- 30% in 2020.) This trend is also confirmed by the consumer: safety is still in first place among the reasons for buying smart objects, but down compared to 2019 (27% vs 36%).
Smart speakers reach first place in security solutions with 105 million euros (21% of the market, + 10%). 2020 was an important year for these companies, in terms of new partnerships, adding skills and consolidating the market. The performances particularly concerned the new devices equipped with displays. However, much remains to be done to enable real integration with the smart home: in Italy only 14% of smart speaker owners use these devices to manage other objects in the home.
At a short distance, household appliances with 100 million euros (20%, + 17%). This is because many manufacturers now offer the entire ‘connected’ range, but together with sales the actual use of smart features is also growing. 59% of those who own connected objects have used them (+ 19% compared to 2019). This is followed – in terms of incidence on sales – by boilers, thermostats and connected air conditioners for the management of heating and air conditioning with 75 million euros (15%, + 15% compared to 2019). Here, of course, Superbonus and Ecobonus come into play, as well as greater awareness of the savings that can be achieved in terms of energy consumption and comfort.
In search of the standard
From a technological point of view, in 2020 the main consortia for the interoperability of the Smart Home gave an important push towards the standardisation of integration technologies, with the development of specifications and certification programs dedicated to interoperability.
The efforts of the joint working group Connected Home over IP (CHIP) continue on the definition of the specifications of the homonymous open-source framework. The consortium – led by the ZigBee Alliance and also supported by Amazon, Apple and Google – officially started work in January 2020, publishing the source code of the first reference implementations for connected devices and opening up to contributions from the developer communities in an open-source perspective. If the CHIP initiative aims to enable interoperability through integration at the field level, the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) instead focuses on standardising communication between the device manufacturers’ clouds. The consortium – led by Electrolux, LG, Qualcomm and Samsung – has introduced the new benchmark implementation for cloud-to-cloud integration and the Unified Cloud Interface (UCI) certification program.
Looking to the future – and this is certainly not new – all the trends analysed by the observatory highlight the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as an increasingly important piece of the ecosystem of smart homes.
This post is also available in: Italian