Thursday, Jun 30, 2022
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Why More And More Indians Don't Want To Switch On Lights And TV At Their Homes

With convenience, safety, and comfort emerging as key priorities in a post-pandemic era, more people are opting for smart home appliances to ease their workload and manage things effortlessly with panache

File Photo.
File Photo.

"Alexa, turn off the lights", "Ok Google, I'm home", "Set up an alarm for me"; it's become really easy for people to do all this and more with just a voice command, something we saw long back in the 1962 Jetsons cartoon show.

What people just imagined about six decades ago is a reality today. You can now switch the lights on or off, control the air purifier, and draw open or shut the window curtains, sitting in one place. 

That's not all. You can set the fan's speed, adjust the AC temperature, set alarms and reminders using your TV, adjust the lighting to suit your mood, activate the vacuum cleaner to clean the house in your absence, and open locks with a fingerprint. All this with a few clicks on an app or through voice commands.

Till a few years ago, there were few takers for the concept of a connected home, where one could control many regular tasks using just their smartphone or voice. But today, it is a reality. Smart consumer technology products have come to the rescue of people who like it easy and spiffy, as homes get smarter for this niche customer base.

The Intelligence Of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Connected devices, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, can work with each other once connected to a shared wireless network. IoT gives these devices the ability to communicate over the internet so that users can control them remotely.

Contemporary consumers are increasingly shifting to smart homes, which are equipped with connected devices connected to the home WiFi. Often, these work on Artificial Intelligence-enabled software that tracks a user's habits and usage patterns to offer a personalised experience and create automation routines.

The uptake for smart homes is more amongst the digitally native millennials. Of course, affordable smartphones, inexpensive data, and reduced hardware costs have also seen a broader spectrum of people exploring alternatives to make their homes smarter.

The most considerable fillip came during the pandemic when people were compelled to spend more time indoors during the lockdowns. Whether WFH or entertainment, homes became the center point for all activities, while convenience, safety, and comfort emerged as key priorities. People started adding these gadgets to ease their workload and do things effortlessly with panache. 

According to Nikhil Rajpal, CEO of Hero Electronix, the real-life everyday utility makes consumers adopt smart home technology much faster. "Post-pandemic, people are more open to new tech products at a broader level. Every product is getting reimagined as they get smarter and connected. Many new-age companies are bringing smart home products to the market that are fundamentally helping consumers manage their lives in a much better manner. Products are getting superior and functionally rich at a much faster pace now and are adding significant practical value to their lives which is changing the way people approach technology," he said.

Vivek Yadav, Executive Vice President, Havells India, also feels the Covid-19 pandemic has made people look for convenience and comfort as they stay indoors more than ever. "The pandemic has brought the significance of hygiene and infection control to the fore. The need for touch-less or contactless operations has increased the adoption of smart switches as these can be operated via mobile apps or voice," he stated.

Starting Small

Worldwide shipments of smart home devices reached 801.5 million units in 2020, an increase of 4.5 per cent over 2019. Shipments are forecast to surpass 1.4 billion in 2025 with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.2 per cent as consumers seek out additional conveniences, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) report.

However, this does not mean people knocked down their existing homes to build smart ones. Many consumers upgraded their conventional air conditioners and TVs to smarter ones. 

Rajpal said that smart home products could go a long way in bringing safety and convenience to a consumer's life. Let's take the case of an intelligent door lock. Folks no longer have to carry bunches of keys or worry about misplacing or forgetting them. Instead, they can use fingerprints or pin codes to open door locks.

"The willingness to adopt the connected home ecosystem is on the rise among consumers as they realize the benefits offered due to cost savings through energy efficiency, home monitoring capabilities from remote locations, increased comfort and convenience, and enhanced premium feel for their homes. Consumers prefer home appliances or devices that are smart, connected and energy-efficient. They want to augment their lifestyle with smart products but prefer the reduced total cost of ownership," Yadav said.

Expensive But Worth It

Although smart home products are slightly more expensive than their traditional counterparts, the sector is on an upward spiral. The smart home market in India was estimated to grow significantly and become a $9 billion market, according to Statista. The study also showed that the Indian smart home market is expected to be around $6 billion by 2022, a two-fold increase from $3 billion estimated in 2020. Globally, this number is likely to reach $53.45 billion by 2022. Various reports also pegged India as the country with the third-highest number of smart homes worldwide in 2020.

"Today, smart door locks are just 2-3 per cent of the overall Locks category, but again the adoption rate is growing at a rate of 25 per cent YoY. Similarly, smart wireless cameras are just 10 to 15 per cent of the overall camera category. Still, their adoption is growing at a much higher pace of 20 per cent year-on-year (YoY) growth," Rajpal said.

Smart speaker sellers in India surpassed a million shipments for the first time in 2020. The industry had shipped approximately 650-700,000 units of smart speakers in 2019, according to a report by market research firm techARC. The global smart lock market size was also valued at $2,366 million in 2020 and is projected to reach $14,972 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 20.1 per cent from 2021 to 2030, report by Valuates stated.

Pranesh Chaudhary, CEO and Founder at zunpulse., a home-IoT startup, is delighted with this upward trajectory. In FY22, Chaudhary said 75 per cent of the company's sales were through smart products. 

"We witnessed over 2.5x annual growth rate in the smart devices sales in the last two years. We have an ecosystem of smart connected devices that helps our customers to control all their electrical devices through just one app. This also attracts a lot of attention from major real estate developers, a few of which have already partnered with us to automate their current and future projects.," he stated.

However, the low penetration of WiFi connectivity combined with a low awareness level of smart devices is currently the biggest challenge for smart home devices in India. Nonetheless, with the 5G rollout on the horizon and the growing adoption of these appliances, especially in urban areas, it is likely to encourage more people to opt for it. 

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