Will Windows 10 accelerate Smart Home adoption?

This is a contributed piece by Adam Simon, Global Managing Director, Retail, CONTEXT


If you had to guess what TIME magazine called ‘Microsoft’s big secret Windows 10 feature’, you might have chosen Cortana, or perhaps how everything syncs across devices. Your mind probably wouldn’t have leapt to the smart home. Yet Windows 10’s support for smart device protocol AllJoyn could well be the tech giant’s hidden weapon—something that has the potential to revolutionise how consumers view the smart home.

At CONTEXT, we’re very interested in the smart home as a category. We all know it has the potential to transform the way we live as consumers, but the real interest lies in the current tussle between device makers and standards bodies for consumer awareness.

We recently polled 1,500 Europeans on their attitudes towards the smart home. When it came to what factors they would consider when choosing a smart home product, the vast majority of UK consumers prioritised smartphone control above all other considerations. Given how much we use our tablets and mobiles, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but Windows 10’s support for AllJoyn now makes that possible.

So why AllJoyn?

AllJoyn is a software framework that allows all of your smart devices to connect to each other on the network, irrespective of the manufacturer. This means that from the moment Windows 10 launched, the number of devices that AllJoyn has the potential to connect jumped immediately by the tens of millions. Microsoft recently announced that Windows 10 now runs on 110 million devices and it aims to have one billion users by 2018, by which point smart home technology could be much more prevalent.

The appeal of AllJoyn is that it promises both vendors and consumers the ease of plug and play—though it is one of a number of standards that aim to do this. This is vital for European consumers who, according to our research, highly value ease of access, expecting their smart home products and services to “just work”.

With Microsoft’s endorsement, AllJoyn now has a vast potential user base that smart home developers can tap into. Knowing that your product or service can be controlled on Windows is a huge boost to the framework that is making a major push to establish itself as the leading Internet of Things standard. This is further bolstered by additional commitments to AllJoyn from Sony, LG, HTC, Lenovo and Asus to create compatible end-user mobile and tablet devices.

Education is still necessary

However, Microsoft’s involvement is only the latest step on the journey to transforming consumer perceptions of the smart home. Consumers are still not connecting the dots between smart products and the smart home.

While many people we surveyed confirmed that they knew of individual products such as smart TVs, smart thermostats, and smart smoke detectors, our research showed that 62% still hadn’t heard of the term ‘smart home’. Consumers across Europe also confessed that one of the main reasons preventing their adoption of smart home products is that they just don’t understand enough about them. 

Windows 10 has facilitated connecting and controlling a network of smart home devices with ease. The announcement that the operating system will run on any size screen also makes it even easier for it to become the smart home controller of choice. Plus with Windows 10’s universal apps, users will be able to pass control of their home from one screen to another without any difficulty. The big quandary now, is how best to convince consumers of the merits of investing in a smart home.

For us, the path seems clear, and relies on the entire ecosystem to market the concept as a whole. Device makers, standards bodies, and retailers all need to build awareness of how devices connect and how easy it is to control them. This will foster a better understanding and ultimately drive sales as consumer uncertainty is dispelled.

But will Windows 10 accelerate smart home adoption?

Once consumers are more comfortable with the concept, it will be interesting to see if Windows 10 devices can establish themselves as the leading player in the market. Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings, and Google’s Nest are some of its key competitors, but unlike the smartphone war, it’s not only the tech giants who are competing for the customer.

Utility companies are attempting to persuade people that the smart thermostat or smart meter should act as the hub instead. They also have an existing relationship with customers used to seeing them as a service, something the smart home is increasing leaning towards. TV providers are pushing for your TV box to be the gateway too.

With so many competitors, Windows 10 will have to fight hard to succeed, but its huge user base stands it in good stead. Above all though, with mass adoption of the smart home still some way off, the main focus must be on consumer education.


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