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Smart Appliances Haven't Found a Home Yet

But that could change if prices come down and understanding grows

Smart-home technology like connected TVs and lighting have been available for awhile, but smart appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers aren't prevalent in US homes. That could change, though.

According to a January 2018 survey by Fluent LLC, many US internet users (55%) own some form of smart-home technology. The most common device is a smart TV (38%), followed by lighting (17%), thermostats (16%) and security systems (14%). Kitchen appliances had the lowest level of ownership (7%) among those mentioned.

In a June 2018 YouGov poll, 62% of US consumers said they were aware of smart appliances (including thermostats, not just kitchen appliances) but didn't really know much about them. This was more pronounced for those 35 and older (67%), while 52% of consumers ages 18 to 34 knew about smart appliances but didn't fully understand them. Over one-quarter (26%) of that younger age group had awareness and claimed to know a lot about them. In all, just 9% of respondents across all age groups had not heard of smart appliances. 

The biggest worry with smart appliances is cost: 31% of respondents ages 18 to 34 and 38% of those over 35 cited this as a concern. Being hacked and fears about data privacy had similar levels of concern, while practical matters like not being able to use them if there were problems connecting to the internet was also an issue. 

According to an analysis of online posts on social media, forums and comments by Crimson Hexagon, sentiment about smart-home technology is growing more positive. In 2010, 60% of conversations were positive; in 2017, that percentage hit 80%. The lighting category had the highest proportion of positive comments (93%), followed by entertainment (86%) and home assistants (85%). Security had the least amount of positive comments (77%).

Consumers in the Crimson Hexagon study who had adopted smart-home technology used phrases like "energy efficiency," "futuristic" and "convenience" to characterize it. The negatives were similar to those cited in the YouGov poll: high costs, privacy concerns and the potential for being hacked. 

Consumer adoption could swell if prices came down—one of the leading concerns in both studies. Juniper Research expects the average cost of connected appliances will drop 52% between 2018 and 2023, falling to an average price of $280 globally. 

Juniper Research also estimates that shipments of connected appliances will grow 80% per year on average through 2023, driven by the adoption of voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant. It's theorized that smart-home offerings will evolve from speaker-based devices to virtual assistants living in the cloud and powering products.

For example, in May 2018, Amazon announced a partnership with real estate company Lennar to build Alexa-enabled smart homes. Voice control was promised for things like locks, lights and doorbells, but the Echo speaker was not mentioned by name.