Smart- then, now and in the future

25th Oct 2016

 

Do you remember life before smart, in particular your smart phone? Mobile phones have been with us for 30 years or more but ‘back in the day’ they were just that- a mobile phone. As technology moved on other features became commonplace, like texting with buttons that you had to press enough times to get the required letter, or playing snake on the tiny pixel screen.

Today we rely on our smartphones for just about everything, from diary reminders; to fitness monitors, the smartphone is a multifunctional life enhancing device and many of us could not imagine life without one- well I couldn’t.

Then we have in home technology; TV on demand, live pause, rewind and play so you can watch that goal over and over again. DVD players with scene selection, negating the need to ‘be kind and rewind’ for the rental store. Today information and the ability to control many aspects of our lives is at our fingertips and much of it entered our lives through the natural evolution of products.

I remember when my mum replaced her washing machine and her elation at it having a timer feature. Suddenly she could set it to come on just before she came home meaning that the washing was ready to hang out when she returned and didn’t sit in the machine ‘festering’ all day. Her life was changed (or so she thought) with one product.

But had my mum not needed to change her appliance I doubt she would have known such a feature existed, it wasn’t on her radar. If she needs to buy a machine in the future though I can guarantee this feature will be on her ‘must have’ list and most likely it will be a standard feature anyway.

My point is, products evolve, and with them so do our wants and ‘needs’. Before we know it connectivity and interactivity of the things we use every day becomes the norm.

The evolution of heating products is no different. In five maybe ten years’ time smart products and controls will be the natural product of choice. Consumer awareness will grow, as will installer’s confidence in selling, installing and training the consumer.

So when a survey entitled Smart home technology - Internet of Things or Indifference to Things? From PwC lands in my inbox, with the headline stat- 72% of people say they are unlikely to introduce smart home technology in the next two to five years and are unwilling to pay for it, I’m not too concerned. Why? Well there are a few reasons;

Do consumers know what is meant by smart home technology?  Many will be vaguely familiar with the term, but few will have a real understanding of what it actually means. To some it means smart meters, to others it means interactive products such as smart electricity switches or appliances. To me it’s becoming a slightly overused commercial buzzword. It seems no industry is immune from the allure of having a ‘smart’ product. Kettles, windows, light bulbs, plugs, even toothpaste all have a ‘smart’ version.

Got a question? There’s a poll for that, actually there’s a few. As soon as I had stopped reading the PwC survey I opened a trade magazine and was greeted with a UK Pulse survey stating that 40% of householders say they ARE planning to install new heating controls in the long term. Confused? I am.

The products will sell themselves. Adding heating controls to a conventional central heating system reduces the running costs and enables efficient energy management. Smart heating products and controls make an even bigger impact, allowing the boiler to react automatically to outside temperatures for example, which all helps to keep bills down.

So you see I’m an optimist. Smart heating products will become the norm. That aside the heating industry must continue to help drive the take up of advanced heating controls.

The Government can also assist this, by recognising the huge part domestic heating plays in the UK’s energy usage- a message HHIC delivers on our members’ behalf regularly. For too long energy efficiency has been seen by Government as installing insulation and double glazing or changing light bulbs, which will help reduce energy consumption; but controlling the amount of heat being created in the first place is vital.

Yet figures suggest that 11 million homes in the UK do not currently have even the minimum heating control requirements - a room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves. Could more be done to rectify this? I think we all know the answer to that.