The Role of the Smart Home in Keeping Us Connected

  • techUK techUK
    Thursday21May 2020

    Guest Blog: Thomas Joy of Beacon Agency takes a look at the role the smart home has to play bringing communities together in a post-COVID world as part of our...

COVID-19 has made a rapid impact on the way we live. It's a shakeup that comes, we hope, only once in a generation, and it forces us to adapt. Throughout all this, what has amazed me most is how we as a population have leapt into action to protect the most vulnerable in our community, all whilst looking for ways to bring everyone together. 

As we, hopefully, emerge for the depths of the crisis, we still have a lot to do to help protect those most vulnerable, keep people connected, and to help keep our public services running. Until there is a vaccine, as a society, we will have to face the fact that social distancing will be a way of life.

However, I believe that as a society, we are lucky. 

Writer and essayist William Gibson once said:

"The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed" 

We already have the tools and ideas in place to help continue best practices, and solve new problems that have arisen. The challenge now is finding an effective way of implementing them at scale.

Smart Home Technology

At a time when a lot of us are stuck in our homes, smart speakers and screens have provided a much-needed connection to our families and the outside world.

A recent report from NPR said that during the outbreak so far, 35% of U.S. smart speaker owners say they’re listening to more news and information through their devices. The overall market for smart speakers has increased by about 6% this year compared to 2019 (Omdia’s 2020). 

This isn't a surprise. Smart speakers offer an easy way to call, or even video call, family and friends for free over wifi, whether that’s for a quick check in, or a much deeper conversation.

I believe an important next step is to develop more "skills" for these speakers, enabling a connection between users and crucial public services, ensuring we’re able to keep informed, protected, and self reliant. We can see a successful example of this is in the healthcare sector, where smart speakers have been employed to remind people to take their medication, thereby helping the end-user, but also making the most of the social care resources available.

Video doorbells are another example of technology that has really developed in a socially distanced world. At a time when our homes are so important to us, making sure we feel secure in them, but also protected by them, is a big bonus. With a video doorbell, we can converse with anyone at our door and protect both them and ourselves by removing the direct contact, whether that’s a neighbour, delivery driver, or even a support volunteer, checking in on their community without entering the house.

The Smart Home in a post-COVID-19 World

The way we live our lives has drastically changed since the start of 2020.

However, I would argue that many of the changes we will need to implement in this new world are merely an accelerated version of the developments that were already on the horizon. More people will be working from home in the future, which means that they will focus more on improving their home environment as a place of work, as well as somewhere they relax with family.

Technologies to improve air quality, home energy efficiency, and wellness will start to come to the fore as more and more consumers look to improve their way of life.  

Technology-based solutions are here to not only keep us all connected, but enable us to become healthier as a society. Public sector services will be able to facilitate their users through that technology, and make improvements to the lives and wellbeing of their community, particularly for those in more vulnerable households.

This presents a massive opportunity to the public sector, the smart home industry, and entrepreneurial installation businesses, looking to solve problems and improve communities.

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