Smart home mania or madness?


With the flood of new smart home products hitting the market these days, one of the things I look forward to each day is checking my Google Alerts to see what new surprises this wild west of home automation and connectivity is bringing us now.

From smart toasters that tell you when your toast is ready, or if you like, that toasts the past night’s sports scores right onto the bread for you, to a smart-fridge that tells you when you need more milk, the number and volume of new smart home products hitting the market today is staggering. And, to say the least, a little befuddling, like the smart grill that tells you when your steak needs to be flipped, or the smart coffee maker that texts you when your coffee is ready, or … brace yourself … the smart tampon that reminds you when it is time for a change—huh?

As one of my SSN colleagues pointed out, you have to wonder if consumer interest and demand is driving this innovation or if companies are just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. We both agree that more often than not, it is the latter.

The latest innovation, and I have to say I am surprised it has taken this long, is the smart home robot named ZenBo, which is basically Amazon Echo’s Alexa on wheels. ZenBo, and other robots like it that will surely flood the market in the coming months, can turn on your lights, walk you through a recipe, remind you to take your medicine or even read a bedtime story to your kids, if that idea doesn’t freak you out as much as it does me.

For every convenience that a product like ZenBo can provide to a family, you have to wonder if we haven’t flipped open the lid on Pandora’s box. When will the madness end, and how are dealers to make sense of all of these new products hitting the market?

For every interesting new product I read about, like the smart go-cart that Tony Fadell, co-creator of Nest, is designing to allow parents to geofence where their kids will be able to drive, there are five to 10 other new products that make you shake your head.

When it comes to sorting through all of this and figuring out what is viable and what is just, hmm, let’s say—insane—it is important for dealers to ask themselves: Will my customers be interested in this or are these companies creating a problem where there isn’t one just to sell another clever smart home product?