Smart home devices, such as connected cameras, speakers and thermostats, are proliferating. A second-quarter of 2019 survey from Parks Associates reveals that 28% of U.S. households own at least one smart home device. These owners have an average of six smart devices, double the average amount from two years prior.
About two-thirds of device owners install the devices themselves, according to the survey. These installations are not without challenges, including physical installation, internet connectivity and configuration. Homeowners increasingly expect a streamlined installation. When problems persist, about 20% of users return the device — a lose-lose situation for consumers, retailers and device vendors. The cards that you find inside packages with a phone number to call before you return the product are a proof of the cost.
After a successful install, devices require periodic maintenance. For example, alarm companies offer device warranty contracts on top of the monitoring contract. Discussions with service providers reveal the primary reason home owners call for service is low battery. Who hasn’t had a smoke alarm start beeping at some point, often at an inconvenient hour? The second most popular call for service is a device that is offline, often because of a dead battery. The service contract obligates the provider to send a technician, even if it is just to replace a battery. These service calls come at great expense to the providers, which increase the cost of the service contract.
Any time spent on smart device installation and maintenance is not a happy time for anyone. At home, consumers want to spend time with family and pursue passions, not replace batteries. Installation difficulty is one barrier to greater adoption of smart devices in both home and business. Of course, not all devices are created the same. A smart speaker might be easy to install. A smart thermostat might be more difficult. Installing a wired security camera might even require routing wire behind sheetrock or drilling through existing infrastructure to ensure you have optimal coverage, which is not your typical weekend DIY project.
Smart device configuration and internet connectivity problems are receiving a lot of attention from users and vendors. One option is to send consumers and businesses pre-configured devices. For instance, some users already own an Amazon device. When they buy another, Amazon might preconfigure it with the stored Wi-Fi password. Another option is to offer apps that walk users through the configuration. Other vendors offer video chat or video tutorials. Organizations, such as Handy or HelloTech, offer on-demand, on-site configuration.
Long-range wireless power technology emerges
The physical installation problem is as important as the device configuration issues. With long-range wireless power technology, we now have an opportunity to rethink both the installation and the service of smart home devices. The technology can entice new end-users and simplify the life of existing users.
Long-range wireless power is designed to charge smart devices without wires or direct contact with a charger. An energy transmitter connects to a power outlet and emits energy, such as RF energy or infrared light. A wireless receiver captures this energy and converts it back into electricity. Owners of newer phone models might be familiar with the term wireless charging in the form of Qi wireless charging pads. Long-range wireless is more optimized for devices, such as smart locks, sensors and alarms. It does not need the device to be placed on a charging pad.
The effect of long-range wireless power on device installation cannot be understated. With the right wireless technology, a power cord is no longer required for smart devices. Installing power cords can be a big issue for some smart devices. For instance, indoor security cameras are often installed high in the room. Routing a power cord from an outlet to the camera can be cumbersome. Hiding the cable in the wall might be an expensive process. In some situations, such as apartment rentals, co-working spaces or rented business offices, renovation work could violate the terms of the lease.
Without cables, the end-user can place a wireless indoor camera anywhere. The power source can be on another side of the room without cables or mess and with little effort. Battery-operated cameras often offer reduced functionality to preserve battery life. With wireless power, vendors don’t have to trade convenience for functionality and can continue to provide the same feature set as wired cameras.
Long-range wireless power also offers significant improvements to the maintenance of smart devices. Batteries never need replacement, and devices are always online. Wireless power creates convenience and eliminates the need for most technician visits. Manufacturers of battery-operated devices work hard to reduce the frequency of battery replacements, which often comes at the expense of power-hungry features. Manufacturers can add back energy-demanding features because wireless power gives them the energy needed.
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