Connected homes, despite lingering consumer concerns over safety, privacy and cybersecurity, continue to gain traction in global markets.

Lucy Han of ABB Electrification’s Smart Buildings has just returned from Las Vegas, home of this year’s Consumer Electronics Forum, and she’s thrilled about the event’s developments — a smart fridge that helps home chefs scan and cook up food, devices that open doors and the ability to hook up your TV, kitchen appliances, washing machine and EV charger to the same control panels. 

Han is the VP of Building Home Automation Solutions at ABB, and her company recently acquired Eve Systems, a German device maker skilled at manufacturing connected devices. The move brings them one step closer to helping homeowners measure, monitor and strategically eliminate excess energy use. 

“It’s all part of the smart home,” she tells The Climate“It’s amazing.”

More than an upgraded device 

Enter the world of what Deloitte calls “the connected consumer.” In sectors from finance to healthcare, more people are used to having full control over their data and deploying it to improve the world — both from an individual and a collective perspective. 

In this context, IoT is part of a broader shift, not just in home energy or property tech, but in what consumers expect. 

According to Deloitte’s Center for Technology, Media, & Telecommunications, 77% of consumers with smart devices — despite occasional reservations about hacking and cybersecurity — felt they improved their lives. 

But many consumers discover (albeit reluctantly) that once they adopt smart device perks and adaptations, it’s tricky to go back

Features that were once nice to have rapidly become “indispensable.” Devices that were once inanimate pieces of metal become fixtures of daily life. 

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The result is a balancing act — between feeling like big companies have all the power and feeling empowered by the data at one’s fingertips. This balance tends to play out in different ways around the world based on national values and views towards data privacy. 

In Europe and the UK, for example, governments and policymakers typically look askance at technology companies collecting user data to make a profit. 

Emphasising savings on energy 

In many ways, to make the shift from Asia-Pacific (APAC) to the UK, IoT providers will have to emphasise practicality and convenience.

While Asia, projected to reach a market total of US $480 billion by 2024, is one of the regions leading in IoT, translating smart home technology to the UK market requires a different approach, Han tells The Climate. 

In China, Japan and South Korea, where IoT and connected systems have accelerated more rapidly, intelligent home systems hold a certain cachet: one that emphasises elegant homeownership, ease of use and a sleek home operating interface. 

Throughout APAC, she explains, the narrative is more about comfort, privacy, convenience and “the fancy life.” 

But in the UK, it centres on rising energy bills, higher costs and the pressure to be more efficient with one’s water, electricity and gas. 

This pressure isn’t necessarily a negative force. 

Linking disparate devices “generate[s] tons of energy-saving possibilities,” says Han — from optimising home operations and showcasing energy efficiency to potential renters and buyers, to cutting energy bills by turning off systems when not directly in use; say, when homeowners leave on vacation or head off to work. 

A socially conscious mindset 

But although the driving message in the UK might be one of saving energy and thus saving on energy bills, introducing IoT options could create ripple effects, emphasising social ties and helping communities optimise their collective carbon footprint. 

At British low-income and social housing projects, connected devices are a way to protect renters against unexpected building and maintenance shocks that could have disastrous effects on their health and their wallets. 

With additional data, for instance, building managers can more proactively identify and target the most critical buildings on their list for repairs, like those that are at risk of falling into disrepair or harming tenants’ health.

“Smart temperature sensors would enable social housing organisations to measure and resolve damp and mould issues before they become a costly problem to fix,” Fanyu Lin, Chief Executive Officer at Fluxus and Andrew van Doorn, Chief Executive at HACT, write for the World Economic Forum. And “[s]mart leak sensors could detect water escape.” 

Technology can be a tool for us to navigate our world and connect with family. But it can also be bigger than that, bolder than that — shaping the physical environment, helping governments meet green energy metrics, and including citizens of all income brackets. 

For her part, Han thinks connected homes are about more than just ease of use. “I think this kind of mindset change is not just a device change,” Han says. “[It’s] how we think about technology.” 

She pauses, then takes a slightly more philosophical tack. 

“What are the values we can bring if we create this kind of interoperability?” she asks. “If we can bring this technology together?”