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Some of the Advantage Air team have just gotten back from attending the huge consumer electronics show, CES, in Las Vegas. It’s known for being the show where all the cutting edge electronics companies show off their future products. Its huge, spread over a large convention centre plus 3 or 4 hotels and with 170,000 people attending.
So it’s as good a place as any to get an idea of the future of smart home products in Australia.
Considering the show as a whole, what hit the team is that smart products are coming to every industry and every part of your life. There is an absolute explosion of smart products for the home: for babies and kids (including robots that can read bedtime stories to your kids), for pets (products that can feed your cat or can play with your dog), for aged care, for hair care, for waste removal, for music instruments. Robots, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, these things are going to be everywhere soon.
Smart home products are expected to be the fastest growing segment in the IoT sector, with growth of 57% over the next 3 years. So the home is where this boom in IoT will be seen the most. 2017 will be the year of the smart home – or at least, the first year of the future home where smart devices are everywhere.
Looking at the smart home products that were on display that are, you would guess, the best in the world, it struck the Advantage Air team to see that the smart home products industry still has a way to go. There are often defects in products that are seen as leading the field at the moment.
This impression is confirmed by John Davidson, writing in an article in the Australian Financial Review on 27 December 2016 AFR titled “Gadgets you can actually use in 2017”: “we spent a lot of time in 2016 setting up phone controlled, internet enabled home automation – the so called “internet of things” – and for the most part we found the devices to be hopelessly unreliable. A light that sometimes switches on automatically when you get home is not a lot better than useless, and not nearly as useful as a good old fashioned light switch which, you know, just works.”
This raises two important problems for the industry. As John Davidson says, many of the smart home products sold today don’t work reliably or sometimes don’t work at all. And because many smart home products are sold online by relatively unknown companies from the US or China there is little or no local support in Australia and weak or non-existent after sales service or help.
So what do people do who want smart products for their home that work and are reliable and want a local representative to take responsibility if there is a problem? That is where products like our MyLights will appeal to many people. We have thoroughly tested MyLights in many homes over 12 months before releasing it, searching for any defect or possible problem that we have overlooked and removing them.
We also focused on developing a product that does the basics simply and very well, resisting the urge to provide lots of features which people often don’t use but increase the chance of something going wrong and also the complexity of using the product. So it’s simple and easy to use by the average, “non techy” person.
We don’t sell MyLights online. We sell MyLights and MyAir through authorised dealers. We only sell MyLights and MyAir in regions where we have a local branch or a local distributor to ensure that there are local people with the training and knowledge and commitment to provide meaningful after sales service and technical support.
While this way of selling and supporting a smart product is more costly, time consuming and requires a lot more effort and resources from us than selling our products online, we think that many people will choose a smart product like MyLights or MyAir that works, is reliable and has local technical support.
That’s our hope! There are huge companies with huge marketing budgets in this space. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how it all unfolds in 2017.