While still in its infancy, Canadians’ growing desire for energy and money savings is driving interest in the smart home market. And as the majority (56 percent) of consumers are interested in making their home more ‘connected’ by using smart devices, opportunities exist for smart home brands to target older consumers: new research from Mintel reveals that 86 percent of consumers aged 55+ are interested in incentives to use smart devices to manage their energy consumption.

However, Mintel research indicates that interest in smart home devices does drop dramatically with age, and may, in part, be due to usability: two thirds of 18-24 year olds (68 percent) and 25-34 year olds (64 percent) are interested in a ‘connected’ home compared to just 37 percent of Canadians age 65+. Among older consumers (age 55+) who are interested in making their home more connected, a preference for larger screens is apparent as two thirds (67 percent) are interested in using tablets, while one third (33 percent) are interested in using smart TVs to control smart home devices. What’s more, older consumers are less likely to report interest in controlling devices via smartphone (77 percent of those aged 55+ vs 88 percent of consumers overall).

“We know that seniors now comprise the fastest-growing age group in Canada. As the population continues to age, it’s important for smart home brands to make their devices accessible for Canadians of all ages and to address challenges that may keep older consumers from engaging in smart technology, including lower spending habits, overall disinterest and fixed incomes,” said Andrew Zmijak, Research Analyst, Consumer Behaviour at Mintel. “Smart home brands should recognize and respond to older consumers’ attitudes toward and interests in technology, such as their need for larger screens. Beyond this, an effective way for brands to attract older consumers is by incorporating large screens right on their device hardware, creating straightforward operation for less tech-minded seniors.”

69% of Canadians agree that using smart devices would help reduce the cost of energy/water bills

As energy prices continue to rise across the country, reducing consumption to save on energy bills is top of mind for consumers, and they see smart devices as a possible solution. In fact, 69 percent agree that using smart devices would help reduce the cost of their energy and water bills, while four in five (82 percent) are interested in incentives to use smart devices to manage their energy consumption. What’s more, three quarters (75 percent) of Canadians see smart devices as offering a convenient way to track their personal habits, such as energy and water consumption.

Mintel research reveals that while ownership is relatively low, it’s undeniable that consumers are interested in further incorporating smart devices into their homes. Although just one in 10 (10 percent) Canadians currently own a smart heating appliance/thermostat, one third (33 percent) are interested in buying one; the same percentage of Canadians are interested in buying smart lighting (33 percent) and switches (33 percent). Further, one quarter (23 percent) of Canadians are interested in buying smart water management systems (eg smart sprinkler system).

Consumers are beginning to embrace the tangible benefits of smart home devices as the technology allows them to receive feedback on, and learn from, their behaviours. With energy prices on the rise, consumers are challenged to better manage their energy consumption. Smart devices give them the opportunity to maximize energy efficiency while minimizing costs, which is key as many consumers are trying to stay on track with household bills,” continued Zmijak.

However, not all Canadians feel that the advantages of smart devices outweigh the costs: more than half (55 percent) of consumers who are not interested in making their home better connected view smart technology as too expensive, including 69 percent of women age 18-34. Furthermore, some 53 percent of uninterested consumers believe they simply do not need smart devices for their home. This coincides with 28 percent who don’t see the benefit of owning such products.

Another prevailing concern among consumers is the security of smart home devices. Two in five (39 percent) consumers not interested in smart home devices worry that their device or personal information will get hacked. Additionally, despite the fact that a majority of consumers view smart devices as a convenient way to track personal habits, a sizable minority avoid making their home better connected because they don’t want to be overwhelmed with information (24 percent) and find it too complicated to understand (19 percent).

“In addition to better conveying the long-term cost savings of adopting smart home devices, brands need to address security concerns by educating consumers on the measures in place to protect their devices and personal information. It’s also crucial that smart home brands simplify the way information is delivered to customers. Creating a more stress-free, easy-to-understand user experience will give consumers more confidence to adopt this technology,” concluded Zmijak.

Press review copies of Mintel’s Connected Living: Smart Home and Integrated Devices Canada 2016 and interviews with Research Analyst, Consumer Behaviour, Andrew Zmijak are available on request from the press office.

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