The problem with smart home devices in a city

The problem with smart home devices in a city

Are smart home gadgets leaving renters and apartment owners behind?

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Smart home devices from connected thermostats to video doorbells are often the first IoT devices people will buy. But for those who live in metropolitan areas—and often in apartments—gadgets from garage door openers to smart sprinkler systems aren't going to work. High-rise buildings often have central heating, so smart thermostats are of no use, and your management company is unlikely to let you wire up a video doorbell in the lobby.

Makers of smart devices from SkyBell to Schlage understand this challenge, just one of the topics they covered during a recent roundtable, Smart Home, Smarter Things sponsored by Honeywell. Leaving apartment renters and owners behind is hardly something any consumer company wants. And it's an area these smart device manufacturers are focusing on intently.

That's not to say city dwellers are feeling left behind. Smart lights and Wi-Fi linked security cameras are easy to install: in some cases you just download an app, plug in a camera or screw in a lightbulb. (Management nor landlords never need to know.) But smart devices can be like potato chips: once you have one, you just want more. In fact, people who start with six smart devices, tend to amass more than 10 smart devices within six months including smart lights, smart security cameras and connected thermostats, according to Samsung SmartThings.

Typically, people are pulled towards smart devices by three events: when they move, have a baby or buy a new house, said the panel which included experts from Honeywell Connected Home, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT, Schlage, SkyBell, and Chamberlain. That's not to say that there aren't other motives, such as, say, wanting to check in on your pet cat or dog during the day via a security camera, or want to conserve energy, and have your air conditioning turn off when you open the back door.

SkyBell's co-founder Andrew Thomas also noted that clever consumers can create new ways—and new reasons—to use smart home products. SkyBell, for example, has found users buying their video doorbells to install inside the home, sometimes for elderly parents who can ring the doorbell from a bedroom, for example, and instantly video chat with anyone in their family on that network if they need help. In that way, a smart doorbell can be put to use by an apartment renter or owner.

Smart home companies are paying attention to how consumer use their current devices, and ways they're adapting these gadgets as well. Companies also want to anticipate future needs to make sure they're ready with products and services those will live in urban settings will want—and then use. It's a goal that's definitely front and center on their mind.

"Cities are really important to us," said Martin Heckmann, Chamberlain's director, emerging business. We believe him.

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