Tech companies have been talking for years about the so-called connected home, in which home appliances and accessories connect to the Internet. Judging from Christmas with my family — as well as the news expected at the International Consumer Electronics Show next week — this year it might become a reality.
The most popular example has been a fridge that sends a text message when the milk is running low. Some home builders imagine building a connected home from the ground up. But most consumers and suppliers are starting by connecting smaller devices that use smartphones as a remote control, said Frank E. Gillett, an analyst at Forrester.
My mother received Hue lightbulbs, for instance, made by Philips and controllable with her iPhone. She can set custom lighting for ambience in the dining room, turn lights on or off remotely, and set lights to slowly brighten in the morning.
My father received a Nest Protect smoke alarm, which sends his phone messages if it senses smoke or has low batteries. He planned to install it near the kitchen, because if it senses smoke from cooking, it speaks with a human voice before sounding a loud alarm and can be silenced with a wave. He can connect it to his Nest Thermostat, which will automatically turn off the gas furnace if there is a carbon monoxide leak.
The devices join my parents’ Withings scale and Bose music system, controllable with a smartphone.
The connected home is still more popular with classic early adopters than with mainstream consumers, according to Forrester. Just 1 or 2 percent of people have connected devices to control lighting, climate, energy, appliances and home monitoring, Forrester found. About a third say they are interested in connecting their homes, but almost half say they are not interested.
“I think we’re at the beginning of the industry hype cycle but not at the beginning of mainstream consumer adoption,” Mr. Gillett said.
The most popular connected home device is security systems, according to Forrester.
There are also electronic door locks (people can give a repair person an electronic key that expires that night or receive an alert when someone enters), garage door openers, cameras like Dropcam for baby or pet monitoring, weather stations for vacation homes, sensors like those made by Lively for monitoring the activity and health of elderly people, and aconnected egg tray so people know if they need to buy new eggs.
Companies like Revolv and SmartThings create apps to tie different connected devices together and control a home from a single app.
“Most consumers aren’t proactively saying, ‘I want X,’” Mr. Gillett said. “This is one of those things where it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, I can get that? Great.’”