The problem with predicting the future of the Internet of Things is that a world of connected devices can take so many forms and affect so many things that isolating discrete examples of this digital revolution can be a slippery proposition. Especially in today’s iPhone-obsessed culture, it’s the headline-grabbing tentpole product releases of brand names that capture the public’s imagination, whereas the potential of IoT is much more a sum of its parts.
In 2016, that potential could finally — and literally — come home to roost.
Several pioneering electronics companies have already demonstrated a commitment to pushing in-home IoT-enabled products as parts of their upcoming product releases, and how they interact might accelerate consumer-facing IoT products for years to come. Wired explained that 2015 saw the market introduction of stealthily advertised IoT hubs; Apple TV marks one of them, with HomeKit development capabilities baked into its highly publicized multimedia uses. Amazon got into the home IoT game, too, with its Alexa voice-enabled hub that can give users a taste of 2016’s IoT home by power-cycling similarly enabled lightbulbs and electronics plugged into WiFi-connected outlets.
While these cutting-edge devices might show the future of IoT to homeowners, they’re not always the best ways to introduce non-tech-savvy consumers to a world where all of their previously inert electronics, appliances and furnishings can communicate with each other. For that, it might take a brand like Samsung to not just embrace IoT-enabled televisions but to jump into the fray head first. According to a Tuesday (Dec. 29) statement from Samsung, that’s exactly what it plans to do — every new television model released in 2016 will come shipped with IoT hub functionality. All homeowners need to do is connect their new Samsung screens up to a home network and their TVs become familiar-yet-advanced control centers for a larger living space.
Alex Hawkinson, CEO and cofounder of SmartThings, an IoT firm that integrated functionality for more than 200 discrete devices into Samsung’s TVs, explained why this could lead to an explosion of interest and activity in IoT in 2016.
“With Samsung Smart TVs working with the SmartThings technology, we have an opportunity to reach millions of households,” Hawkinson said. “Applying this technology into current household devices is a major step forwards that will make it much easier for everyone to experience the benefits of a smart home.”
Customers won’t even have to take the leap of buying a new TV to experience the possibilities of IoT in their homes. Jenna Reck, a spokeswoman for Target, told Luxury Daily that stores across the country will start to showcase Target’s “Open House” concept, a showroom-style exhibit of all the smart home IoT products the retailer will carry in 2016.
“We opened Target Open House as an experiential retail setting that inspires people to explore the world of connected home living — what it is, how it works and how it can make our lives better,” Reck said. “Open House has become a place for Target to invite the connected home community to exchange idea[s], share work and spur dialogue. It also helps Target and our partners to quickly get products into consumers’ hands and learn more about how connected home products and services can come to life in a retail environment.”
If this all sounds like wishful thinking from developers and retailers who have a great deal to gain from consumer IoT tech taking off, it’s not as if they’re totally grasping at straws. An Intel survey from November found that 68 percent of consumers are “confident that smart homes will be as commonplace as smartphones within 10 years.”
Mark the calendar. In 2026, 2016 may very well become known as the birth of the smart home.