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Smart Homes In The U.S. Becoming More Common, But Still Face Challenges


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Nexstar Buys WGN For A Song; Divestiture Of WGN, Stakes In Food Channels Likely

2018 US Insurtech Report

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Smart Homes In The U.S. Becoming More Common, But Still Face Challenges

Jun. 14 2017 — The following post comes from Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. To learn more about this research, please request a call

Despite the growing popularity of several smart home applications and products, the majority of U.S. homes still aren’t “smart.” 

Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, reports that the number of U.S. smart homes grew to over 15 million at the end of 2016. While this total equates to just 12.5% of total U.S. households, that percentage is forecasted to grow to 28% by 2021.

US smart homes as a percent of total u.s households

Smart homes have long existed on the edge of reality, something of a futuristic idea that appears to be close, but is always “two years away” from becoming big. However, with smart/connected products filling the shelves of both online and brick-and-mortar stores, the smart home has become real.

The smart home is also rapidly becoming a key component in the technology industry’s vision of the emerging Internet of Things, or IoT.

The current industry vision of an IoT-enabled world is one that creates a more convenient, secure, intelligent, and personalized experience. While this seems to be an achievable vision, the reality of IoT is sometimes different.

For example, in order to create real value, IoT has to solve real problems, not just connect a bunch of devices. Enter the smart home, which can meet the goal of creating real value for the user. At its best, the smart home can solve problems, create new efficiencies, and even save a consumer some money.

Market challenges and drivers

The drivers supporting the growth of the smart home market are broadly based on growing consumer awareness about the value of connected devices. More specifically, these drivers are:

  • An increasing consumer focus on home security. While home security concerns certainly aren’t new, many current security products and services weren’t possible without a broadband service or a mobile electronic device. Products and services such as IP security cameras, smart locks, and automatic notifications sent directly to your mobile phone are becoming integral parts of the smart home.
  • There is growing consumer awareness of the utility of smart hub products. Led by the explosive growth of Amazon’s Echo, smart hub devices such as Google Home and Samsung’s SmartThings Hub have moved beyond simply being smart speaker systems. These devices can now control other smart home products and are increasingly becoming the centerpiece of “do it yourself,” or DIY, smart home systems. 
  • Connected energy management devices now offer greater functionality. Demand for devices such as smart thermostats and smart lighting systems has increased markedly over the past two years, driven by both their money-saving capabilities and their easy-to-use reputation.

Market drivers smart home

On the other hand, the concept of the smart home is still viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. Challenges that are holding back the smart home market include:

  • Defining the value proposition of the smart home remains problematic. Consumer surveys routinely show the skepticism of some homeowners about the real value of connected devices in the home. Frequently heard comments such as, “If I need to adjust the temperature in my home, I’ll do it manually,” and “Why would I ever need a smart doorbell?” underline the challenge of moving the smart home past the early adopter phase.
  • The price of both smart home service packages and some leading smart home devices are often viewed as too high for mass adoption. On the service provider side, support for smart home services usually requires an existing subscription to either a security service or a broadband service. Examples include Comcast charging $30 per month for its Xfinity Home service, while ADT pricing starts at $59 per month for its Pulse + Home Control package.

Market challenges smart home

On the device side, many products used in the smart home are generally perceived to be more reasonable than a smart home monthly service fee. Examples of leading product prices include the Amazon Echo at $50, the Nest Learning Thermostat at $250 and the SkyBell HD video doorbell at $199. Still, for many consumers, these prices can seem high for products often viewed as unnecessary.

  • One of the toughest problems faced by smart home advocates is security. Unlike the market driver that focuses on improving the physical security of the home, this challenge has to do with keeping the access to the home, personal information and data secure from illegal or unauthorized access.
  • With online access to everything from door locks to security cameras, many consumers are rightfully concerned about the vulnerability of these products to hackers. In September 2016, hackers managed to take control of over one million home video security cameras. This hack, which was generally limited to security cameras from a single vendor, received worldwide attention and publicity. It also served to highlight how challenging it is to convince many potential smart home adoptees that their connected devices will truly be secure.#learnMoreAbout("sector-intelligence-1") 
  • On the physical security side, a common fear is that smart locks or smart alarm systems can be bypassed or hacked. A leading security service executive recently mentioned that this issue was the second most common reason they hear as to why consumers refuse to sign up for an online security system (number one was price).
  • Another significant market challenge to the smart home is the overall usability and interoperability of connected devices in the smart home. This is especially true in a smart home not supported by a service provider, where a consumer might want to integrate a standalone smart thermostat from one vendor into to a smart home hub from a different vendor. It’s important to point out that just because a device is an internet-connected device, that doesn’t mean it will communicate with, or even work with, a different connected device.

The future of the smart home

At year-end 2016, we estimated there were just over 15 million households in the U.S. that met our definition of a smart home. By the end of 2017, we are projecting that total to increase to more than 20 million households.

Over the next several years, we are forecasting solid, but not meteoric, growth in the number of U.S. smart homes. Fueled by an expanding number of connected devices in the home, coupled with the desire to allow these devices to communicate and interoperate, we are projecting U.S. smart homes to exceed 35 million by 2021. 

US smart homes,2016-2021

Some notable elements of our smart home shipment forecast are:

  • The current base of smart homes in the U.S. falls into two categories: service provider-supported smart homes and DIY smart homes. The service provider category consists of homes supported by pay TV/telecommunications service providers, home security companies, and some home improvement retailers (i.e. Lowe’s, Home Depot) that offer or promote proprietary smart home platforms. The DIY category includes homes with multiple connected devices, meeting our definition of a smart home, but they do not rely on a service or platform provided by one of the companies in our service provider category.
  • In the U.S., the DIY smart home category is significantly larger than the service provider smart home category. Currently, the segmentation stands at approximately 70% DIY smart homes, 30% service provider smart homes. Much of this split is based on the cost, or perceived cost, of the smart home. A majority of consumers with smart homes seem to view the monthly subscription fees charged by service providers as being too expensive. This pushed them into relying on the DIY model for their smart homes.
  • There is some churn in the smart home market. Although the annual percentage is quite small, estimated in the 1% to 2% range, there are some consumers who either end their smart home service provider subscription or effectively “disconnect” their home.

Virtually all of the anecdotal stories we hear about these homes “going dumb” are based on three issues:

      • Security concerns
      • Service pricing
      • Unfulfilled expectations of the smart home

    While we are projecting the number of smart homes in the U.S. to increase significantly over the next few years, it is important to point out that they will still be a minority of total U.S. homes. In fact, in 2021 the number of “dumb” homes will still outnumber the number of smart homes by more than a two-to-one margin. 

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    Technology, Media & Telecom
    Nexstar Buys WGN For A Song; Divestiture Of WGN, Stakes In Food Channels Likely

    Dec. 10 2018 — Walt Disney Co.'s pending acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox Inc. certainly raised the bar for cable network valuations — at 15.4x cash flow — and the divestiture of the regional sports networks may see another double-digit-multiple transaction with Inc. in the mix of buyers. Another deal, Nexstar Media Group Inc.'s pending acquisition of Tribune Media Co., sees stakes in three cable nets going to the buyer for single-digit multiples (6.9x).

    The deal follows the collapse of Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s deal to buy the company, which is now being litigated. We think that Nexstar is getting quite a deal on the cable network assets and will likely flip them for a quick profit.

    When Discovery Inc. agreed to buy Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. in July 2017, the domestic cable networks were valued at $10.14 billion, or 10.5x cash flow, with Food Network (US) valued at $4.5 billion (Scripps owned 68.7%) and Cooking Channel (US) (also at 68.7%) valued at $525 million.

    In the current transaction, the valuations come to $3.47 billion and $323 million, respectively. Thus, if Nexstar can get Discovery Communications to pay at least what it paid in the Scripps transaction, Nexstar may make a quick profit. Granted, minority interests typically trade at a discount. Scripps Networks Interactive, however, has tried for years to cut a deal to buy out the minority stake and it may be willing to strike a deal at a higher price to put this issue behind it.

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    2018 US Insurtech Report


    S&P Global Market Intelligence’s 2018 US Insurtech Market Report projects that U.S. private auto insurance premiums written via the direct-to-consumer channel will exceed $90 billion by 2022. The report also examines startup funding trends and identifies other business lines that could be ripe for insurtech disruption.

    Nov. 30 2018 — U.S. insurance technology startups are numerous and still very much in their early years. As is common with an emerging fintech segment, investor and public interest in the space is high despite the risky nature of startup investing. The insurtech space had a recent gauge of public investor interest with the IPO of lead aggregator EverQuote. While the IPO priced above its expected range, the stock’s performance since then has been lackluster, a disappointing sign for others looking to go public. But many startups are still many years away from that goal, and there might be more investor appetite for different business models. Unlike Netflix and other companies that have caused wholesale disruption in various industries, many insurtech startups are working with incumbents rather than trying to replace them. Incumbents are avid investors in insurtech companies, and the digital agency model relies heavily, for now at least, on partnerships with established underwriters. Of the different insurtech business models, digital agencies and underwriters continue to attract the most funding and therefore form the focus of our report. Though many facets of their business model are not revolutionary, they have added meaningful innovation in some key areas. Certain business lines appear more ripe for innovation than others. In private auto, for instance, the direct distribution model already has a firm foothold and therefore seems less vulnerable to disruption by startups. S&P Global Market Intelligence projects that premiums written in the direct response channel will exceed $90 billion by 2022 and that they will account for more than 30% of overall U.S. auto premiums. But if the direct model can be applied to other lines, such as small business insurance or life insurance, that might produce a more dramatic challenger to the incumbent writers of those lines.

    Early days

    Interest in the U.S. insurtech space has spiked in recent years, fed by a large crop of startup companies. It is too early to assess how successful most insurtech startups and their investors will be as many companies are only a few years old at this point. In S&P Global Market Intelligence’s coverage universe, the median age of U.S. insurtech companies — based on the year they were founded — is seven years. But the recent spate of startups is even younger than that. The years 2015 and 2016 were a particularly bountiful time; companies founded in those two years alone account for roughly 22% of the coverage universe.

    Appetite for disruption

    One of the textbook examples of industry disruption is Netflix, which drastically reshaped the distribution of entertainment, first through its DVD mail service and again through its on-demand streaming service. These changes brought about the demise of in-store video rental giant Blockbuster, which reportedly had the chance to buy Netflix for only $50 million in 2000.

    We do not foresee the same kind of seismic changes coming for much of the U.S. insurance industry, since the fundamental distribution model is not changing. The startups covered in this report — both digital agents and fullstack companies — are proponents of the direct distribution model, selling policies directly to consumers via their websites and/or mobile apps. But this is far from a novel concept. Areas of the insurance industry have embraced online, direct-to-consumer distribution for some time.

    S&P Global Market Intelligence client? Click here to login and read the full 2018 US Insurtech Market Report

    The projections reflect various assumptions regarding premiums, losses and expenses. They are a product of a sum-of-the-parts analysis of individual business lines that is informed by third-party macroeconomic forecasts, historical trends and recent market observations that include first-quarter 2017 statutory results and anecdotal commentary about market conditions. Projected results are displayed on a total-filed basis and are not intended for application to individual states, regions or companies. S&P Global Market Intelligence reserves the right to update the projections at any time for any reason.

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    Ondeck Now Open To Exploring Deals, CEO Says


    OnDeck has never done an acquisition, but M&A is a possibility now that the company is generating cash, Chairman and CEO Noah Breslow said.

    Breslow expects there to be consolidation across online lending companies in the near future.

    OnDeck plans to launch a new product line, such as a business credit card or an equipment financing product, by year-end.

    Nov. 30 2018 — Noah Breslow has been at the helm of On Deck Capital Inc. since June 2012, overseeing the company's initial public offering and several profitable quarters. The online lender has originated more than $10 billion in small-business loans and is one of the largest players in the industry.

    In addition to originating its own loans, OnDeck recently launched ODX, a new subsidiary focused on a platform-as-a-service product for banks. OnDeck has operated that sort of white-label partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co. for several years and will launchoperations with PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in 2019.

    Now, the lender is open to doing deals, Breslow said. He sat down with S&P Global Market Intelligence in Las Vegas to talk about his company's future product plans and the broader online lending marketplace.

    The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

    OnDeck CEO Noah Breslow
    Source: OnDeck

    S&P Global Market Intelligence: How do you view the current state of the online lending marketplace?

    Noah Breslow: What you're seeing in that market is a bit of survival of the fittest. Many smaller companies are probably going to be sold in the next couple of years.

    The advantages in the business go to those with scale: You can raise capital on the best terms, you collect the most data, so you can make the best decisions when you build your models, and you can reach more small-business owners more efficiently.

    That being said, do you foresee being an acquirer?

    We're open to it. We haven't acquired a company in 11 years of doing business. One of the advantages of now being profitable and generating cash is we can look around the market.

    But we're designing our core business model so we don't need to acquire to hit our targets. Anything we do in the M&A sphere will be additive, and it will not be aggressive M&A. It's going to be reasonable bets to have a nice return or nice synergies, if we do it.

    Is OnDeck considering starting other products outside of small business lending?

    Not at this time. We focus on trying to be the best small-business lender in the world, but that can mean a lot of different products over time.

    Today we have a term loan and a line of credit product. We've talked about four other products that our customers use: equipment financing, invoice factoring, Small Business Administration lending and small-business credit cards. Those are all fair game for us over the next couple of years.

    We're on track to announce our third major product by the end of the year. One of those four will probably be picked.

    Why is OnDeck focusing on small business lending rather than other offerings?

    It's where underwriting is not commoditized. Student lending and personal lending are based on FICO. You can go to 10 different websites and get identical products.

    In small business lending, the intellectual property around the OnDeck score is unique.

    I like being able to differentiate in that way. It creates a sustainable advantage for our business, whereas if we were just using FICO to underwrite, anyone can buy that and get into the market.

    OnDeck's white-label product lets banks use its technology to streamline their own lending process. In those partnerships, do you face regulatory restrictions with the use of alternative data in underwriting models?

    When we're partnering with banks, it's critical that the bank has a lot of control over the credit model and the data being used for decisioning.

    The model we use with JPMorgan Chase was jointly developed between OnDeck and Chase, so obviously Chase was very comfortable data. The model we're using with PNC is more of PNC's design, and we're advising on its creation. In both cases, we're using data that's right down the middle of the fairway — business credit, business cash flow and evaluating the business owner — but nothing too esoteric.

    In our own business at OnDeck, we can use more alternate data because we don't have the same modeled governance that a bank might have.

    Are you using machine learning to synthesize data sources and create new models based on alternative data?

    Some players out there have tried to go purely digital and almost let the computer decide how to make the decision. We don't believe in that.

    We have a hybrid model, where people with a lot of commercial underwriting experience are working in concert with advanced modeling techniques to get the result.

    OnDeck's charge-off rates have declined year over year in 2018. Is there correlation between these lower rates and your updated models using more alternative data?

    Our credit models have improved over the last year, and alternative data definitely contributes.

    Many of our improvements in the last year have been structural or operational. I view the modeling improvements as even more upside potential from here.

    We noticed after we loaned our first billion dollars that our credit models got a step-function better. Now, with $10 billion under our belts, it's again happening. We can do a lot of data-driven decision-making about who we approve and who we decline on many years of history now.

    It starts to become more powerful. That's why you see these scaled-up companies like American Express or Discover Financial or Capital One. They're reaping the benefits of decades of lending, and hopefully we'll be in the same place.

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