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Home automation | A discreet enthusiasm

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Turn on the terrace lamp in red, control the heating or air conditioning by voice, unlock the front door remotely. These experiences are unknown to you, worry you or do not concern you? It’s normal.

While the invasion of home automation and its promise to make homes smart has been announced for a decade, reality and statistics show that the craze is still discreet in Quebec.


PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

François Durocher can manage all equipment remotely on his computer, tablet or cell phone.

“It’s very marginal”, agrees Jacques Bourdeau, computer engineer and great fan of home automation. “I’m the one supporting pretty much everyone in my family. »

For another home automation enthusiast, François Durocher, these connected devices are now coming up against “a wall of worry and insecurity” which is slowing down their adoption. “There is also the question of costs and the multiplicity of options. You can wear yourself out just choosing. It’s quite an effort to convince someone in my family to put on a Ring smart doorbell. »

Enthusiasm among sellers

However, manufacturers, sellers and promoters of home automation solicited by The Press are unanimous: this industry is experiencing exponential growth and has surpassed the status of a niche market. According to Statista, the global market would have reached 105 billion US in 2021, surpassing the cinema industry in revenue.

“Perhaps today, we cannot speak of large-scale adoption, but we can see it, the trend is taking,” says Maxime Labonté, commercial director at Sinopé, which notably markets smart thermostats. . “We are growing on 100% of our lines in 100% of our markets. »


PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

For François Durocher, a fan of home automation, these connected devices are now coming up against “a wall of worry and insecurity” which is slowing down their adoption.

At Telus, where there has been a huge focus on home automation since 2017, it is reported that 800,000 customers have signed up for its smart home solutions, out of some 17 million subscribers. “We really see that there is a craze for this service, we see growth, customers are there,” explains Nathalie Dionne, Acting Vice-President, Consumer Solutions and Customer Experience, of Telus.

At Best Buy, the director of marketing and corporate affairs for Quebec Thierry Lopez believes that we have passed the stage of “early adopters” and that there is great interest among customers. “Our consumers are of course more inclined to take an interest in these products, but we really see that this is a category of products that easily finds buyers. It is a heavy trend, we are not in the anecdotal. »

Halftone portrait

At first glance, the statistics seem to prove them right. The most recent portrait of Quebecers in relation to the smart home, the NETendances 2021, estimates from the outset that 47% of Quebec adults have at least one smart home device. This is a remarkable increase of 10 percentage points over the previous year.

However, a more detailed analysis of the survey carried out among 1040 Quebec Internet users paints a less jovial portrait.


First, we have included in these home automation devices smart speakers, which represent the most popular category with a presence in 25% of homes. However, the study reveals further, the Google Home, Home Pod and Echo are only very little used for home automation. No less than 87% of users activate them mainly to listen to music, barely 24% do it to control a smart device. These smart speakers, in fact, are not home automation devices as such, since they only control other connected objects, much like a smartphone does.

The next category in terms of popularity, with 20%, is that of connected appliances, refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers, whose ownership rate has more than doubled in one year, whereas it was 9% in 2020.

For the more traditional categories, light bulbs, thermostats, cameras and door controls, we oscillate between 11 and 15% of adoption, which is obviously far from the definition of a mass market. However, we note a greater and more promising popularity among 25-34 year olds, who are for example 27% to have acquired a thermostat or a connected bulb.

According to Jacques Bourdeau, one of the main obstacles remains the complexity of the installation, even if the manufacturers have made enormous progress in this regard. “The fewer accessories you have, the less interesting home automation is. Controlling one or two lights doesn’t change much in your life. […] What is the pool of people capable of organizing, installing and programming their devices? It’s minimal. »

Five hurdles

Security

According to NETendances 2021, 31% of respondents cite privacy and data security as a barrier to the adoption of smart devices. Baby monitors or hacked doorbells, viruses installed on connected objects, indiscretions or abusive collection of data from smart speakers, hacked manufacturers’ platforms with user names and passwords, “the Internet of Things makes them “more at risk of being targeted by cybercriminals,” according to a report from TrendMicro.

Compatibility

There are hundreds of home automation device manufacturers using as many different applications and communication protocols. Although smart speakers have contributed enormously since 2014 to their interconnection, it takes extensive expertise to manage to integrate them into the same platform. “Standardization is a problem,” explains Jacques Bourdeau, who admits having a “ridiculous” number of home automation devices linked in platforms like Homebridge or ISY Universal Device.

Cloud Computing

The overwhelming majority of consumers rely on manufacturers’ cloud platforms to control their devices. They are then at the mercy of a business closure, which has happened to us three times in the last year, leaving us with a dozen unusable devices. The ideal is to favor devices that allow local connections, which are still rare on the market. Sinopé, from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, has made it a commitment. “You take our devices, you put them on another platform like SmartThings and they are natively compatible,” says Maxime Labonté, commercial director.

disinterest

This is the obstacle most often mentioned in surveys such as that of NETendances: 53% of consumers who resist explain it in 2021 by “a lack of usefulness or relevance” of connected devices. It is higher with age, rising from 20% for 18-24 year olds to 66% for 65-74 year olds. We could add to this group the 31% of respondents who believe that they would not use these devices often enough to justify the purchase. “It remains a certain luxury, you can function very well and live without it…”, recognizes François Durocher.

Tenants

There are many wireless home automation devices, but a good proportion of them, including switches, sockets, thermostats and doorbells, require installation that is not always possible for a simple tenant. However, 38.7% of Quebecers and 60% of Montrealers do not own their homes, according to the 2016 census. “You have there a first blockage that cuts you off from a large pool,” says Jacques Bourdeau.



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