Observing the future of Connected Living

How will regular households live in 2023? What will change in how they interact with the products and services that enter their houses, or indeed how they interact with each other? What expectations will they have of how customer experiences increasingly adapt themselves to the house and its inhabitants?

Over the course of 2019, Starcom Futures has been exploring these themes by observing real families living in homes of 2023, and working with them to understand how their experiences stand up to the hopes and fears of 2019 households.

In the course of doing so, we have created a world-first experiment in design fiction, in partnership with ethnographic specialists The Practice Insights, and a rich and broad set of insights and provocations about the near future of living.

We began with a set of benchmarks for 2019 expectations, building a Future Living panel of 36 households across a wide range of life-stage and socio-demographic background. Through a mix of online qual and focus group discussion, we sought to understand what good living meant to people, and how they believed it would change, improve or deteriorate in the future. Through discussion that ranged from kids’ screen time to the surveillance state, from climate change to augmented humanity, and from creating leisure time to robots replacing humans, we got to the heart of Australia’s hopes and fears about the future.

From the themes that developed from our panel, we created a set of future living goals that represented the best of human experience achievable with the most state of the art smart home technology. From each of our four lifestages (Retirees, working families, multi-generation families, and dual income/no kids), we found one household who were willing to spend six weeks following those goals. Through discussions with each of these four households, we identified the ideal mix of technologies and devices to help them achieve the goals. In the household running a business from home, we installed smart garage doors to facilitate deliveries when they were out. For the family with a child with asthma we focused on smart air purification. In addition of course to the core range of connected technology that will be prevalent in four to five years’ time:

  • smart speakers or screens in each room
    • smart lightbulbs in all sockets in which today’s globes will fit
    • a TV connected into the voice OS of the home
    • smart washer/dryer and robot vaccum cleaner
    • Smart door bells
    • A Samsung Family Hub fridge
    • And a wide range of sensors, wearables, screens, VR and gaming devices as appropriate to the households

And, of course, professional installation, on-site support and 24 hour helpline to help make sense of this influx of technology, from Australia’s leading smart home installers Tech2.

And them over the course of six weeks, the households attempted to live by the future living goals, and tested a wide range of scenarios. Initially these focused on learning to make the most of the hardware. As the experiment progressed, and the participants became more comfortable living in the future, they began to think about how their homes connected to the outside world. Now our ability to fictionalise only stretched as far as the front doors of their homes, so of course services like shopping, entertainment, energy, banking and healthcare were at a 2019 level of sophistication. It is in the gaps that our households identified in how services should be designed, in how their approach to shopping and the selection of products changed, that this project has challenged and inspired us the most. In a very small number of weeks, their expectations of personalisation, service, value and connectivity has undergone a revolution. Our analysis of why this happens is available for download in The Expectation Revolution. Over the next two months we will be publishing more detail on what we can do about it.

Graeme Wood

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