CNET’s Next Big Thing: Will technology keep us at home after the pandemic? – Video

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Coming home, that’s what consumers and companies did the world over in 2020, both making huge investments in time, money and directional effort for an everything at home scramble, work, school, commerce, entertainment, health, nothing short of the backbones of everyday life.
They all came home.
But just because we could do it, doesn’t mean we necessarily should in the long haul, and are we even doing it right?
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Shifting behaviors into the home thanks to technology is of course nothing But before the pandemic only the most ambitious futurist would have put their name to what happened in 2021
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Gyms became watches or mirrors.
Restaurants came in bags Offices became postage stamp faces with odd backgrounds.
But we moved from 5% work hours at home to 40%.
According to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, the dining room table that’s now a school and the doctor is in your hand.
Just 15% of us have used telehealth before 2020.
But that grew to 41% during the pandemic, according to parks associates,
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And we’re still trying to master mute.
But all of this was done with a viral gun to our heads.
That can mask what’s really working in the home and perhaps what Well, it really isn’t.
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Ask frazzled parents how simultaneous work and school from home are working out.
Healthcare providers never signed up to be tech support for their patients’ connected devices.
Web meetings may sustain existing relationships, but can you really make new ones in a Hollywood squares interface?
And we still want to feel the avocados.
Let’s explore what really works at home and how it works best.
To sort this out is my dream team.
Jennifer Kent is senior director at Parks Associates in Dallas.
Paul Lee is Global Head of research for tech media and telecom at Deloitte in London.
And my colleague Megan Wollerton, is in Louisville, Kentucky, where she’s senior editor at our CNET Smart Home center.
And I want to start guys not with what’s working because that’s sort of the obvious question.
I think we all know that from experience, what’s not working out there?
So what we can’t do with current technology is those spontaneous conversations.
Those elevator pitches.
Those cats as we walk along, say to the cafeteria or sharing a cab home.
There is no digital equivalent of that as far as I can see.
So zoom and other products like that our fantastic for the meeting room replication but the reality is.
Businesses about more than just the boardroom.>>Jennifer, you guys do a lot of research about what people are doing and thinking about doing.
What do you think is kind of a squeaky wheel that’s not turning smoothly.
For me, the thing that I don’t think is really going to stick after the pandemic is actually remote learning.
You know, there’s there’s a lot of interest in companies doing innovative things here a lot of investments from the school districts in technology and that’s great.
But when you’re looking at K through 12, I don’t know that it really works for the students are the reality of Of work and the reality of school aren’t quite aligned for long term remote learning at school, I think kids generally benefited from the socialization.
While a lot of this investment is likely to pay it forward to more technology being incorporated into curricula in the classroom, I really don’t know that remote schooling is going to stick long term.
Yeah, I hear that pain point a lot that one and I think seconds.
Right behind it.
I hear from a number of parties that health is also it works, but there’s a lot that you can miss.
What do you guys see in that area in terms of it being difficult?
I think that the big gap right now is the fact that while video based consultation services are here and the technology is here, and there’s, Much greater usage this year than ever before.
The connected device ecosystem is still relatively immature.
So there’s not a wide adoption of connected health devices at home and those that have, let’s say connected blood pressure cuff or connected weight scale or smart thermometer there, that data is not integrated with telehealth services.
So I’m actually very
Bullish on telehealth long term.
There’s a major pain point in this gap between the vital science, the data that you pick up from devices just really not being out of the market and the services which we’ve seen incredible increase in growth in this year.
Okay, Megan, let’s talk about what’s happening in the smart home while people look at this revolution have become becoming home centric.
These millions of hours of home that didn’t exist before home sat there empty much of the time now we’re in them all the time and they think this is going to be this incredible explosion of smart home adoption.
But what are you really seeing out there?
It’s been a real challenge for a lot of people trying to adapt to this time.
Obviously being at home.
There’s a big proliferation of smart home devices, which has been incredible but what I’m increasingly hearing from our readers is that The devices they’re buying while they’re amazing and they help save a little bit of time, they’re not actually touching on those big pain points, which are the chores you know, the cooking, the cleaning the laundry, the stuff that really contributes to the bigger challenge of that work life balance that we’re all struggling with right now.
So while Security cameras and thermostats and voice assistants are incredible devices that can save time and money and energy and help you monitor your home safely.
It really isn’t addressing the bigger problems that people are having right now.
of smart home, Parks associates data, the most recent I’ve seen Jennifer Let’s be generous and say 30% of homes have some smart home tech.
Is that about right?
Yeah, that’s about right.
Actually, maybe even a hair lower than that have at least one smart home device in the household, but for a lot of individual products, adoption has.
Just crept up in minor minor ways, smart thermostats I think are about 15% adoption right now after being on the market for 10 years.
And one smart home device does not make a smart home of course, right.
That being said.
We have seen a lot of growth actually and peace of mind and premise security devices this year.
Beyond the pandemic there was a lot of social conflict that happened this year and that does raise people’s concerns and make some uneasy in certain ways.
So that actually was hosting a lot of buying towards peace of mind type devices video doorbells.
Smart door locks, monitoring cameras, the players that have done the best job at actually automating in a holistic way in the home are actually the residential security providers, because it is a system based approach.
And so in that sense, there’s.
A minor step forward for whole home automation.
I believe one of the big drivers there is the dropping in prices of some of these devices and bigger systems, right?
Where you know, maybe a single standalone camera from Nest or before that Dropcam was 200 bucks and Some people could afford it but the majority of people were not sure if they could, especially if they wanted multiple cameras and wanted to get different angles around their homes.
But now there’s devices like that that are only 20 bucks or 30 bucks that are much more attainable for the broader audience.
And I think that’s that’s definitely contributed and been great to see
Jennifer’s point.
Having one or two smart home devices does not a smart home make.
You need to get an awful lot of devices and get them working together to really say my home is now a smart thing, as opposed to a container that has a few smart things in it.
Do you have anything in your observation this year that you think is going to inspire people from the 2020 experience to say Now I see, That it’s gotta be a cohesive bunch of devices, or has this not advanced that?
Gosh, that’s such a great question.
I think aspirationally, in theory, yes, this year has definitely been an indicator of, okay, We have a lot of ground to cover still we have great devices, we’re making a lot of progress, but that whole home automation, that whole smart home thing, isn’t really a reality yet.
And I’ve definitely heard from our readers.
They’re hoping for something that’s more whole home oriented that really, like I said before addresses those pain points Cooking, cleaning laundry, the stuff that really takes the majority of the time.
And that’s something I’ll be looking at as a trend.
I don’t expect to see you know, robots like Rosie from the Jetsons anytime soon proliferating in our homes, although that’d be great but, Something that’s maybe slightly moving that needle would be wonderful and I’ll definitely be looking for that.
Now Paul, you’ve got technology, media and telecoms in your bucket.
No small scope there.
We’re talking about devices Is in the home and something that’s very kind of internally home centric.
Give us a view of what you think is going to be a great growth area in terms of services and platforms that may be outside the home.
What about telecom?
For example, what about media stuff?
The services.
When we look at the smart home one of the areas we include within there is entertainment.
And the device which has grown really fast in terms of connectivity and smartness within the home Is the television and adoption of smart TVs has really, really surged.
And it’s because what has happened is we’ve taken an everyday object.
So most people watch television every day and made it better.
And I think that is the key.
So if you take Something, which is, every single day ,and iterate it, you upgrade the every day, through connectivity, through processing power.
Then you have a hit.
I think a lot of what we call smart entertainment so far, as with smart home is frankly connected entertainment and connected home.
Anything you would look for that will bring us to what is truly smart.
We often think about TVs just being connected, but the reality is, you get things like, say critical practices.
Developed initially for smartphones or even optical and then dropped into TVs so you get a much better user interface.
As a result, you get slick and moving between apps.
So Rhonda has been a torturous, arduous experience.
It’s great.
Let me take a turn here and talk about 5g, which people don’t think of as a home technology.
They think of it as mobile, because that’s what the G’s have always meant to us, right but we know that the carriers would like to see 5g become at least As much of a home and premise delivery pipeline.
And have you seen anything that is going to give us an appetite as consumers to think more about 5G as a home technology?
I think it definitely will happen.
And it will be an evolution of 4G to the home So the great thing about 5G for the carriers, is that reduces the cost per gigabyte count, and there is some breakthroughs happening in some markets like Japan, where the introduction of 5G has meant that the cost per gigabyte has fallen quite a bit, for the carrier And also for the consumer and demand rockets up as a result.
So in many markets, average usage of mobile will be, say 3 or 4 gigabytes.
The introduction of 5G by one carrier.
In Japan has lead to erupt 30 gigabytes per month.
When we get to a hundredths then we’re starting to move to the point where you’d think, okay this can become more mainstreamed
I would say that there are definitely pinpoints of connectivity in the home.
Different people are having widely different experiences at home with all of the demands in their home networks There is simply reality that in many places United States internet service providers do have a monopoly essentially, I know I’m not gonna disclose where I live, but I’m chomping at the bit for 5G at home in my area.
To circumvent my local monopoly and have more choice, which will force better service and more investment in my area right.
I think that there will be a lot of demand for that.
But the proof is also in the pudding.
People will expect wired To be higher quality than wireless.
And so the carriers really do have to prove that 5g can stand up and can compete against wired broadband.
Megan what do you think about the promise of 5g in the home versus our current mesh of wifi and ZigBee and Z-Wave and sometimes hubs and that kind of Basket of stuff.
Yes, it’s a very good point.
There’s so much protocol confusion, right, but we need to kind of consolidate it and find a new way.
And I’m really excited about the possibility of 5g, particularly with home security products, right?
So, there’s some available now, our low has.
A 4G camera called the Arlo go that this this type of device is a little clunky right now I’m looking forward to the upgrade that would allow people to really have security devices or Mobile Backup if their Wi Fi cuts out or primarily use mobile as an option if they have property they live out in a farmland sort of scenario where they need to protect the perimeter of their home and they don’t have the ability to have, a Wi Fi connection at hand.
I think it’s a it’s a really, really wonderful alternative and, and an area that hasn’t seen much development yet, especially in the.
The DIY products phase where you can buy something online and set it up yourself.
Personally, I would love to see us get past this era of bridging everything through WiFi.
I just find it to be, it was a great technology when it arose.
90s, really, 2000s, it was magic.
But to me, it just seems like this thing in the way now, as opposed to smart home products that should, in the future, Home run to the internet, instead of making a step through Wi Fi and aura hub right?
Absolutely.
It’s definitely a pain point and one of the things we have to say now, because this is how it is with the different protocols available is.
You have to really start with a solid Wi Fi connection if you don’t have one meter range extender for that battery powered doorbell or your wired doorbell to work or anything that would be likely going usually around the perimeter of your house or beyond.
And with this new technology we might be able to change that and that opens up some really, really exciting possibilities
Let’s move on now to to health The tele-health market is one where as we mentioned a little earlier with some of your data, Jennifer is it’s exciting because it allows us to have the most convenient access to healthcare and therefore more frequent engagements with it.
Which is that’s kind of Holy grail stuff.
In the medical space.
But at the same time a lot of folks will still tele-health from their home and not be sure that it’s the real deal or that it’s as good as going to a clinic.
Our data has long shown a bias.
For sure, among consumers and especially older consumers towards in person health care, right that that care that you receive virtually couldn’t possibly be as good as what you receive in the doctor’s office and not just any doctor but my doctor.
Who knows me and sees me.
For the first time of the pandemic, we did see a news case arise that challenges that.
So the idea that actually going to the office, could expose me to getting sick or I could be exposing others, and so in that way Care from home is actually preferable right for that specific use case.
So that’s an interesting shift in mindset for consumers.
Also, we saw a big shift in mindset among providers who have been pretty resistant to how can I possibly treat my patients this way have been forced into it.
And now see there are actually a lot of things that I’ve been able to treat my patients remotely.
When I think of health at home.
The word telehealth I think is very instructive because the majority of virtual visits that have taken place In 2020 have been over the telephone.
And the reason why that works is because the telephone is a common denominator.
It’s a technology that’s been around for decades.
People who tend to need health care most are more elderly, so in their 60s 70s and 80s, and the telephone is familiar Using video is much harder because video is not homogenous.
So video can be a fantastic experience with really great cameras and really great lighting.
But it can also be a very mediocre experience with mediocre devices.
Poor quality lenses, etc.
So for the medical profession, having a standard way of communicating helps, and having a piece of technology which doesn’t make the patient get more worried, is also a great thing.
I had a Physician tell me about Telehealth saying it’s great but by the time they finish fussing with all the apps and software and figuring out how to use it and use the interface of the particular Telehealth platform, they’re presenting what we call white coat hypertension.
They have high blood pressure only during the visit, because they had to go through so much nonsense that was flustering them and again, we’re talking about people that are not necessarily the most tech savvy but they’re all worked up now.
So that’s just what it was kind of an amusing, look at how they can create high blood pressure and someone who might not have it.
Otherwise, Megan What do you see in the Smart Home sector that is health related that you think really works right now if anything.
Definitely is seeing some new interesting things in products and services with, with home health, fitness peloton, everyone One knows they have a bike and a treadmill but they recently introduced two new products.
A new bike and a new treadmill.
The bike is a little bit higher end and the treadmill is a little bit more affordable.
Also Apple just announced Apple fitness plus right that $10 per month.
Subscription service.
It’s really, really a new thing that we just covered but it has 10 different types of workouts.
My colleague, Vanessa, I think tested it out recently and thought it was pretty great.
I think that we now have set the table with COVID for consumers to be more persistently interested in how they’re doing and their wellness and that the smart home, that basket of devices that we envisioned to take over one day.
Is going to become also a basket of passive sensors we know as as yours and other coverage have called out.
Every light switch that has got a sensor is also an activity sensor, not just a light sensor or every smart speaker has a microphone that maybe can listen to my tone of voice and tell how I’m doing as well.
I think there’s kind of like a almost like a shadow function there.
Absolutely.
There’s a ton of potential there and we’ve already seen a trend.
And that as well devices that have sensors, so maybe if you’re monitoring an elderly loved one remotely, caregiving, that type of thing.
You can use those devices for multiple purposes, right?
It’s not just a security camera, it’s not just to monitor whether packages are delivered, they can be used internally to Checking on loved ones and communicate with them as well as sensors and other devices in our homes.
Let’s turn to commerce now and talking about shopping at home shopping and or getting food delivery.
It’s kind of all in sort of a similar basket there and, and Paul, you’ve got a theory that I’ve dubbed the Hannibal Lecter effect.
It’s your theory states that.
People, at home not mingling, don’t see as many other people buying wearing and using things that they can cover it and it took me back to that line and Silence of the Lambs where he says to Clerys.
We covet what we see clarys and that’s very much the earth.
We can’t have envy of someone else’s phone or clothes or shoes or water bottle if we’re not out there mingling seeing what they’ve got Yeah, I think right now we’ve got envy for people’s living rooms and their bookcases and wallpapers.
But yeah, that’s certainly the case, so human behavior is based on envy, jealousy, and they’re powerful drivers of consumer behavior.
And I remember You know, just trying this out when said like a new phone would emerge and showing it say in an elevator and going up What do you think of this capability to somebody I knew who didn’t have that model of phone.
And very often it triggers you know, the start of that buying decision.
And there are many, many Different buying decisions and triggers that we have and every logo, I think is a buying decision, the sound of certain cars, closing the car door or the sorta the roar of the engine for petrol [UNKNOWN] cost.
All of those are our triggers, so I firmly believe that.
And we’ve had a huge bunch of training, all of us as a people around the world in learning how online commerce works, which may seem like a very pedestrian idea in 2020.
It’s like good grief, how long has Amazon been around and walmart.com, and all the major brands selling online but a lot of people didn’t really get it.
Until they had to get it.
Jennifer Do you guys see anything in your work that tells us about the future stickiness of at home commerce.
There was already a great foundation for online commerce coming into this and most people knew how to buy and they even had their payment information already loaded and so it was It was easy for us to transition that behavior.
I think there are some specific places in the commerce world that are new and that people have tried that our data shows people have tried for the very first time things like call ahead ordering and grocery pickup.
Retail pickup where you’re not actually going into the store.
And there’s a lot of convenience in that being able to put my shopping list together online, have someone else pick it up for me at the store and then I pick it up on the way home from work.
I mean, there’s actual time savings there and we know that if you can save consumers time.
That’s valuable.
The thing I find interesting about online shopping and the big swing toward I think most most indications are from parks and others is that this is one of the home trends that will stick more than most right of the Big Five.
This will also result in a change in the built world and this is not really a technology story, but.
We are doing pickup at curves that have been kind of ad hoc set up at stores.
They weren’t built for it.
And it’s a little bit wonky.
It can be a little clunky imagine a few years from now when stores have been rebuilt, malls have been retooled and those pickup lines and such are part of the built infrastructure.
I think that’ll do two things.
One it’ll make it a whole lot easier to do this kind of shopping, and two, those physical changes signal to all of us all the time.
This is where we’re going.
This is how we shop now.
So one step which I think is really fascinating, the online grocer I use say the average time spent on their website for completion of a shock is 14 minutes.
So, how can you compete Without 14 minutes and go into a grocery store, doing the shopping and going back home, I can barely get to the store where I am here in suburban America in 14 minutes and then do my shopping And then get back and burn a bunch of fuel which is not trivial in the middle.
So we’re not talking about a 10% or 20% improvement in efficiency.
We’re talking about an order of magnitude better.
Once you warm up to it.
There’s a delivery challenge.
And people think if I go to the store myself, I don’t pay that delivery charge.
Utterly irrational because as you’re saying the delivery charge is in the wear and tear on the car, the emissions, the time spent.
Let’s finish up with some insider tips here.
I just want to go around the horn and ask what it was like for each of you to make the conversion to add home if I asked you on the top of your head, what did you have to do that was Perhaps the most difficult in terms of maybe setting up a home office or learning online, shopping for groceries in which a lot of us still don’t do or setting up new streaming accounts.
It’s kind of funny.
I have maybe an odd answer to this.
I typically work from the CNS.
Smart Home, which is itself a house out in the country where we test Smart Home products to sort of mimic a real world scenario, right because it’s actually a home.
So I’m actually quite used to working not from my home, but from Home.
So the transition was fairly streamlined for me almost feel guilty saying that I brought my laptop home I have a nice little space here.
Obviously I’m testing a lot of different devices so I’m usually the one tinkering around the house, setting up thermostats or installing doorbells.
But the biggest thing for me as I get products sent.
To test is managing actually inventory in the space I have, so just literally the physical space that I have to test products right, because sometimes I’m doing office chairs and other products that take up physical space and then like you mentioned earlier.
Actually managing recycling those boxes after they arrived to me.
So imagine 10 office chair boxes showing up and then trying to figure out how to get those recycled.
That’s been probably the biggest challenge with my work from home.
And you’ve got that kind of house with two light switches match because you’re trying so many of them, [LAUGH] right?
Absolutely true.
Yes [LAUGH].
Paul, what’s it been like in London?
How did you have to shift gears at your home to start to put your life centered there?
So from an IT perspective, it wasn’t a problem.
People at Deloitte have been designed kind of to work anywhere.
For a long time.
So that it was easy,what’s really hard is communicating using a 2D screen.
And I do a lot of presenting to people in person as usual.
And what’s really really difficult is not having the feedback so not knowing when something isn’t resonating, not knowing when people are looking at a little bit lost, you know, so we communicate via these Video rectangles right now.
And what we can see is a bit of their face.
If their connection is good, then we can see a bit of their expression but you can’t see the whole body language, which is what you really need.
And so, that’s one reason why expect.
Within a few months as soon as it’s safe to do so, most people who can do will end up going back to offices as much as they can.
Jennifer, tell me about the experience that you’ve had setting up to do your work at home?
What was easy, what was hard?
Also maybe a unique position, but I was working mostly remotely for a few years before this year.
Usually 40 is at home one day in the office and I’m definitely feeling the lack of that one day in the office, which was our collaboration day.
And so while the rest of my colleagues have gone remote to it’s just so difficult to really collaborate on big picture thinking and toss ideas around and get people engaged remotely but The harder part was having especially during the shutdown times, my family in the home with me and trying to work and the household patterns kids and pets and, husbands working to and just managing that and then personally Really feeling the lack of travel?
My last question to all of you is what blind spots are there out there?
What are we not talking about?
For me, I think there needs to continue to be much more focus on developing, great technology for seniors.
The fact of the matter is new technology is designed for early adopters that tend to be.
Higher income younger consumers who are already have some tech affinity and I do think that pandemic has really shined a spotlight on on seniors on the the ability to live at home on the difficulties that caregivers have and the fact that it’s a major market, that we have aging demographics in this country.
I want.
Smart large appliances that really address the problems of the consumer.
So I know we’re a ways off but you know at CES in years past we’ve seen the faulty made and a lot Android and devices that are really trying to To address those chores that take up time that no one really wants to do, I wanna see a truly smart large appliance.
As we’ve all learned and you’ve all been echoing once we bring more aspects of our life at home, home becomes a very busy place and suddenly those chores while we never love doing them
Suddenly we absolutely just don’t have time to do them.
Yeah, so my suggestion for this year is LIDAR.
So this is a technology that’s been around for decades, it’s been really expensive, it’s one of the enablers of self driving cars, of robots and in factories.
It’s now available in a few smartphones.
And what LIDAR does is it can capture depth.
There are plenty of applications safe for home decoration, but there’s also e-commerce so you can measure your dimensions.
Using lighter you can create a 3D scan of yourself.
You can always buy the right size.
Of sweater or trousers or you call them pants, I think in the us.
But you know, you think of all those possibilities.
It’s fantastic.
And a great benefit of that would be fewer returns.
So it’s good for the environment as well as what has been good for the bottom line.
I wanna thank my at-home dream team.
Jennifer Kent is senior director of parks, associates.
Paul Lee is Global Head of research for tech media and telecom at Deloitte in London.
And my colleague Megan Walton, senior editor at the CNET Smart Home center in Louisville, Kentucky.
We’ve experienced a tsunami of new living at home via technology.
But tsunamis don’t just come in, they also go out.
One of the big questions of 21 will be how far and how fast this one does.
What’s revealed when that happens.
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