“Enhanced technology and the development of AI has already helped to lower the barriers of adoption.” Avril Murphy, VP of Sales and Marketing, Neato Robotics

Smart Summit London, returning on the 19th and 20th of September at the Business Design Centre, is now in its 3rd year and features Europe's leading Smart Home Summit along with a further 5 tracks all designed to complement each other.
One of the Smart Home Speakers, Avril Murphy, is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, EMEA, for Neato Robotics, leaders in smart robots for the home. Launched in 2010, Neato drives innovation with intelligent laser navigation, smart home connectivity, and superior cleaning technologies. At Neato, Avril’s role is focused on establishing, cultivating and building the US-based company’s European market share.
Avril, who will be discussing if AI is the next big game changer in the smart home, took some time to complete a speaker interview:
Which do you consider to be the most popular Smart Home services/solutions currently?
Initial growth and popularity has been focused on functions that are the simplest to connect, and provide the biggest benefit. We’ve seen services such as voice activation, climate control, lighting and surveillance make a big impact on the market. They are simple to use and provide easy to understand benefits. For example, with control over your temperature you can track usage and make effective changes to save money, therefore making an immediate difference to the way you live.  Due to this, the barrier to adoption is lower and the popularity greater. Homeowners are ultimately adopting technology which can improve their lives and save time. Where we are seeing interesting developments, is in the more advanced solutions for the home, such as robotics and more complex integrated devices. This is the next phase in the Smart Home revolution.
What could be done to increase mass market take-up of Smart Home solutions?
Enhanced technology and the development of AI has already helped to lower the barriers of adoption. To increase mass market take-up, simplicity is key. We’ve seen this in the past with brands such as Apple, who have experienced huge growth since the launch of the iPhone, due to their simple approach - both with their products and how they are packaged.
Interoperability of connected products is also a key factor. With greater connection comes lower price points, more opportunity, giving consumers a wider range of choice as to which devices they bring into their home. It’s important that these developments continue, and that the industry focuses on the user experience and connectivity, ensuring devices and systems are easy to interact with.
Factors such as ease of purchase and a lower price point, make these products more accessible. With improved Wi-Fi connectivity in the home mass market take-up has also increased.
How can smart home services save consumers money?
Smart home services offer convenience for the consumer. By connecting the home, consumers can save time and therefore save money. For example, devices such as Nest have the ability to automatically turn off your heating when you’re not in the house, they take control over this household functionality and with this save the consumer money on heating.
How best to use customer data, to offer a personalised solution?
When using customer data, it’s imperative this is used in an un-intrusive way, only taking key insights on behaviours in the home to improve the product they experience. When you understand what the customer needs and wants, then you can build a personalised solution that best meets their requirements.
How is voice evolving the smart home experience?
Our relationship with smart home devices, is becoming more natural with voice being a big part of this change. By using voice to command technology, means that the interface feels more human and consumers can now interact with technology in a far simpler way. This lowers the barrier of interaction and makes products more attractive for people to put in their home. On average our customers are communicating with our robots via Alexa, three times a day. Showcasing how important this technology is becoming to the smart home experience and the fast adoption of these products is.
These voice activated systems have also deepened the relationship between humans and technology, building a trusted interface. It also makes the home more accessible. For example, those with specific needs or restrictions such as children, the elderly or those with a disability. The functionality has given them the power to control their home easily with voice commands. It’s likely that our relationship with this technology will continue to grow as it advances further.
Focussing on the pain points – how to determine exactly what will make a difference to the customer’s life
Take the example of Neato, we have revolutionised vacuuming in the home. Consumers want a clean home all the time, but it’s a pain point to vacuum every day, it takes time and energy. With Neato, you can clean your home every day, with either a simple instruction via our Neato app, or a command through our integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
Does the smart home industry need universal open standards?
At Neato we believe interoperability with other systems is critical to creating cutting edge technology and mass market adoption. By adhering to industry standards, it makes it easier for devices to work together and therefore make the customer journey easier. Not only this, but the potential for stringing devices together to create interesting applications is where we will see the next phase of innovation. This has been demonstrated already with services such as IFTTT, which can do the work for you by connecting devices that don’t usually work together. Giving you control over a wealth of services and third party devices.
At Neato, we have spent time and resource in building a developer network for inventors to utilise our technology and create interesting solutions. We launched the Neato Developer Network in October 2016, as we found there continued to be a desire for integration with our robots. Tech leaders were expanding their networks, opening their APIs to allow other companies to write rules to control their smart technology. We wanted to do the same to allow developers to build 3rd party applications, that can interact with Neato robots fostering creative ideas. We now have over 1,200 developers in our portal, with over 100 apps, showcasing how successful these collaborations can be.
Partnerships are key for success but how should partners be chosen and partnership terms be agreed?
It’s important to choose partnerships which will benefit the brand but ultimately the consumer. In this connected space, it’s imperative that brands work together to ensure the future for the home is completely integrated. We aim to partner with those brands that share this vision for a connected world.
Which do you consider to be the best routes to market for Smart Home products?
The route to market all depends on the product. For example, Nest must be installed by a service provider such as British Gas. However, in the future, we will also see some elements built into houses, making them smart home ready. In this instance, integration and partnerships within the wider smart home network will be key. Connecting devices is key to the growth of the smart home.
Regarding Neato, currently we sell our existing products across markets in a way that will reach the consumers most effectively, whether that’s in store or online. The most important point is that easy access is key. By selling products across retail stores and online, customers can easily purchase, therefore lowering the barrier to adoption.
Is the workforce ready yet for Smart Home?
With the growth of the smart home there has also had to be a drive to ensure we do have the workforce to install and educate customers about these products. We’ve seen over the last few months that there is a drive to have this work force ready, from Amazon’s smart home set-up service to Best Buy in the US sending out their Geek Squad to homes.
How are insurance companies increasing the value of smart home products?
With our homes becoming more and more connected, it means that we are generating a wealth of data. The connected home will grow and the result of this will be a wealth of data which can be harvested. It’s this data that can be used by insurance companies to prevent problems and therefore payouts, but it also gives these companies a chance to personalise insurance products.
For example, drivers that are more cautious with their speed and style are rewarded with cheaper insurance, which is checked by a box installed to the vehicle. However, this has been adopted on an opt-in basis, allowing people to choose if they are happy to be monitored. The same approach needs to be taken to the data generated from the smart home.
What lies ahead for the Smart Home industry?
The future of the smart home industry is down to two things – adoption and adaption. Its success lies equally with the adoption of these technologies by the broader public, as well as the adaption, to embracing something new. It’s all about convenience and seamless integration, and with great collaboration and interactivity, the potential is unlimited.
As the connected space grows, day to day life for homeowners will become easier and it will enhance their standard of living, giving back more time to spend doing the things they love. Soon we will look back and wonder how we ever managed without these products in our homes.

About Smart Summit London

Smart Summit is a 2 day conference and exhibition covering the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem and its impact on the digital society.

Now in its 3rd year, the event features Europe's leading Smart Home Summit and a further 5 tracks all designed to compliment each other.

With over 180 visionary speakers, gain a unique insight from industry heavyweights and hear case study examples from major contributors.

Make sure you are present in London on the 19th and 20th September for THE Smart IoT event of 2017.