Smart home trends 2021: 4 ways to make next year easier

Read our exclusive interviews with the Smart Home League to see what smart home trends they predict for 2021

smart home trends: Yale door bell
(Image credit: Yale)

The smart home has risen in popularity over the years, and it only continues to become more popular as we seek new ways to keep our belongings and loves ones safe. While voice assistants have seen steady growth as one of the most commonly owned smart home devices, other connected devices such as smart locks, lights and robot vacuums are also proving there worth, certainly since lockdown. 

Yep. Since we've all been spending more time at home, we've started to invest a lot more into not only home renovating but also supping up our defences against criminals. Gone are the days where we require a hefty CCTV camera to show us what's going on around the outside of our properties. Smart tech has become a lot more streamlined over the years which can all be linked up with one another on your smart device for (literally) 24/7 surveillance and interaction opportunities.

We spoke to four experts from the Smart Home League to ask them what smart home trends they see for the tech in our homes in 2021. Check out their insights below, and where you can get your hands on one (or more) of the devices so you're prepared for the year ahead.

Want to see our pick of the best options out there? Don't miss our guide to the best home security systems which looks at security alarms, security cameras, and more.

1. New connection standards

By Jason Williams, President of Smart Residential at ASSA ABLOY (August and Yale)

The smart home is currently connected over a variety of networks and devices. From Wi-Fi to Z-Wave and Bluetooth, it’s a compilation of different technologies that has made installation and use difficult for many smart home adopters. But this will all soon change.

At ASSA ABLOY, we’ve always seen smart home compatibility as a key value and aimed to make our products work with as many different platforms as possible. We like to call ourselves the “Switzerland” of smart locks, so our locks are compatible with products from Google, Amazon, Apple, Philips Hue, SmartThings and more.

Now we’re working with the Connected Home over IP Project, more commonly known as CHIP. We predict that CHIP will completely change how developers make products, as well as how consumers buy, install and use them. In the next year, look out for more CHIP-related announcements that will ensure greater compatibility between the variety of smart home devices already on the market.

2. The Smart Home in multifamily dwellings

By Lee Bienstock, Head of Enterprise Partnerships for Google Devices and Services

The pandemic will catalyze new technologies and product offerings targeted specifically at the real estate industry and multifamily apartment communities. We predict they will gain significant traction and be embraced by an industry typically apprehensive about new technologies. This is already happening with contactless apartment tours, which are enabled by connected locks, and investment in faster and faster internet speeds that have become a necessity with working and schooling from home. These new experiences and technologies will be here to stay beyond the pandemic.

Voice Assistants will also be embraced more and more by Apartment Communities as a way to interface with building systems and staff – from everything to paying your rent with a voice command, to opening maintenance tickets.

In 2021 and beyond, new connected devices and technologies in apartment communities (such as connected locks, smart thermostats, and voice assistants) will go from novel and differentiated, to something that residents simply expect to be included in their apartment homes. The key driver behind this would be to save money and provide residents with a better experience, which will be crucial in markets which are seeing higher vacancy rates and falling rents.

Smart home devices

A selection of smart home devices which can all be used together

(Image credit: Yale)

3. The rise of smart lighting

By Michael Deschamps, Head of Partnerships, Smart Lighting US, Signify

The smart home story is evolving from how people can take care of their homes to how a home can take care of you – with lighting at the center of it all. Given the current global environment, lighting is even more critical in our daily activities and can have big impacts on a person’s daily routines and well-being. The US market has seen continuous growth since the launch of smart lighting in 2012 and Signify - one of the world leaders in lighting - expects this trend to continue in 2021 and beyond.

The combination of smart lighting with other smart home security devices, such as smart locks, is something which we think will continue to provide peace of mind into the New Year and beyond. With the ultimate control available through switches, app and voice, a user can create the perfect ambiance for any time of the day. Smart lighting can help energize you in the morning, keep your concentration when working from home, and let you relax when you want to unwind. Now with smart lighting, the same room in your home can transform from your office to a cosy corner to enjoy a good book with the press of a button or voice.

One of the fastest growing sub-segments of smart lighting is the ability to enhance your home entertainment. Philips Hue allows users to sync lighting with music, movies, and video games. This can be as simple as creating the perfect scene to set the mood for your favourite music to having lights interacting seamlessly with what is on your TV in real time to create the most interactive gaming experience.

4. Spatial Understanding and Smart Home Automation

By Chris Jones, CTO, iRobot

The smart home that most consumers envision is one that orchestrates a seamless experience, from opening the curtains and turning on the news in the morning, to dynamically adjusting the lighting in a home as an occupant moves from room to room. Perhaps even more important these days is a smart home that can help us do more. This is a particularly salient point as we spend more time at home, working and caring for our families.

In order to achieve true smart home nirvana, a key ingredient must be added to the mix – spatial understanding. For something to act intelligently, it needs to understand its environment. Spatial understanding is how Roomba robot vacuums and Braava robot mops are able to autonomously clean a house, knowing which rooms to clean and which areas to stay away from. The robots build a map, and they use that map to identify where they are in a house.

While spatial understanding currently helps robots clean floors effectively and efficiently, the technology can be extended to other devices, giving the smart home the intelligence it needs to begin thinking on its own. You might say “Hey, Google, turn on the lights around the couch in the living room.” The smart home leverages the Google Assistant as a listening sensor, uses spatial understanding supplied by Roomba to think about what lights are most appropriate to switch on given their location in the living room relative to the couch, and then acts by having the smart lights above the couch illuminate.

Today, these robots help with chores to maintain a home both inside and out. In the near future, vices – to an essential piece of the puzzle that enables a truly smarter home. Home robots uniquely provide a physical presence and spatial understanding of the home that, until now, has been a critical and missing piece of information to deal with smart home usability concerns.

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Jennifer Oksien
Jennifer Oksien

Jennifer joined the Real Homes team in February 2020, and returned to Future Publishing, as our Appliances Editor. Jenny spends her working days bringing you the best appliance deals, and the latest appliance tech so you can kit out your home on trend and within budget – when she is not doing that she is renovating and restoring her Victorian terrace with secondhand bargains, baking sponge cakes and taking photographs of postboxes wherever she travels.