Smart homes: Survey in Germany and the United Kingdom

High level of interest, reluctance to make purchases

For many people, smartphones and tablets have become constant companions and universal tools for solving a variety of everyday tasks. A representative survey* of consumers in Germany and the United Kingdom, conducted in July 2021 by YouGov on behalf of gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH, aimed to determine how well established the control and monitoring of home appliances and devices is at the current time.

Results indicate that the actual use of smart home solutions is not yet wide-spread in either country, but that interest in such devices and their future use is quite high. Leading the smart devices in use right now are those that control and monitor televisions, as well as audio and video devices in the home. 18 per cent of respondents from the UK and 16 per cent of respondents from Germany indicated they control consumer electronics products via apps. A further 30 per cent in the UK and 25 per cent in Germany expect to use such apps in the future.

Lamps and lighting

Many respondents were interested in controlling their lighting. In the UK, 11 per cent already use smart lighting solutions, and another 36 per cent expect to implement intelligent lighting control in the future. The figures in Germany are similar: 13 per cent already use smart lighting solutions, and 30 per cent are open to installing them in the future.

Heating and air conditioning

Constantly rising energy costs are often the reason why heating, radiators and air conditioning systems are upgraded with smart functionality. Money can be saved when heating can be controlled remotely, or the temperature regulated automatically according to the occupants’ presence. In the UK, 10 per cent of those surveyed already use smart temperature solutions in their homes. Another 39 per cent are comfortable with the idea of using them in the future. Among German respondents, 8 per cent currently use smart temperature solutions, and another third (33 per cent) are open to using them in the future.

Security solutions

A number of smart solutions are available which provide an increased sense of security around the home. 13 per cent of Britons already use applications where smart cameras send images from their flat, house or garden to their smartphone or tablet. Another 36 per cent can see themselves using them in the future. Currently, the use of such applications is less common in Germany, sitting at around 7 per cent. But a significant number, namely 30 per cent, can imagine a future using these apps and devices.

Smart sensors including motion and smoke detectors, and those that indicate an open window or door are also popular. In Germany, 12 per cent of households currently use such sensors, and 26 per cent of respondents expect to install them in the future. In the UK, the current ownership numbers are slightly lower at 11 per cent of households, but 45 per cent of respondents would be open to purchasing them in the future.

Smart locks remain an exception. Only 2 per cent of those surveyed in the UK currently use a smart locking solution for their flats or houses, although 27 per cent can imagine their future use. These figures are comparable to those in Germany, where 3 per cent currently use smart locking solutions. One in four German respondents (25 per cent) can imagine installing them in the future.

Small and major domestic appliances

In comparison, the current ownership of home appliances with smart functionality is low across the board. Only 3 per cent of respondents in the UK say they control or monitor major domestic appliances such as dishwashers or washing machines, and small domestic appliances such as kitchen appliances and fully automatic coffee machines. However, such a low level of current use shows great potential for the future: 33 per cent of British respondents can imagine using smart functionality in their major domestic appliances in the future, and 21 per cent would be interested in using smart functionality in small domestic appliances.

In Germany, current ownership is slightly higher at 4 per cent each for both major and small domestic appliances. Looking to the future, 28 per cent of German respondents can imagine controlling their major domestic appliances via an app, while 24 per cent could see themselves controlling their small domestic appliances in the same way.

Assigning house cleaning tasks to others? “Gladly” say 8 per cent of those surveyed in Germany – households that already own a smart vacuum robot. Another 22 per cent would welcome robots taking over the job of hoovering in the future. Current ownership of smart vacuum cleaners is significantly lower in the UK at only 2 per cent. But respondents were equally open to handing this task to the robots – 21 per cent.

Garden and balcony

Households with gardens and balconies are often faced with the challenge of taking care of their plants in the occupants’ absence, especially during the summer holiday season. Smart solutions can help here, but so far, they have been rarely purchased. Only 1 per cent of those surveyed in the UK use a smart robotic lawnmower or a smart irrigation system. However, 17 per cent of respondents showed interest in robotic lawnmowers and 21 per cent in smart irrigation systems. The figures are slightly higher among those surveyed in Germany: 3 per cent already use robotic lawnmowers or smart irrigation systems. A similar number would be interested in using them in the future at 18 per cent (robotic lawnmowers) and 24 per cent (smart irrigation solutions).

“Our survey results show that the ownership and use of smart home solutions is currently nowhere near the level that fans of technology would expect. However, the fact that a large number of respondents across all smart product categories are considering using them in the future shows the great potential that exists in the market for smart solutions,” says Dr. Sara Warneke, Managing Director of gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH.

Positive overall opinion tempered by security concerns

This survey shows that consumers are open to smart solutions in general. However, the degree of future acceptance varies from category to category. For example, 36 per cent of those surveyed in the UK indicated they would not be open to using smart locks and locking solutions in the future. In Germany, slightly fewer reject the idea of smart locks, at 28 per cent. 18 per cent of UK respondents are not open to considering monitoring their home via smart video cameras. At 19 per cent, this rate of rejection is similar in Germany.

When asked why they would not be open to use of these solutions in the future, the results were similar on both sides of the channel: 38 per cent of respondents rejecting such solutions in the UK fear security breaches – that their cameras could be accessed by third parties without their authorisation. In the UK, 23 per cent, and 19 per cent in Germany fear that the manufacturers of these technologies could or would collect data on user behaviour. One further common factor was the fear that the technology would be too complicated and error-prone for reliable use: 21 per cent in the UK and 23 per cent in Germany.

*The data was collected in an online survey conducted by YouGov Deutschland GmbH between 7 July and 9 July 2021, where 4,269 people participated, 2,057 from Germany and 2,212 from the UK. The results were weighted and are representative of their respective country’s population, aged 18 and over.