The mechanical fuel-pump in the back of your home doesn’t work, and a lot of people think that’s because it’s a toy.
But a lot more people than you think are going to want to buy it.
That’s the takeaway from a new study by MIT and Northwestern University that examines how home automation is changing the way people think about the world.
The findings suggest that home automation might not be as ubiquitous as we might think, and that the future is going to look very different than we expect.
“There is a real need to look at the technology behind what people are actually going to be doing in the future,” says Andrew Sussman, a professor at MIT who was one of the study’s authors.
“It’s a lot different than it was 30 years ago.”
In the study, researchers at MIT, Northwestern University, and the University of Maryland analyzed responses to questions about the importance of home automation, and found that the average household is likely to see some form of home security device in the next decade.
This may not seem like a big deal for the vast majority of people, but Sussmann points out that a lot can happen in a decade or so.
“In a decade, a lot may happen,” he says.
“But for the majority of us, it’s not going to change much.”
The researchers found that a surprising number of people were comfortable using devices that were built around the “mechanics” principle: a concept in which an object is designed to provide support, but it also does something else.
A home appliance or a home automation system could do a lot by way of support, like lifting a couch or a dishwasher, but a lot is also achieved through the “other” functionality that the device does.
For example, an app that runs on your phone can do a bunch of things like turn on lights, turn on the thermostat, or adjust the volume.
But it might also do things like control your air conditioner or open your blinds, and then a device that turns on a light might turn on a thermostator or open a blind.
“We’re still very early in the process,” says Sussmiller.
The study also showed that the amount of technology needed to support home automation increased dramatically over the last few decades, from $200 billion in 1970 to more than $300 billion in 2016.
“The demand for home automation was huge, and there’s no way to do this without all of these technologies,” says Brian Krebs, a security researcher at KrebsOnSecurity who was not involved in the study.
“A lot of the devices people are talking about now are actually older, but they’re still relatively inexpensive, so they’re a big part of the market.”
The study used data from the National Inpatient Sample, a nationally representative sample of hospital admission records from 2009 to 2016.
In addition to asking people about their preference for home security devices, the researchers also surveyed their family members about their usage of technology.
“This is a good question to ask people,” says Krebs.
“Why do you want to be using these devices?”
This question is often asked to get people to consider whether their devices are really necessary, but many people don’t ask that question.
They may not even think about home security technology, and they may think about things like remote control and home automation when they don’t have a security plan in place.
“For a lot, a big issue is, ‘I want this feature, but what does it do?’,” says Jana Gostrzak, a privacy researcher at the University for Creative Technologies in London.
“Most people don, in fact, think that home security isn’t necessary, and you may not be aware of the things that you could potentially do that might be done with these devices.”
For example: A lot of home alarm systems are wired in, but not always connected to your phone.
This is called a “dual-function” alarm system, and it has the potential to do things that a home security system would not, like open doors.
Or a home alarm system could be connected to a doorbell, which would allow the homeowner to make a phone call to a person inside the house and then activate a light on the outside of the home, which then could trigger a light and start a light switch.
A lot more devices could potentially be used to control the lights in a home, like opening windows or turning on a TV.
But the researchers found the same trend when they asked people if they were comfortable with the idea of having multiple home security systems: “Not necessarily, no,” says Gostra.
“People often say, ‘But I just want a single-function system.’
And that’s what most people are doing, even if they have no plans to use this technology.”
The majority of the people surveyed also did not understand how to disable the device