Building a Foundation for Smarter Home Automation

Today’s homes may still be a far cry from the Jetson’s — but rapid advances in technology mean they’re smarter than ever. Products are getting more sophisticated, and as home automation spreads to wider audiences, product makers are running into both new opportunities and challenges in equal measure.

Building a Foundation for Smarter Home Automation

Consumer desire to make the home more convenient, safe, and connected means interest in IoT devices like smart bulbs, thermostats, ovens, vacuums, doorbells, and security cameras is growing rapidly. And while that blows open the doors for established enterprises and newcomers alike, it also means tackling the obstacles to seamless setup and usage in an increasingly complex and diverse technological landscape.

Makers of smart appliances, home security, and smart home devices are up against a unique challenge: how do you test that your product is convenient, easy to use, and works reliably every day in these everyday environments? Let’s take a closer look at the three biggest testing challenges these industries face, and how Centercode’s unique testing strategies and best practices take them on.

Ease of Setup and Operation

Guaranteeing a streamlined setup process and ease of use is close to the heart of every connected device maker. But it’s especially critical in the home automation industry, where consumer expectations are higher because they’re after the easiest option, not necessarily the most high tech. 41% of consumers say their primary reason for buying smart home products is convenience.

Devices like smart lights and robot vacuums are competing with the ease and familiarity of their non-connected predecessors. It’s also important to note that smart products come with a higher price point. If your product is hard to set up or operate, chances are high your customers will return to what’s tried, true, and cheaper.

Spotlight: Home Security
The Home Security market is expected to grow to $16.5B by 2023. This growth will be driven by traditional enterprise companies that are shifting focus toward connected products like smart doorbells, outdoor cameras, and other security-enhancing devices. It will also bring a flood of newer, affordable solutions to the market — meaning the competition will be even fiercer.

Industry Challenges

  • Ensuring the setup process is easy enough for the least technical members of the product’s target market
  • Providing documentation for either consumer or professional installation
  • Validating ease of operation
  • Assessing support requirements

Your Path to Success

Nothing is as inconvenient as a poor setup experience and interoperability issues. A Techsee survey revealed that 54% of consumers would return a product if it were difficult to install, while 70% would return it if it were challenging to operate.

Testing in the lab may be able to validate that your product is working as intended to some extent — but it still doesn’t get to the heart of your customers’ sentiments and experiences. To understand that, it’s critical to get your product into the hands of target market testers in their everyday environments and situations.

But even that presents its own unique challenges when you think about products that may require professional installation. Consumers rely on smart home installation experts and maintenance professionals to recommend, install, and troubleshoot products on their behalf. For companies that produce home automation devices, leveraging the unique role contractors play with their customers can turn installers into product ambassadors.

Centercode’s robust recruitment capabilities not only ensure your testers are part of your product audience — they connect you to users with different levels of technical aptitude. This gives you crystal clear insights into all your customers’ experiences, from the tech addict after the latest and greatest to the techno-challenged who received a smart lock for Christmas.

Consistent Quality

Since the pandemic took hold, people are spending an unprecedented amount of time at home. This is great news for the home automation industry; more consumers are enhancing their homes with smart doorbells, light hubs, and other connected devices, and they’re engaging with these products more than ever. That also means the pressure is on to deliver consistent, high-quality results over everyday use — in all kinds of weather, in various geographic locations, and for different user behaviors.

Spotlight: Smart Appliances
Success in the highly competitive Smart Appliances arena means delivering products — whether it’s smart ovens, connected coffee makers, automatic vacuums, and more — that not only solve everyday challenges but are convenient and easy to use. That’s the only way to corner a share of the industry’s projected revenue growth of 30% each year until 2022, when it’ll reach nearly $50B.

Industry Challenges

  • Ensuring the product holds up over everyday use
  • Maintaining customer engagement over time
  • Monitoring the use of cornerstone product features
  • Delivering consistent performance across different geographic locations, various landscapes, and weather conditions
  • Assessing the accuracy of product data and trends over time

Your Path to Success

The nature of usage for smart home hubs, connected appliances, and home security devices can make testing tricky. For example, how do you get someone to cook in your smart oven every day and provide feedback? How do you make your testing scenarios fit into the lives of testers to keep them engaged and providing feedback throughout the whole test?

At Centercode, we’re experts at creating test activities that actually fit into your testers’ everyday lives. We have nearly two decades of inventing testing scenarios that encourage consistent tester engagement and generate high-value feedback on your most important features. By maintaining participation with targeted testers and collecting feedback over time, you’ll have a full picture of how your customers are using your product in their real homes.

Interoperability

Like other connected devices, interoperability is critical to a customer’s experience with their smart home appliances and security devices. It requires tons of testing to ensure your products are compatible with the vast array of phones, tablets, smart speakers, and other devices available on the market today. Beyond that, keeping up with the fast pace of product updates, as well as new additions to customer tech environments (likely other appliances, smart home devices, and home security systems) takes constant iteration.

Spotlight: Smart Home
The Smart Home market is growing quickly — it’s expected to generate $58.7B by 2023. For devices like smart thermostats, smart light hubs, and other connected devices, keeping up with the vast array of technical devices and phone upgrades makes interoperability a unique challenge.

Industry Challenges

  • Making devices compatible with the smartphones customers use
  • Ensuring they play nicely with the existing devices in customers’ homes
  • Ensuring they continue to play nicely with the tech customers will adopt in the future

Your Path to Success

Accounting for the breadth and uniqueness of today’s devices is beyond the scope of even the best-resourced QA labs. To fill the gaps, organizations have relied on beta testing — but while 70% of companies still test using traditional beta methodologies, these practices are often too slow to keep pace with the demands of CI/CD, rendering its results less than effective.

The Centercode Platform feeds your agile release schedule with consistent, targeted customer feedback. Delta Testing combines test platforms, which expand your QA lab through technographics insights from your testers’ home environments, with shorter, more agile sprints. This lets you quickly validate how your product’s features and updates are working in real homes with real devices, enabling you to bring more seamlessness and convenience to make your customers’ home automation experience.

Smart Testing for Smart Products

Learn more about Centercode’s unique solutions for tackling the challenges of smart home products like thermostats, doorbells, coffee makers, sprinklers, and more with an in-depth look at our service offerings in Making Good Technology Great.

Making Good Tech Great

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