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Smart Home Technology Needs Improvement

Discovering Opportunities To Fulfill Senior Adult Wants And Needs Via The Smart Home

The full thesis, published in .pdf

There are more than thirty major smart home control systems available. A smart home typically employs a system that automates the control of lighting, heating and cooling, security, surveillance, and entertainment. Market penetration and product acceptance has been surprisingly low. Senior adults could be one of the fastest growing population segments using this technology if it is made easy for them to use. The goals of this study were:

  • to understand wants and needs of senior adults
  • to interpret how smart home technologies could address those wants and needs, and
  • to use the resulting data to guide the development of conceptual products that illustrate opportunities for the smart home industry.

Formal research questions for this case study were:

Q1. Which wants and needs of senior users could be addressed by the smart home?

Q2. Which user wants and needs does the smart home industry consider viable?

Q3. What design considerations may benefit the smart home industry and senior users?

To answer Q1, senior user wants and needs were documented through ethnographic observations and field interviews. Research focused on daily experiences and on difficulties with the use of products, services, and technologies. Persons who provide support services for this case study population were also interviewed. To answer Q2, industry representatives were interviewed and those answers were triangulated with document analysis. Q3 was answered by interpreting results from Q1, Q2, and the literature on universal design and smart home technology.

Results indicate that some senior wants and needs may soon be addressed by future smart home products and solutions. However, three wants and needs are not being considered by the industry: simplification of the interaction with technology, knowing and understanding individual senior capabilities, and providing assistance with medical issues. The optimum solution for seniors in this case study is an integrated, community wide, smart home system that responds to individual capabilities and core values. Insights relating to senior wants and needs are presented, along with seven guiding principles for developers of smart home technologies.