Since September 11th, he notes, security has become a greater factor than ever for many Americans "People are more interested in staying home and being secure there," he noted, explaining that this drives the home security and home monitoring industry.
Additionally, he stated, "Working at home is a big trend right now. The home is becoming an extension of the office. It may not be where people work every day, but they are working from home a couple of days a week." This has, of course, created a growing interest in the home office, both from a design standpoint and a technology standpoint, with higher-speed computer hook-ups, video conferencing and other "connection-oriented" products becoming increasingly in demand.
As Ide noted, "People [who] are tele-commuting will want to connect on a virtual private network to their office so that they can get all of their information there, contact information, research information. You can work with an associate from home or have a video meeting."
Home schooling has become a pretty big industry as well. As Ide pointed out, "In 2000-2001, there were about 1.9 million kids home schooled, and that is a growing statistic. We've seen some building plans where the [consumer wants] a learning center that will be a home office for kids. It's kind of a nice area that is set up for crafts, and that has the computer, books and other things they can use in a complete learning environment so that they can do their homework and have some fun and be connected to the Internet, as well."
Of course technology is probably the biggest trend driving the home automation market right now, Ide asserted. This can be broken down into several categories. "The first is broadband Internet access. That is growing by leaps and bounds." In addition to the growing percentage of people who have Internet access, there are now "about 20% of people in the U.S. who have the ability to get cable, modem or DSL lines. It is growing in penetration. What it does is eliminate the 'World Wide Wait.' And, that drives along the home network, or the PC network in the home. It makes it so multiple PCs can now take advantage of that one high-speed access."
People are also looking for wireless connections, Ide noted, which gives them mobility and flexibility of location. "And," he added, "people like remote access."
Convergence is another technical trend that is impacting the market right now. "Things like the computer and telephone are coming together," Ides noted. "The computer can be used for Internet long distance. The television and computer are also converging together," an example of which would be Web TV, where users can search the Internet from the TV. He also cited TiVo devices where users can timeshift the actual programming that's coming in as an example of this. "What it is actually doing is putting it on a computer hard disk that's built right into the TiVo unit. You can press pause, and it will continue to store the live TV broadcast that's coming."
Likewise, computer and entertainment equipment are converging together, with DVDs being put into PCs so that users can watch on their computers.
Surround-Sound processers are converging with the computer, helping to drive the whole home entertainment category a perfect fit for kitchen and bath dealers. Convergence is a fairly good aspect of it. Lots-of people are putting them into family rooms.
Of course, one of the biggest concerns with home automation is that many builders, remodelers, designers and others in the industry simply aren't planning ahead.
As Ide noted, "About 30% of homes are not wiring their homes
properly so they are not really prepared for all of this. Either
they don't have enough wiring or they have the wrong type of
wiring. Later on, it's hard to add [it] in if you're not
remodeling or building, because you have to run wires through
walls, and what's worse about it is there are unique wall finishes,
such as distinct wallpaper, and there's no way you are going
to match that. So it is really a bigger problem with
As for what the future holds, in a recent issue of USA Today, Kevin Maney states that "the next revolution" is not too far down the road. The newest technology will allow products to be implanted with tiny plastic tags containing a computer microchip and a minuscule antenna, which will allow things to connect with and communicate with other things, changing everything from shopping and cooking to identifying dangerous drug interactions.