Many consumers may think of “smart homes” and “smart technology” as the beginning and ending of all things tech-related to their homes. Not so fast! As we continually discover new forms of innovation that are making positive impacts on the experience of homeownership, we cannot help but notice the vast influence that information technology is having on the expectations of homeowners.
This article lists examples of emerging innovation now serving the housing industry, grouped into “InfoTech buckets” that we believe have unconsciously swayed several generations of consumers to demand more from product manufacturers and service providers.
In short, the home industry is benefiting from ever-demanding consumers and ever-persistent entrepreneurs who are intuitively seeking and creating new forms of innovative solutions that are delivering greater convenience, flexibility, value and overall customer satisfaction.
Table of Contents
- What Trendsetting Consumers Want from Homeownership
- The Cultural Impact of Information Technology on Homeownership
- Recommended Reading
What Trendsetting Consumers Want from Homeownership
What we tend to cover editorially at Purgula are products and services that are directly improving the experience and investments of homeowners, or offering new opportunities and pathways to property ownership. Virtually all new products and services that we encounter are aiming to deliver benefits that fall within the following overlapping categories:
- Improved Standards of Quality and Durability
- Security & Safety
- Multifunctional Capabilities
- Increased Buying Power & Diversified Payment Methods
- Faster Delivery & Completion Times
The Cultural Impact of Information Technology on Homeownership
By “cultural impact”, we are implying that the pervasive consumerism of information technology is directly impacting what trendsetting consumers want from homeownership. Here are several historic and distinct traits of information technology that have been migrating/cross-pollinating to the “homeownership industry” to deliver highly sought-after benefits to homeowners and buyers:
- Plug-and-Play Solutions for the Home
- Scalable Options for Your Home
- Dashboards & Metrics to Monitor & Manage Your Home
- Subscription Services for the Home
- On-Demand Home Repair Support
- Industry Certifications & Ratings
- Democratization of Home Care Solutions
Plug-and-Play Solutions for the Home
In the context of information technology, “plug-and-play” implies the seamless ability to update an existing system with new or replacement parts whether they be software or hardware devices.
In the context of dwellings, homeowners are also seeking seamless methods to upgrade their homes with minimal inconvenience, complications and risks. In the home market, the goal of this capability is often to deliver “zero-configuration” networking to make it is easy and stress-free for consumers to expand or upgrade their home automation systems and devices.
However, the concept of plug-and-play for the home goes beyond networked devices, into other areas such as design, plumbing and more.
Examples of “plug-and-play” innovation for the home include:
- Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)
- Transformable Design
- Prescriptive Maintenance
- Easy to Install and Maintain Home Components
- Trenchless Sewer Line Repair
- Wireless Internet Service
Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)
A direct evolution of “computer plug and play (PnP)”, UPnP is a technology protocol that enables devices to discover, connect and communicate automatically with each other, whether directly or over a network.
Examples of popular home products incorporating this capability include:
- Sonos wireless speaker systems
- Lutron lighting systems
- Philips Hue Bulbs
- Ring security camera systems
- Digital Assistants (Amazon Echo and Google Assistant)
- Network-Enabled Printers
- Smart Locks
- Smart Thermostats
- Smart Home Hubs (Amazon, Google, Samsung, Apple, Matter)
- Smart Plugs
Transformable Interior Design – a subset of Transformable Design – is the process of creating dynamic interior spaces that seamlessly provide multiple functions, layouts, design elements and uses on a daily basis. This practice often relies on transformable furniture and adaptable built-ins within open spaces, which serve as multifunctional rooms.
We consider this creative design method as “plug-and-play” for the home since it must integrate well, be easy to use, and offer flexibility to adjust as needed.
BlueStar, a maker of high-end restaurant-grade kitchen appliances, with wide-ranging bold color options, presents a perfect example of “transformable plug-and-play design” with their innovative printing process that facilitates custom imaging, patterns and colors to their appliances.
The beauty of BlueStar’s solution is its flexibility to replace panels within minutes if and when your design tastes change. This plug-and-play option can empower homeowners to design as boldly as they would like, while providing an “exit option” to tone down their kitchen aesthetics when placing their home on the market.
Prescriptive Maintenance is a proactive approach to home maintenance that involves technology that continuously collects and analyzes data about an appliance’s condition and status to provide recommendations and options proactively. This process reduces operational risks and downtime, and extends the lifespan of the given system or product.
When alerted to a performance issue, the equipment owner is then given options to choose how they wish to resolve the matter. Courses of action can be wide-ranging, such as: continue to use the appliance, albeit at reduced capacity; run a maintenance utility, such as a clean cycle; administer a DIY solution, such as replacing a filter; or stop usage altogether and schedule an on-site or remote repair session.
We consider Prescriptive Maintenance to be “plug-and-play” as many convenient options are available to maintain, repair or adjust usage without typical inconvenient methods of repair, like: scheduling and waiting for a costly on-site repair person; or placing the affected equipment out-of-commission until the repair can be completed.
Easy to Install and Maintain Home Components
Indo Windows is a great example of easy installation for solving the potentially challenging and costly issue of windows that are drafty, or that allow outdoor noise or highly damaging UV rays. Instead of replacing windows, you can literally “plug” or push in window inserts from the inside to improve your interior climate, lessen outdoor noise and protect your interior furnishings from harmful UV rays.
Trenchless Sewer Line Repair
Trenchless sewer line repair is a perfect example of a plug-and-play solution that has minimal impact on existing infrastructure. We shared our firsthand experience weighing the pros and cons of traditional methods versus trenchless methods of repairing a home sewer line.
A popular form of trenchless pipe repair is to insert (“plug”) a pipe liner with resin into an existing pipe that will form a newly bonded interior, significantly extending the life of the piping without having to remove flooring, or large sections of concrete or ground.
Wireless Internet Service
Another firsthand experience of using a plug-and-play solution for our home was when we switched from a cable-based internet service provider to a wireless internet service offered by T-Mobile. We were excited to give T-Mobile’s service a test-run when first learning of their new product, after having experienced too many frustrating outages with our previous carrier.
No cables or signal boosters were required – in essence we just needed to “plug into the air”. We admit feeling personal satisfaction in our decision whenever we see frequent outage complaints on Nextdoor from neighbors who are still using our previous cable-based provider.
Verizon is another leading cellular provider that also offers wireless internet service for residential markets.
Scalable Options for Your Home
Though Plug-and-Play products certainly allow homeowners to scale their home infrastructure, such as adding wireless speakers, security cameras, and smart lighting, in this context of scalability, we are referring to a larger scale of adapting your home to new needs and uses. Example categories of home scalability in this context include:
- Converting Rooms
- Adding Extensions & Additions
- Building ADUs
- Incorporating Universal Design
Examples of scalability projects for the home could include:
- Scalable “Platforms”: Start with Land
- Scalable Tiny Houses: Boxabl
- Prefab ADUs: Scalable Monetization, Function & Multigenerational Living
- Prefab Home Extensions: Habattach
- Universal Design and Aging In Place Features
Scalable “Platforms”: Start with Land
If we were able to time travel and give only two words of advice to ourselves in our early twenties, we would emphatically state “Buy Land!” By far the most valuable asset of a “home” would be an amenable piece of land that can offer a wide-range of capabilities for generations to come – e.g. privacy, non-hindrance from HOAs; water access; detached storage; guest housing; on-site business operations; etc.
If we could offer additional advice to our younger selves, we would add: “Buy land, start with a tiny house, save money, and make plans to scale your home and property”.
Scalable Tiny Houses: Boxabl
If Boxabl is able to fulfill even just part of their long-term goals of providing affordable and flexible housing, their brand will become synonymous with Scalable Housing. Their approach is to build and apply state-of-the-art efficiencies towards manufacturing, material and construction sciences, home maintenance, and delivery systems to reduce the costs of homebuilding dramatically.
Boxabl is striving to be a real-world version of Lego, which will allow customers to start with a tiny house version and scale to as far as their imaginations and budgets will allow.
Prefab ADUs: Scalable Monetization, Function & Multigenerational Living
We have written extensively on Prefab ADUs for their many benefits and innovative approaches to construction. Prefab ADUs offer a wide-range of models and uses. In the context of scalability, two prominent examples are:
- Monetizing Your Home with a “Plug-and-Play” ADU Rental Unit
- Turning Your Home into an Instant Multigenerational Home as Modern “Granny Flat”
Prefab Home Extensions: Habattach
Though currently unavailable in the US, UK-based Habattach has found a prefab niche of creating prefab home extensions. Their value proposition is that their pre-fab extensions are quicker, cleaner and more thermally efficient than traditional materials, resulting in a more environmentally-friendly and aesthetically pleasing finished product.
Once the site preparation is completed, installation of a Habattach attachment will only require between 12 and 18 days, depending on the model chosen (Hab 1, 2 or 3). A Habattach prefabricated extension has a lifespan of 50+ years and comes with a 10-year warranty for all of their installations, subject to proper maintenance.
Universal Design and Aging In Place Features
There are many products and methods that can transform one’s interior and exterior living spaces well after a home is originally constructed, especially for challenging needs such as Aging In Place living. However, an increasing number of forward-looking builders and remodelers are creating spaces with Universal Design fully incorporated.
Universal Design is an invaluable design practice that provides highly scalable and adaptable living areas for many years to come, and is able to anticipate and accommodate a wide-range of living criteria over many decades. Talk of Universal Design is often mentioned hand-in-hand with “accessible design” and the concept of “Forever Homes”, as flexible design is critical for homeowners who desire to remain in their homes for many years until their end of life.
Universal Design is similar in spirit to the personalization features found on many digital user interfaces – first and foremost computer devices – where settings, such as font type, font size, language, background colors, audio settings, and voice assistance, can make devices malleable for a wide-range of users with diverse capabilities and needs, and for those who have lost certain capabilities.
Universal Design in the construction world aims to design and build living spaces that can seamlessly provide an ideal balance of quality for a wide-range of occupants while maintaining aesthetics. In the context of a long-term residence for homeowners, this would entail accommodating the needs of children, multigenerational living, illnesses and physical limitations, returning adult children, pets, tenants, and more.
Universal Design is also referred to as Inclusive Design, which underscores the goal of creating living environments optimally useful and comfortable for all inhabitants.
Dashboards & Metrics to Monitor & Manage Your Home
Smart home automation hubs and their dashboard controller apps are widely popular and convenient for monitoring, managing and controlling various smart devices around one’s home. However, in this context of dashboards, we are referring to next generation dashboards that will focus on the holistic health and performance of one’s home, with intuitive interfaces (e.g. Green, Yellow, Red statuses). Yellow and Red statuses would be indications that some kind of proactive action would need to be taken, such as having a system inspected or shut off.
This type of dashboard is similar in spirit to website admin dashboards that provide a combination of performance numbers, as well actions to take – e.g. speed settings, upgrading software, running utilities, approving content and comments, etc.
Though we recognize technically proficient homeowners have a wider range of methods to create custom dashboards, we are waiting for operational dashboards for the home that are easier to create, use and understand. We envision a platform for the home in the spirit of Domo, a leading business intelligence platform that specializes in connecting and correlating a wide range of data sources, within intuitive visual layouts.
An example scenario of leveraging synchronized data would be to have a dashboard report that could tie several discrete data sources to score, correlate and explain the underlying effects on your quality of sleep, such as:
- Sleep Number Sleep Quality Score
- Room Temperature Data Series
- Air Quality Data Series, such as Humidity
- Ambient Noise Readings
- Day of Week
Subscription Services for the Home
Before the Internet became a ubiquitous communications network, the software industry relied on physical delivery of its products that required installs and periodic updates. With the onset of the Internet, the software industry quickly adopted the popular business model of SAAS (Software-As-A-Service), which is really just another label for “subscription-based software”.
The popularity of “Pay-As-You-Go” subscription plans continue to expand into the home market. Examples include:
- Home Maintenance
- HomeTool, TruBlue Total House Care, Super, Hello Handy
- Furniture Rental
- Feather, Fernish, Inhabitr, Oliver Space
- Neighbor, Stache
- Legal Services
- Rocket Lawyer, LegalZoom, Legal Shield
- Lawn Care
- Home Entertainment
- Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Peacock, CuriosityStream, HBO Max, Spotify
- Food Subscriptions & Meal Plans
- Sun Basket, Home Chef, HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Freshly, Atlas Tea, Trade Coffee, Water.com
- Wine & Spirits
- Winc, Flaviar, Firstleaf, Craft Beer Club, American Cocktail Club
- Home Décor Boxes
- Decocrated, Cratejoy, Project Home DIY, Habitation Box, Posh Home Box
- Plant & Flower Subscriptions
- Horti, My Garden Box, The Sill, BloomsyBox, Succulents Monthly, The Bouqs
Subscription services for the home are often comfortable and reassuring options for homeowners that may be experiencing some of the following situations:
- Lack of budget to own the necessary products, tools or appliances
- Lack of knowledge or experience to conduct associated services
- Lack of time to manage or complete associated tasks
On-Demand Home Repair Support
This is an area of influence that we are particularly excited about as we can relate to a growing population of homeowners that are seeking to learn more about home care from expert teachers and mentors, whether they be on YouTube, at your local hardware store and at your local community college.
We envision this category of innovation as being a combination of on-demand mentoring, on-call technical support, online educational training, online communities, and in-person educational programs.
Examples of innovation that have been anticipating this trend, include:
- Virtual Repairs
- Neli, Streem
- Alternatives to Home Warranties
- HomeTool, TruBlue Total House Care, Super, Hello Handy
- Mentoring, Coaching & Formal Training
Industry Certifications & Ratings
We see three areas where the most demanding home consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and discerning in terms of professional and product certifications related to the home industry:
- Certifications for the Home
- Certifications for Products and Materials
- Professional & Industry Certifications
1. Certifications for the Home
As the world of homeownership becomes more and more complicated and confusing, credible certifications that provide proof of quality home construction, efficient performance, and expert home care will become more important to command premium asking prices in competitive residential real markets.
Examples of certifications and ratings that will grow in importance include:
- Home Energy Rating System (HERS)
- NGBS Green Certified Homes
- LEED: U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
- Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Homes
- EPA Indoor airPLUS
- EPA WaterSense
- PHIUS: Passive House Institute US
- FORTIFIED Home
- BREEAM for Sustainable Architecture
- Aging In Place Certifications
- Universal Design Certifications
- Wellness Certifications
Home Innovation Research Labs is a well-known third-party tester and certification service that offers NGBS Green Certification in the following categories:
- Energy Efficiency
- Water Efficiency
- Resource Efficiency
- Lot Development
- Operations & Maintenance
- Indoor Environmental Quality
2. Certifications for Products and Materials
Independent, third-party certifications are growing as consumers need assurances of both product quality and performance ratings to find best-fit products for demanding use-cases.
Examples of third-party product certification labels include:
- ENERGY STAR Certification
- WaterSense Label
- Cradle to CradleCertification
- FSC-Certified Wood Products
- Greenguard Certification
- FloorScore for Indoor Air Quality Certification for Flooring Products
- Engineered Structural Wood
- Solid Surface Materials
- Green Certified Products
- Lab Certified Products
- Material Properties
- Durability & Weather Resistance
- Thermal Ratings
- Moisture Ratings
3. Professional & Industry Certifications
Professional and industry certification programs exist for the following types of industry professionals:
- Home Builders
- Home Remodelers
- Home Inspectors
- Contractors for Specific Technologies & Vendor Solutions
- Green Builders
- Master Builders & Remodelers
Examples of Well-Known Certification Programs, Inspectors & Trainers
- NAHB: National Association of Home Builders Designations
- Home Innovation Certification Programs
- NGBS Green PRO
- NARI: National Association of the Remodeling Industry
- NARI Directory of Remodelers
- OSHA Training
- ACI: American Concrete Institute
- LEED Professional Credentials for Green Building
- Waterline Renewal Technologies Certified Installer Program
Democratization of Home Care Solutions
Democratization of technology refers to the process by which access to technology, skills and knowledge rapidly continues to become accessible and attainable for non-specialist homeowners.
A key lesson of the personal computing revolution is that technology has continually evolved such that consumers do not require extensive technological training or understanding. As products evolve, complexities are wrapped within easy-to-understand, intuitive interfaces that can gracefully handle imperfect usage.
Following the historic lessons of information technology, innovative designers and manufacturers for the “industry of home” will continue to create products and solutions that are easier for homeowners to understand, maintain and repair. Simultaneously, industry professionals can focus on leveraging better technology, materials and methods to address more challenging needs that will elevate the experience of homeownership for all.
- Innovation for Homeowners: Tech-Driven Products, Services & More
- 10 Creative Ways to Monetize Your Home
- Why Homeowners Should Invest in a Prefab ADU
- Best Online Legal Services for Homeowners & Property Owners
- What Homeowners Should Know About Proptech
- How to Tap Into Your Home Equity Without Adding Debt
- The Current State of Landscaping Technology for Your Home
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