New Jersey and New York Smart Home Automation, Home Theater and Audio Video Installers
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Home Automation or Smart home? That is the question

  • October 10, 2016 /

I think about what name to use for this industry a lot. Does it make more sense to call what we do Smart Homes or Home Automation? There is no clear cut answer. Some of our contemporaries call it Home Automation, some call it Smart Homes, and some still refer to it as Audio/Video. The question is who is right? And does it matter?

I think it does. The words we choose to use help communicate our expertise so we need to be precise. When someone tells you they are in insurance sales, you know what they do. When someone tells you they are a teacher, the same is true. The Home Automation, Smart Home and/or Audio/Video industry does not have that effect. This is a problem.

A little over a month ago, I quit my corporate startup job to join my family business. The departure was amicable. The interesting part has been telling people about what I am now doing. Typically these conversations go something like this:

Me: “I am going to take over sales and marketing for my family’s Home Automation company.”

Them: ::confused face::


Me: “I am going to take over sales and marketing for my family’s Smart Home company.”

Them: ::a little less confused face::

This led to my answer to eventually become:

Me: “I am taking over sales and marketing for my family business.”

Them: “What do they do?”

Me: “We give you the ability to control everything in your home- such as your lights, shades, TVs, music, and more- with your phone or voice.”

Them: “That sounds awesome!”

The last exchange always makes me feel good. My problem is that we have to have a long conversation for people to understand the value of what we do. I need it to be more concise. I need the value to be communicated immediately. I have lived in a “smart”/automated home for most of my life, so, to me, it is normal. The transition into this role has made it obvious to me, that for most people, even the idea of a smart home isn’t regular. I decided to learn more about why nobody knows about the industry and how I may be able to use this to create a brand.

What is Home Automation?

The term home automation stretches back as far as the early 1900s. In its most pure sense, it means “the automation of home tasks”. It began with items like the vacuum cleaner, the refrigerator, and the clothes dryer. Although now these are normal, household items and not thought of as home automation tools, back then they were revolutionary. Have you ever lived without a vacuum cleaner? Sweeping a carpet is not fun. Imagine not having a refrigerator and all of your meat needing to be jerky or cured with salt. These two home automation inventions have completely changed the way we live while saving a lot of money and time.

Today, home automation refers to products like automated shades, smart-lighting systems, and whole house audio. These products are changing the way people live and saving them a lot of money in the process. The challenge is, although people are familiar with products like Nest, Sonos, Alexa and others, they are not familiar with the industry as a whole.

A large part of the reason the industry is largely unknown is as products become a part of the status quo, they lose their home automation tag (i.e. the refrigerator). That makes this industry interesting because as soon as a product becomes successful it’s no longer a part of it. As soon as something crosses the chasm of interesting to enough people it is no longer a part of the home automation industry. Which begs the question; ‘how does this word become as well know as something like construction or interior design’? Maybe it can’t.

What is a Smart Home?

It’s really the same as home automation although the word is a lot more popular amongst people outside of the industry. If you look at Google searches since 2004, you see just how big a difference the amount of searches for each term has been.

Home automation vs smart home google

Coldwell Banker has taken a big stake in the smart home industry and even given a definition to the word that, although has been around since 1984, has not had a proper definition until now. Coldwell Banker’s defines a Smart Home as “A home that is equipped with network-connected products (i.e., “smart products”, connected via Wi- Fi, Bluetooth or similar protocols) for controlling, automating and optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security, safety or entertainment, either remotely by a phone, tablet, computer or a separate system within the home itself.”

This term seems more viable to break through the barrier and be accepted by the masses because even products and homes are being described this way even after they are adopted.
Nest Smart Home not Home Automation

So what’s the right term?

Since there is no definitive answer here, the most important question is ‘What do we care about’? For me, there are two important factors:

  1.     Being right historically
  2.     Connecting with our customers

In terms of being historically right, this immediate eliminates Audio/Video. Although Audio/Video is Googled a lot more than Smart Home or Home Automation, the term is dated so, history will eventually prove this is not the name of this industry. Audio and video installations are a large part of our business but are no longer the name of the industry we are in.  It is now a subset of what we do. Will we use it as a part of our description? Probably. Will it be the main way we describe our industry moving forward? NO.

AV vs Smart home vs home automation

This leaves us the options of Home Automation and Smart Home. Smart Home is the obvious choice here because it connects with our customers more. If you look at any of our reviews or our contemporaries reviews you will see it.

customer - smart home not home automation

Smart home is used by customers, it is Googled more and it is a more contemporary word choice. My biggest challenge with Smart Home is it ignores the significant impact that Home Automation has had on the industry. Therefore, through this research, and with some considerable thought on this, we have derived a new term for the industry, one that encompasses all and will be used in our blogging/ marketing material moving forward…

Smart Home Automation

The goal is for this to become a term we can say to someone and they immediately understand what we mean and what we do. Smart home is almost there and automation is pretty self-explanatory. My hope is that together we can cross the chasm into the mainstream and truly take this industry to the next level!   

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