Here’s why smart devices without Wi-Fi face an uphill battle in the home

More than 9 in 10 consumers surveyed are likely to add smart products to their home or lifestyle with one key stipulation: They have to work on the existing in-home Wi-Fi network. The data comes from the Wi-Fi Alliance, which released the results on Tuesday at CES from a sample of 1,000 smartphone and tablet users.

Here’s the money quote along with a graphic of the survey highlights:

“Ninety-one percent of consumers are more likely to purchase smart products if they are able to synchronize everything with their existing Wi-Fi network. More than half of respondents already have Wi-Fi enabled household items such as appliances, thermostats or lighting systems.”


Obviously, the Wi-Fi Alliance has a very vested interest in seeing Wi-Fi continue to be a ubiquitous network in homes, stores and other venues. Yet the results don’t surprise me as we’ve been discussing this very topic on our Internet of Things podcast.

Recently, my colleague Stacey Higginbotham and I even went so far to say that 2014 is the “make it or break it year” for smart devices that use alternative connection methods such as Z-Wave and Zigbee. The Wi-Fi Alliance survey results illustrate why: Consumers are looking for simplicity from technology and don’t want to add new or perceived complexity in the form of alternatives to Wi-Fi.

As someone who has one of those alternatives in place — my smarthome gadgets use Insteon for connectivity — I realize that Wi-Fi has its limitations. There are reasons for the Zigbees, Z-Waves and Insteons of the world to exist, such as mesh networking capabilities between devices. However, they all face an uphill battle because consumers know and understand Wi-Fi. For many, it’s the only in-home connection they know.