Blog Post

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.

4 Responses to “Here’s why smart devices without Wi-Fi face an uphill battle in the home”

  1. hermanandy

    Latest smartphone and tablet devices are making WiFi thing happen so quickly. To have better access over such devices WiFi connection is enormous and almost every smartphone and tablet users are making their home WiFi ready. In fact I’ve finished all preparation to setup my home WiFi network completely.

  2. Michael Lamoureux

    What happens when the average consumer realizes that they have one app for their thermostat, one for their lock, and another for their refrigerator?

    Wi-fi doesn’t mean the smart device doesn’t support open API’s or protocols, but it seems to be the trend. Without Insteon, Zigbee, and Z-wave, one cannot have these devices speak to each other without SDKs and point to point, custom programmed integration code.

  3. PXLated

    Couldn’t agree more. Apple built WiFi into everything with easy-to-use configuration but it took forever on the Windows side (required either external or internal hardware) and was complicated to set up. It’s really only been a few years where WiFi just is.

    One of the connected devices companies (SmartThings) started here in the metro Mpls./St.Paul area and my first thought was – it won’t fly unless it wifi – at least in any mass way.

  4. Kevin, I also have an Insteon setup and am quite happy with it. One big reason I favor it over other technologies is that it doesn’t require any centralized control or infrastructure to work. I could sell my house tomorrow, and all of the Insteon devices would work with much of their intelligence in tact for the new homeowner with zero configuration.

    They can go deep by using a Hub to get smartphone and deeper triggers and timers or just set them up and