Barclays Mortgages Smart Home Survey 2017

What does the nation think about home tech?

The results from our latest research are in – here’s what they reveal about our attitudes towards smart home technology.

Barclays Mortgages reveals the nation’s concerns around smart home security

Despite awareness of smart home technology rising in the last 2 years, our latest Smart Homes Survey from Barclays Mortgages reveals that surprisingly few of us actually use the technology in our homes.

The latest research from Barclays Mortgages builds on the 2015 Smart Homes report, looking at shifts in attitudes towards smart home technology across the UK, and how they differ between regions.

Only 22% of UK homeowners surveyed in 2017 claim they’ve heard of smart home technology but don’t really understand what it means, compared to 33% in 2015. Yet the appeal of having smart technology has dropped, with over twice (30%) as many UK homeowners in 2017 expressing no interest in installing connected or smart home technology in the future, compared to 12 per cent in 2015 who said they never intend to install connected technology in their home. The report also shows that uptake is surprisingly low, with just over one in 10 (13%) of UK homeowners claiming to currently use smart home technology in their home.

Security risks

This year’s online survey suggests that security issues could be partly to blame for the low uptake, with 63% of UK adults asked expressing concern around cyber crime related to smart home technologies. This growing concern around security risks is also apparent in mainstream media, with many reports of hacking incidents being revealed, including problems with smart kettles, broadband routers and smart security systems.

Laura Flack, Barclays Head of Digital Safety, says: “Each of us probably knows someone who has fallen victim to a criminal fraudster. Hackers are using evermore sophisticated tactics to phish personal and financial data. Unfortunately, smart home technology can provide a new way in for hackers. We need to super-charge our digital know-how and talk to our friends and relatives to prevent these crimes from happening.”

Although cyber attacks come in many forms, taking these simple precautions can protect your smart devices from hackers:

  1. Keep up-to-date

    Outdated software is more likely to contain the security gaps that cyber criminals look for, so always ensure internet-enabled devices are running on the latest versions.

  2. Install security software

    This may not work with all smart devices in your home, but it does on your computer, smartphone, and tablet.

  3. Strengthen your passwords

    Use complex passwords combining letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using the same password for multiple devices, and update them regularly.

  4. Invest in a password manager

    Password management tools create and store complex passwords which can be accessed using a single secure log in.

  5. Change your network name

    Rename your Wi-Fi network to something unique that doesn’t contain any personal, identifiable information.

  6. Use separate networks

    Make sure your smart devices sit on a different network to your personal devices (computers, tablets, smartphones etc.).

  7. Protect your network

    Create a ‘guest’ network for anyone who visits your home, while reserving your home network for close friends and family.

  8. Hide your network

    Make sure UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) is disabled on your router, as this makes it easier for cyber criminals to find and access your network.

To further help combat fears, the government has established a collection of Security Characteristics for Smart Meters1, which will be rolled out in all homes with smart meters by 2020. However, this doesn’t cover security for what the Smart Homes 2017 Survey reveals to be among the most popular smart home technologies.

Fibre optic broadband

Of the smart home technologies listed in the survey, fibre optic broadband proved the most popular, with 32% of UK adults saying they would be interested in installing the technology. Despite being the most popular, over a quarter of homeowners and renters that are interested (26%) would not be willing to pay for it. This supports the government’s investment plans to provide superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by December 2017. The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme has already been rolled out for many homes across the UK, to improve connectivity strength and speeds2.

Solar panel schemes

Although the report reveals that solar panels are one of the most popular technologies among UK adults – with 30% saying they would be interested in installing them – 12% of homeowners and renters wouldn’t be willing to pay for them.

Since the 2015 survey, the amount homeowners and renters are willing to spend on installation, or increased rent which would give access to smart home technology, has dropped by 60%3.

Regional results

Where awareness of smart home technology differs between region, so does the existence of Smart Cities schemes, which could be impacting homeowners’ awareness of smart home technology considerably.

The Scottish Cities Alliance's Key Facts booklet tells us that millions of pounds are being invested in smart technology across cities, to accelerate the running of services, reduce pollution and support economic growth. This could explain why Scotland is leading the way on awareness – nearly a quarter (24%) of those surveyed there said they’ve heard of smart home technology and fully understand what it means.

Northern Ireland is strongest when it comes to solar panel uptake, with 44% of adults there interested in installing them in the future – 46% above the national average.

Meanwhile, 13% of those in the North West and East Midlands surveyed currently use some form of smart home technology – the highest uptake rate of all UK regions.

The future

So what do the next few years hold for smart home technology? While 30% of UK homeowners aren’t interested in installing smart home technology in the future, prospective buyers are more keen. Almost half (48%) of renters who plan to buy in the next 5 years would be interested in installing solar panels and fibre optic broadband in their home.

In addition, 35% of renters who plan to buy in the next 5 years said they would be interested in installing a smart security system, suggesting the future success of smart home technology rests with manufacturers understanding the needs and concerns of the younger generation.

Craig Calder, director of Barclays Mortgages, says: “Our previous 2015 Smart Home report stated that on average, UK homeowners who would spend more would be willing to pay an extra £3,310 for a new home that comes fully equipped with the latest technology, such as smart heating systems and appliances. Some stated they are willing to spend more than £10,000 extra to own a property that is ahead of the curve. When it comes to choosing technology to invest in, homeowners are putting practicality first.”