Navigant Research Blog

In-Home Displays Face Adoption Hurdles

Carol Stimmel — October 8, 2012

In-home displays (IHDs) help customers track their energy usage.  The consumers can see charts and graphs about their consumption, as well as trends, messages from their energy provider, and other energy awareness information.  These devices promise to help customers save money, while deferring the construction of new power plants by reducing overall demand.  Despite these benefits, as Pike Research has reported, the market for IHDs has been slow to develop and only modest growth is expected over the next several years.  Still, stakeholders are hopeful that, as customer indifference is displaced by the desire to be more efficient and save money, widespread adoption of IHDs will accelerate.  (On Wednesday, October 17, Smart Grid News will present a webinar exploring these issues, entitled “Consumer Engagement with In-Home Displays.”)

The prospects for adoption of IHDs by may be caught in the same trap as many new technology innovations.  New inventions can appear quickly, but diffusion can be frustratingly slow.  The real question is not when IHDs will be adopted, but if they will at all.

Two of the key predictors for the mass-market adoption of IHDs are customer beliefs and attitudes; specifically, how changes in these beliefs and attitudes can significantly alter how a customer wants to behave.  Good intentions alone are not enough to actually change behavior.  The customer must perceive a need to manage their energy. Only then will customers will look for tools to help them act on those intentions. If they believe that IHDs will be useful in helping them accomplish their goals, are easy to use, and engaging and interesting, then there will certainly be life in this market.

To achieve this shift in perception, commercial, utility and advocates must learn to engage customers to provide trusted insights and knowledge about the value of energy efficiency and grid modernization.  The rate of penetration of any technology is exceedingly difficult to compute.  However, there may be ways to accelerate this phenomenon:

Encourage global adoption with social media: Technology adoption used to take years, then months, now days, thanks to the instantaneous communication enabled by social media. The acceptance and enthusiasm of peers plays a larger role in customer adoption today than ever before, and is why innovations like IHDs must be engaging and interesting enough to talk about.

Understand how the common cold spreads: The spread of knowledge transfers through contact, much the way, a cold is spread from one to another.  You still have what you started with (a runny nose), even though you have participated in the diffusion of the cold.  Simply increasing the so-called “contact rate” will significantly speed up the adoption lag.  The more users get hands-on time with an IHD that brings them value, the more likely they are to talk about it.

Demonstrate Ease of Use: Remember that toddlers did more to drive the adoption of the iPad than any other group, by demonstrating its ease of use.  A YouTube video showing a 2 1/2 year old using an iPad had over 1,000,000 viewers.  That helped Apple sell about a million iPads in the first month they were available.

At its most fundamental, if the learning effect can be accelerated, by using multiple models of consumer engagement, the chances of wider adoption of IHDs improve.  With IHDs, though, other significant factors are at work, like price, competitiveness, and regulatory factors.  Right now, utilities are largely driving adoption, but there are lessons to be learned from these deployments, including what resonates with these energy consumers and what does not.  With that information, home energy management companies can then turn to these consumers with a solution that directly improves their lives – not just another gadget.

Click here to register for the Smart Grid News webinar, “Consumer Engagement with In-Home Displays.”

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