Consumer preferences for smart homes: a comparative study between the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy

Funded by: E.ON


April 2012 to January 2013

PSI researchers:

Martha Bicket

Background, summary and aims

Background, Scope and Aims

The aim of this project is to deliver significant insights into consumer acceptance and preferences for smart homes and technologies in the UK, Germany and Italy and summarise these into practical recommendations on the benefits and opportunities which smart homes can deliver to international utilities.

Smart homes and smart technologies can offer significant benefits for both consumers and energy providers. However, consumer acceptance and understanding of smart home technologies may vary according to socio-demographic characteristics, prior experiences with smart home technologies or delivery mechanisms, which are in turn shaped by national markets and institutional frameworks. Different market structures might pose incentives or barriers for the emergence and adoption of these services, and cultural attitudes might favour specific business and marketing strategies. It is thus crucial to recognise and understand the nuances between different groups of consumers in order to design and deliver smart home services that will receive high market acceptance.

The objective of the proposed study is to explore these issues in a comparative analysis of the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. The completed research will identify differences in consumer acceptance and preferences for smart homes across specific consumer segments within and between these countries. This will in turn increase the energy industries' (and governments') understanding of the smart home market, and benefits and opportunities for international utilities within it, improving marketing strategies and supporting the development of smart energy services.

Project Design

The project will be carried out in four work packages covering the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy: 1) Conceptualisation of smart home energy services; 2) Consumer perceptions about smart homes; 3) Participatory research; and 4) Implications for strategy and marketing purposes. Methods employed throughout the study include comprehensive literature reviews, expert interviews, and interactive consumer workshops and focus groups. Project results will include a synthesis report, written to ensure relevance to a broad audience and detailing the project's practical outcomes and the implications for business and policy.

Importance of Research

The project will make a significant contribution to research into consumer preferences and smart homes, acting as a valuable resource for businesses as well as policy-makers. A unique aspect of this project is viewing smart home concepts through the lens of each country's institutional and market frameworks. This in turn will help to identify country-specific issues versus recurring themes across these countries. As a result, we will pay particular attention to the implications of the study findings for business and marketing purposes by applying marketing theory and behavioural economics, addressing the barriers, concerns and expectations of different consumer segments across the three countries, which will further benefit international utility companies, appliance producers and ICT companies.

Project Team

This project is led by the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) at the University of Westminster, London. It will work with the Cardiff University (CU) School of Psychology, Germany's Ecologic Institute think tank and the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA).

Dr Nazmiye Ozkan, a Senior Research Fellow at PSI, is the project leader. The co-investigators are Dr Lorraine Whitmarsh, a lecturer in psychology at CU; Max Grünig, a Fellow at the Ecologic Institute; and Dr Oscar Amerighi, a Researcher at ENEA Research and Strategy Central Unit.

Related publications / project outputs

Social barriers to the adoption of smart homes

The development of smart homes market in the UK