Got Networked?

Personal computers and online communications are now fixtures in American homes, according to a survey by RKS Research & Consulting, which found more than 60 percent of homes include at least one computer, and three-quarters of these homes are connected to the Internet.

Nearly one in five American homes — 19 percent — have more than one computer, and 10 percent of these households shows interest in a home network that would link multiple computers and peripheral devices. Consumers also appear ready to use their computers to communicate with appliances and energy control systems.

As evidence of increasing interest in interactivity, 20 percent of consumers surveyed say they would be interested in purchasing smart appliances. Another 19 percent remain neutral but receptive to the idea. Consumers respond most favorably to the ability to use existing wiring, ease of use, and warranties related to smart devices, according to the RKS study.

RKS interviewed 1,024 heads of households across the US between mid-May and June 2 of this year. In addition, residential customers provided additional insights in focus groups held in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Portland, OR.

According to the Yankee Group, as many as 21 million US households are interested in digital remodeling, and 12.4 million of these households want to implement home networking capabilities within the next year. The Yankee Group found that the key factor in household adoption will be the delivery of compelling applications and services that utilize a network. One of the main attractions of digital remodeling will be having digital content (music, movies, books) delivered to the home network, and then accessing this content using any network device such as a TV, PC, stereo, and mobile phone.

“Consumers will not network for the sake of having a network,” said Yankee Group’s Karuna Uppal. “They will purchase network devices because of the compelling applications and services these devices support.”

A Yankee Group home networking study shows that the applications and services that consumers are most interested in include:

  • 42 percent of PC households would use a network to enhance communication with family members.
  • 39 percent of PC households want a network that allows them to view downloaded video anywhere in the home, and 33 percent want to do the same for music.
  • 37 percent would use a network to monitor and control home heating and cooling systems.
  • 36 percent would use it to control home appliances from anywhere in the home.
  • 33 percent want additional phone lines as part of broadband data packages.

The good news for consumers interested in getting their home wired for networks is that a survey by Parks Associates and BUILDER Magazine found that home builders are responding to the new technological demands of their customers with a growing acceptance of advanced standards in residential infrastructure. More than half of the 696 US home builders surveyed indicated their firms currently offer advanced whole-house networking in the form of structured wiring. Twelve percent of US home builders are already offering structured wiring as a standard feature.

“As buyers of newly built homes become more savvy regarding technology, they are requesting features such as pre-wired home offices, entertainment centers, and home networks,” said Kurt Scherf, vice president of research. “Home builders who recognize this growing trend and implement solutions to address current and future needs will have a competitive advantage.”

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