The International Housewares Association (IHA) recently held its first ever virtual event, Connect SPRING – a nine-day event designed to connect buyers and sellers around new product innovations, education, and expertise, while providing direction for the road ahead.

One session in particular, ‘The Future of Smart in the Home’, discussed opportunities for creating successful smart home products and services, amid changing consumer behaviour and the rapid adoption of voice assistants and digital tools during the pandemic.

The session featured industry specialists including The NPD Group home industry advisor, Joe Derochowski, consumer technology industry analyst, Ben Arnold and food and beverage industry analyst, Darren Seifer. The panel was moderated by IHA content and education director, Peter Giannetti.

Smart is not a benefit, but a tool to enable solutions, according to Derochowski.

“The kitchen is primed for transformative innovation. Home/housewares, food and technology companies should look to build partnerships to focus on solving specific in-home cooking needs,” he said.

Arnold noted that almost one-third (30%) of US homes now use smart speakers and acceptance of connected home security systems and doorbells are showing strong growth.

“Consumers are further along than we give them credit for. Voice activation is the common denominator for the mass acceptance of smart home technologies and the use case is strongest in the kitchen,” he said.

“The consumer often wonders how technology makes them a better cook – that’s where the benefit of the smart home lies and the missing piece is data. My eating habits can inform devices and appliances about what type of consumer I am.”

Seifer pointed out that Covid-19 brought 80% of meals back into the home but consumers didn’t suddenly have new time available to cook meals so they looked for time-saving convenience.

“Appliance sales have soared. Just as I might purchase a robotic vacuum to clean my home with less personal involvement, kitchen appliances help prepare meals so I don’t have to do all the work,” he said.

Seifer then went on to outline the opportunities in the path to consumption – every step leading up to and after the meal – planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, eating, clean up and storage – can be a point of connection to engage with consumers. “These cross-links will build an ecosystem of products and services.”