Smart Homes and User Values : Long-term evaluation of IT-services in Residential and Single Family Dwellings

Abstract: Do residents find value in smart home functions? How should these functions be designed to offer user benefit? These were the governing questions of this study that involved nearly 200 families in three different housing projects during five years of occupancy. The housing units were equipped with advanced smart homes solutions, electronic and digital devices to control them, and a set of functions to increase comfort, safety and security in the homes. The evaluations of the residents' use and benefits were accomplished in two different phases, i) evaluation of the user expectations' before and direct after occupancy and ii) long-term experiences after 3-5 years. A third phase of the study represents a radical shift in view. Issues related to innovation and organisation of service delivery were brought into the fore. The research is founded on the multiple case-based methodology. Literature studies were effected. Data acquisition was based on interviews and questionnaires. Theoretical models from different research areas were used in order to analyse observations and to arrive to grounded conclusions. Important conclusions include the fact that smart home functionalities must be developed as close as possible out of the users' genuine needs as experienced in their daily lives. Failure to attain accessibility to a certain function will cause disappointment and will be forsaken. To gain and over time preserve the user's trust in smart home functions or in a system as a whole is conclusive for the their use. Another conclusion is that a viable business model for smart homes must include the occupancy phase. Surveillance and maintenance of smart home systems must be secured over time. It is argued that the failure of establishing a viable long-term service to homes to the benefit to the user depends highly on the market’s ability to supply the homes with appropriate services over time. Possible ways to mediate revealed shortcomings are outlined and what role and responsibility the housing construction industry has to consider with the further development of smart homes.